I’m reading a book on Antisemitism that is the total of presentations for a conference of the same subject conducted at the University of Indiana this past Fall (2021). It’s written by Academics for Academics which makes sense since they present to each other. My issue with it is that the language is not easy for me to understand. I’m not putting myself down nor am I criticizing the presenters. When one is in a world, that’s the framework that these people have. But for those outside of this particular scope/perspective, it’s difficult to comprehend. It would be like trying to understand quantum physics without really studying it nor having a background in it.
Why am I pointing this out? Because in reading this book of articles on Antisemitism, I’m learning all the things that I didn’t know about the subject. I must point out to my readers that I’m Jewish so I definitely know what it’s like to be Jewish and to have some people not like me for just being Jewish. I’ve also experienced people being really mean to me for being Jewish. In other words, I’ve experienced antisemitism without knowing the “definitions” of antisemitism nor understanding the academic framework surrounding the intellectual discussion of it.
Again, why is this important? Because not knowing, and then knowing about it opens a whole new world. Now that I know about all the ways that I was wronged in my life based on my being Jewish without realizing it, should I be even more upset than when the particular incident happened? In most cases, these incidents happened many years ago, but I’m coming to realize that many actions people are doing even more recently is actually because they don’t like my Jewishness; in other words, they are acting in an antisemitic way towards me. Does it make me feel any better or worse in knowing? Or in Not Knowing, being in ignorance of why people were being mean to me was it any better?
An interesting point is that most of the speakers who presented and who do present on antisemitism are not Jewish. So, it’s a conundrum to me how someone who isn’t Jewish and doesn’t have any Jewish blood is so taken with others not liking Jews to actually make it a field of study. Do people wonder about this or is it just me? There are many people all over the US and in other countries in this field of antisemitism that are not Israeli, nor Jewish and study this topic. What is their motivation? I see many names that appear to be Austrian, German, etc. Is there any correlation between the nationalities of the seekers with their reasons for studying such a subject when they are not connected to the situation, nor were they harmed by the subject except in concept. “When one of my fellow humans is wronged then so am I”. That’s pretty egotistical if I don’t say so myself. But I really have no idea why these academics are studying this topic so I can’t presume anything.
As I’ve continued my reading of this book, the answer to my questions is becoming more known to me: the speakers/authors are from countries involved in the holocaust and its aftermath. Again, from my readings I’m learning about how these countries are getting tired of apologizing for their involvement in the harming or not protecting more of their citizens from harm during the WWII destruction of so many Jewish lives.
Of course, people of many religions died during this period but most were killed during war times not just rounded up from their homes and murdered in one way or another. The systematic killing of six million Jews is horrific by any historical standard.
There appears to be a new generation of leaders that want to move away from apologizing and even accepting their past history to now shifting away from blame. In other words, they are attempting to change history. Not only are they re-writing what actually happened, but this new perspective is rationalizing the entire historical period away from their minds. Now it’s been done by “Others” and not “Them” so their people can breathe easier. With this new understanding, I can see why some of the authors are taking a stand on the resultant antisemitism that is arising out of this, well it’s not us, but them at fault. Again, it’s the Jews who are at fault. In other words, antisemitism is more on the rise than ever.
Of course, many people study ancient Roman culture and they have nothing to do with ancient romans. They didn’t live at that time nor are they responsible for anything that happened then but they still study this period in history. So, I guess if people want to study about another group of people and why others hate them, it’s ok.
As for my understanding what it’s like to be Jewish and to totally feel what it’s like to have been persecuted during the war, let me say that most of my relatives were killed during the holocaust. I believe that this point makes me able to say that I feel the pain of the persecution through the fact that I have so little family left. I especially am reminded of this fact on holidays and when people tell me that they’re about to visit cousins or other family members. I do have some family but only because those members of my family that did come over in the early 1900’s have married and had kids and they have had kids so there are a few generations in the US. Unfortunately, anyone that stayed behind is no longer.
As I continue my reading into this fascinating book and my NOT KNOWING becomes MORE KNOWING, I’m learning how more of the same old perspective that got Jews rammed into pogroms in the late 19th century is recurring; in addition, it contributed to the “it’s ok to kill the Jews because they caused all the ills going on in society thinking” is again gaining momentum. This is really news to me so my NOT KNOWING here is blowing my mind. Apparently, people just don’t learn from history. Are we going to have another world war over it? Do we have to have more lives lost like before? Or is this craziness the reason that non-Jews recognize the reason to fight against antisemitism before it’s too late? As this is a huge subject, for now, I’ll leave it as the answer. We all need to use our own minds and not be led like sheep to the slaughter by those that wish to tear down the very fabric of our society – (even with it’s edges and curves!)
Comments or questions are welcome.