Rykestrasse Synagogue
The Rykestrasse synagogue in East Berlin survived “Kristallnacht” of 1938 and was the only functioning synagogue in former East Germany. (photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

As we prepare to leave for Israel, I’m noting the strange and disturbing global outbreak of celebrity antisemitism: Charlie Sheen’s rant at his former producer; John Galliano’s rants at perfect strangers; and now a top boy band in Japan makes an appearance in Nazi garb.

These kinds of images are at once familiar and bizarre. For Jews, admittedly, “bizarre” may be too detached a word for something that is directly threatening and frightening. So it is up to the rest of us to consider what I mean in using that word to point at the way in which Judaism is a favored face for a persistent, shape-shifting specter in the human psyche: the global “other” — strange, difficult, despised, and intimidating at once. And “viral” is a good way to describe its incurable yet off-and-on interdependence with the human condition.

I first became aware of this in former East Germany, where I spent time in the 1980s as a journalist. Antisemitism was a strong current just beneath the surface. But there were virtually no Jews left in that part of Germany. There hadn’t been for decades. The specific nature of German grievances against Jews was obviously fictive. Laid bare was an amorphous fear of the abstract “other,” of difference itself.

Writing about this, naming it, feels like perilous territory — but territory we are morally called to walk.


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Reflections

The second to last sentence in this blog "Laid bare was an amorphous fear of the abstract “other,” of difference itself," is both concise and profound. Xenophobia still abounds in our world and often casts a dark shadow over what otherwise might be perfectly good human relationships.

It sounds more like an attempt to demonize a few mentally ill celebrities. Some of them use drugs and/or alcohol and are disconnected with reality.

And how does that explain the fact that they choose to equate their demons with Jews?

It appears that the present world is changing with pluralistic neighbors and experiences. We are in closer proximity to "the other", in communities who have previously believed that people who are alike want to be together. Change seems uncontrollable and are therefore frightening and people often unconsciously choose their defensive action.

I don't think it ever stops ... this need to villianize someone. Bosses, Presidents, Politicians, old people, teens, gays ... Black, Latino, Asian, Jew .. or any race or people 'other' than our own ... blaming the whole for a real or imagined offense of a few. We need to stop it within ourselves first ... and then refuse to validate it in our interactions. Whether quietly or loudly, we need to make it clear - prejudice is not okay ... anywhere. Hate is not cool.

unfortunately this kind of behavior is all too easy. We are hard wired down deep to be susipious of the "other". It takes effort (though not all that much!) to examine our feelings and allow are intellegent heart to speak. True these seem to be bizarre ,incidents coming from emotionally fagile or damaged people. The boy band well youth can be stupid sometimes. We most be aware that the old accepted targets such as the jewish people are the easiest for the thoughtless and fearful to take aim at. We must all continue to speak up and put and educated when ever we are confronted with this kind of budding ignorance.

Just watched the documentary "Inside Hana's Suitcase" last night http://www.cbc.ca/documentarie.... Hana's story was brought to light by Fumiko Ishioka, a Japanese woman involved in establishing the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Centre, after receiving, on loan, a child's suitcase from the Auschwitz Museum. Perhaps the boy band in Japan could visit.

My experience as a Jew is that--while most Jew hatred has come from the political right in the past century or so--today's Jew hatred comes from the political left. Due primarily to white guilt, the political left elevates "other" cultures above Western culture, which it sees as the source of all evil in the world. Jews, through their assimilation into the greater Western culture, are no longer seen by the left as "other". Muslims have replaced them in this position. Since the Jewish State is seen as an element of the evil "us" that is actively (though not electively [my point, not the left's]) at war with the the Muslim "other", the left hates Israel and by proxy Jews. Every incident of anti-Semitism I have experienced in my life (including some anti-Semitism coming from Jews themselves) has come from the political left. If you'd like to know more about this phenomenon, I would suggest reading a fascinating book by Norman Podhoretz titled "Why Are Jews Liberals?"