What Is Antisemitism?

Antisemitism is not “out there somewhere.” It is here.

There is a Yiddish saying, “A Jew is made up of twenty-eight percent fear, two percent sugar, and seventy percent chutzpah.” Why twenty-eight percent fear? Because of the history of antisemitism. Many of us have seen recent headlines about Jewish people being brazenly attacked in New York City, Paris, and Berlin. But when we hear about it happening in Colleyville, Texas (only a few miles from The King’s University), that’s different. It’s too close to home. 

In my case, Colleyville is home. On January 15 at noon, I received a text from one of my colleagues at TKU who wrote, “Are you alright? We just heard Congregation Beth Israel and the rabbi is being held up at gunpoint!” I went on Facebook and watched the live stream of Beth Israel’s Shabbat service where, in real time, for over an hour, I could actually hear the gunman, Malik Faisal Akram, talking to Rabbi Charlie and others in the synagogue. Akram really believed that Jews control the world. And he took Rabbi Charlie hostage, thinking that as a Jewish leader, he had the Jewish connections to release from prison Afia Sadiki, also known as “Lady Al-Qaeda,” who has a track record of promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories.         

The hostage situation was particularly shocking to my family because we know Rabbi Charlie and have attended Congregation Beth Israel a number of times. When we first began attending the synagogue, we met with Rabbi Charlie and shared with him that we’re a Messianic Jewish family. Despite his disappointment, and dismay (or perhaps I should say his oy veh!) that we believe in the Messiahship of Yeshua, Rabbi Charlie has always warmly welcomed us on Shabbat mornings. 

Imagining this hospitable rabbi having a gun pointed at him, and other members of the synagogue taken hostage, gripped my heart and brought tears to my eyes. As Messianic Jews, though marginalized in the Jewish community, we are part of kol Yisrael (all Israel) and we suffer when our people suffer. For hours, our family waited and prayed. Then, with the rest of the Jewish world, that evening we breathed a sigh of relief when we heard the news that all four hostages had escaped and were safe. Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, Matir Asurim (Blessed are you, O’ Lord our God, King of the Universe, who frees the captive). 

What happened at Beth Israel on January 15 is a wake up call to all of us. Antisemitism is not “out there somewhere.” It is here. It is also on the rise and we can’t close our eyes to this reality.

  • According to the American Jewish Committee’s 2021 report on the State of Antisemitism in America, “One in every four American Jews (24 percent) has been a victim of antisemitism over the past year.”
  • According to the Jewish Agency’s 2021 Antisemitism Report, globally, at least 10 reported antisemitic incidents happened every day this past year. Half of them occurred in Europe and 30 percent in the United States. Antisemitic incidents in New York doubled, with 503 in 2021 compared to 252 in 2020. In the first six months of 2021, Los Angeles saw a 59 percent increase in antisemitic incidents compared to the same period in 2020. 

The statistics are reminiscent of the 1930s in Germany. And yet these things are happening in 2022, in our country, even Colleyville, Texas.  

But what exactly is antisemitism and how do we recognize it? In a nutshell, antisemitism is hatred toward Jews. It is important to remember that Jew hatred can be cloaked in many socially acceptable forms. For example, according to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which more than thirty nations have adopted, including the US and Israel, antisemitism includes among other things:

  • Conspiracy theories that Jews control the media, economy, and government.
  • Blaming Jews for “why things go wrong.”
  • Stereotyping Jews as having negative character traits.  
  • Calling for or justifying the harming of Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, or intentionality of the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than to their own nations.
  • Claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behavior not expected of any other democratic nation.
  • Using symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism to characterize Israel or Israelis. 
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel. 
  • Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks are selected because they are Jewish or linked to Jews, such as the case of Beth Israel.

All of these are examples of antisemitism. 

Why is antisemitism so widely accepted? For centuries, people have given various reasons to justify their Jew hatred—religious, social, political, and racial. Whatever reason is given, let’s call it out when we hear it. Jew hatred is never justified and it is not normal. It is twisted. We should also not forget that Jew hatred ultimately comes from the pride within men’s hearts. It is a spiritual problem. It is also compounded by the evil one, who seeks to destroy the Messiah’s own people. Thankfully, we are given promise after promise in the Scriptures that a day will come in the future when the Lord will remove Jew hatred from this world. Baruch Hashem (Praise God)!

But until that day, we who are Messianic Jews should never be bystanders. We must actively respond to antisemitism, and with our 70 percent chutzpah do all that we can to vanquish it. Along these lines, one of the critical roles of Jews within the Church is to serve as the proverbial canary in the coal mine when it comes to Jew hatred. As Jewish believers, we are usually the first within the body of Messiah to sense this danger, and our God-given role is to sound the alarm—to blow the shofar—and call our brothers and sisters from the nations to join us in confronting this evil. 

And that is what I am doing in writing this article, with my 2 percent sugar. My brothers and sisters, this is a family matter and we must fight antisemitism together, even as we are all sons and daughters of Abraham, worshipers of the God of Israel, and followers of our Jewish Messiah, Yeshua, for He is and will always be “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and the Root of David” (Rev 5:5).

On January 15, 2022, The King’s University made the following public statement:

All of us at The King’s University want to express our love and support to our Jewish brothers and sisters at Congregation Beth Israel and the wider Jewish community. You are in our prayers and will continue to be so. What CBI members and visitors went through at your Shabbat service on January 15th and following was terrifying and we cannot imagine how difficult it must have been for you. The hearts of our faculty, staff and students go out to you. We are here for you and we stand in solidarity with you and with the international Jewish community in the fight against antisemitism and any other threat that may be directed against the personal well-being of Jewish people. Am Yisrael Chai.

Dr. David Rudolph
Dr. David Rudolphhttp://collective.tku.edu
Dr. David Rudolph is professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies and director of the Messianic Jewish Studies program at The King's University in Southlake, Texas.