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Another season of struggling to explain evil, suffering

How can this bitter resurgence of antisemitism be explained?

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know that several times in the past few years -- including since Hamas viciously attacked Israel last Oct. 7 -- I have written about resurgent antisemitism.

AntisemitismAnd if you've read any of my books, you know that one of them, co-authored by Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn, is about non-Jewish (mostly Catholic) Polish people who rescued Jews from the worst example of antisemitism in human history, the Holocaust.

So what more is there to say about what's often called the world's oldest hatred, which has been revivified in recent years?

One helpful answer comes from this article by Franklin Foer in the current edition of The Atlantic. He writes that what he calls the "Golden Age of American Judaism" is ending -- and then does his best to explain why. It's a complicated but important read, and I urge you to dive into it.

The Golden Age, he suggests, started peaking 25 to 30 years ago. Indeed, I attended a seminar in the 1990s in Washington, D.C., on American Jewish life and I heard a rabbi claim that most American Jews at that moment in American history had little or no exposure to antisemitism.

Just a few years later he would not have made such a claim. That Golden Age was, indeed, brief.

Foer, who begins his article talking about how the post-Hamas attack period played out in schools in California, acknowledges that "I once considered antisemitism a threat largely emanating from the right. It was Donald Trump who attracted the allegiance of white supremacists and freely borrowed their tropes."

But, he writes, "I consoled myself with the thought that once Trump disappeared from the scene, the explosion of Jew hatred would recede. America would revert to its essential self: the most comfortable homeland in the Jewish diaspora."

Instead, antisemitism also began to find a home in the political and social left (a term that hides more than it reveals). As Foer puts it, "That reassuring thought (about Trump disappearing) required downplaying the antisemitism that had begun to appear on the left well before October 7 — on college campuses, among progressive activists, even on the fringes of the Democratic Party."

Foer confesses that he failed to recognize that kind of antisemitism: "Part of the reason I failed to appreciate the extent of the antisemitism on the left is that I assumed its criticisms of the Israeli government were, at bottom, a harsher version of my own. I opposed the proliferation of settlements in the West Bank, the callousness that military occupation required and the religious zealotry that had begun to infuse the country’s (Israel) right wing, including its current ruling coalition."

As (and if) you read Foer's piece, pay attention to how he distinguishes antisemitism from anti-Zionism. There's an important difference.

Looking at relatively recent (20th Century) history, Foer says that "Over the course of the 20th century, Jews invested their faith in a distinct strain of liberalism that combined robust civil liberties, the protection of minority rights and an ethos of cultural pluralism. They embraced this brand of liberalism because it was good for America — and good for the Jews. It was their fervent hope that liberalism would inoculate America against the world’s oldest hatred. For several generations, it worked. . .

Arab-israeli"But that era is drawing to a close. America’s ascendant political movements — MAGA on one side, the illiberal left on the other — would demolish the last pillars of the consensus that Jews helped establish. They regard concepts such as tolerance, fairness, meritocracy and cosmopolitanism as pernicious shams. The Golden Age of American Jewry has given way to a golden age of conspiracy, reckless hyperbole and political violence, all tendencies inimical to the democratic temperament."

So why did that happen? Foer has an interesting theory: "The Jewish vacation from history ended on September 11, 2001. It didn’t seem that way at the time. But the terror attacks opened an era of perpetual crisis, which became fertile soil where the hatred of Jews took root."

And until the Hamas-Israel war ends (if even then), there's every reason to imagine that the explosions of antisemitism from all these and other sources will continue. As a Christian, I am appalled at the role Christianity has played in helping to create modern antisemitism. You can read about that role in my essay on that subject, found here.

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Is Donald Trump anointed by God to lead the U.S., as some Christian evangelicals have proclaimed? The Reuters news service takes a look at that question in this article. A sample:

"Many conservative Christians have long relied on Christian media to champion political causes tied to their faith, like anti-communism and anti-abortion.
"'But what's new about this election cycle is the unabashed support for Trump and the frequency he is depicted as "God's chosen" leader,' said Brian Calfano, a political science and journalism professor at the University of Cincinnati who has researched the proliferation of media-savvy ministers who support Trump.
"'Before Trump, there was some hero worship of favored politicians, but the larger philosophical or ideological causes received greater attention.'"

Maybe it's time to find out if God is even registered to vote.


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