From the Desk of Avi Benlolo: Not Afraid

January 3, 2020


If we give in to what could become a self-fulfilling prophecy supposedly of ‘Jews going underground’ as Deborah Lipstadt writes in The Atlantic, we would be feeding into the very playbook antisemitism wishes upon us.

True, we are being attacked and victimized. Antisemitic rates around the world are at an all-time high since the Holocaust. Our 2019 top antisemitic incidents report shows an alarming rise of antisemitism on campuses, by politicians and hate groups – from white supremacists to radical Islamists and now even to a group calling itself Black Hebrew Israelites.

This, of course, is cause for concern. We are all concerned and must take action – as my institution is doing daily and actively. Jewish individuals and institutions must take precaution against this violent surge in antisemitism, and we must act conscientiously without fear. We cannot give in to fear, which is self-imposed. It stunts our ability and strengthens the bullies.

The immediate reaction of the Orthodox Jewish community in Monsey was to dance openly on the streets with a Torah in hand. This is the true testament to winning against hatred – to not go into hiding, to not become “conversos” once more as Lipstadt seems to profess.

This is why we are out there every day advocating and educating. This is why my colleagues at the New York Simon Wiesenthal Center will be joining other organizations this Sunday on a march to condemn antisemitism. We will continue building bridges, extending our hand in kindness and dancing on the streets. We will win the battle on campuses and in the hearts and minds of people who seek truth and justice.

But there is one more element here that is often missed by defeatists. We have the State of Israel. For 2,000 years we were bullied, raped and murdered. They even killed six million of us and brought us to near extinction.

Today, we not only have a place of refuge. We are a part of a nation that has superior might and will go to the length of the earth to protect us should push come to shove. Who remembers Uganda? What other nation would send an elite commando force across the continent to rescue its brothers and sisters? Has this ever been done in modern history?

We will never let our guard down. We will keep on fighting antisemitism and stand up to universal hatred. But we should never, ever give in to fear or be afraid, and we should promote this strength amongst the next generation. Because if there is one thing to fear, it’s fear itself.

Shabbat Shalom,


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