Nearly half of Jewish young people in America have been the victims of anti-Semitic acts in the last five years. Think about that fact for a moment. More than a third have experienced such hatred on a college campus or know someone who has.
Today, 88 percent of Jewish Americans think anti-Semitism is a problem in the US; 84 percent believe the problem has gotten worse over the last five years. The Anti-Semitic League reports that anti-Semitic acts in the US rose 57 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year. These are staggering numbers as well.
Writing for The Atlantic, Emma Green documents a frightening list of anti-Semitic reports in recent months. The title of her article: “American Jews Are Terrified.”
“A crisis of anti-Semitism gripping this nation”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party won what the New York Times is calling a “striking victory” in yesterday’s election. Last night, the House Judiciary Committee postponed its impeachment vote until this morning.
In the midst of such historic events, the shooting in Jersey City Tuesday afternoon has received less attention but is nonetheless tragic, not just because of the lives that were lost but because of what the attack signifies. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal stated yesterday, “We are now investigating this as acts of domestic terrorism fueled by anti-Semitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed, calling the attack “an act of terror.” He added: “There is a crisis of anti-Semitism gripping this nation.”
This problem is not confined to the US. Some 87 percent of British Jews believe that Jeremy Corbyn, head of the Labour Party in the UK that was defeated yesterday, is anti-Semitic. Nearly half said if he had won yesterday’s election, they would “seriously consider” leaving the country.
Anti-Semitic attacks this year have killed more Jews around the world than in any year in decades. Worshipers were gunned down at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue. A Jewish college student in California and a Holocaust survivor in France were killed. German Jews were warned not to wear a skullcap or a Star of David on the street.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance defines anti-Semitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.” The Alliance cites as examples:
- Denying the reality and scope of the Holocaust
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination “by claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavor”
- “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”
- “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel”
Some of these are expressions of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. This is a self-described “Palestinian-led movement” that “works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.” The BDS movement encourages its followers to boycott products and services made in Israel, persuade corporations to divest themselves of holdings that might benefit Israel, and sanction the country as a human rights-violating apartheid state.
Numerous universities and academics have joined the movement, which is one reason President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday to fight anti-Semitism on US campuses.
Three steps forward
How can Christians respond?
In a previous article written for Holocaust Memorial Day, I noted that we should love the Jewish people as God does, seek their salvation in Christ, and “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6). Today, I’ll suggest three other steps forward.
One: Support the State of Israel.
Some Christians see the founding of the modern State of Israel in 1948 as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Others believe that the nation of Israel fulfilled its biblical role by producing the Messiah and that the Jewish people are now no different from any other in God’s view. A third position sees the State of Israel as a secular rather than prophetic entity but believes that God is still working in unique ways with and through the Jewish people.
Whatever your position on Israel and the Bible, I encourage you to support Israel for the simple reason that the Jewish people need and deserve a homeland. The persistence of anti-Semitism across history shows that Jews will likely continue to face persecution. The Holocaust shows us what can happen to them if they do not have a nation that will protect and defend them.
Two: Work for peace with the Palestinians.
God loves the Palestinians just as much as he loves the Jews (cf. Galatians 3:28). His Son died for both and for us all (Romans 5:8). The Palestinians deserve a home and an autonomous future just as much as any other people.
In addition, so long as conflict between Israel and the Palestinians persists, jihadists will use this issue to justify their attacks on all who support Israel. Many in the Arab world and beyond will be less likely to normalize relations with Israel. And the future stability of the Jewish nation will remain in doubt.
Three: Show Jews the love of their Messiah.
Jewish culture is intensely pragmatic. Jews typically measure what you believe by what you do. They are more likely to believe that Christ loves them when Christians love them.
In a day when “American Jews are terrified,” ask the Lord to show you how to serve and encourage a Jewish person you know. Then look for ways to demonstrate support and solidarity.
The Apostle Paul said of his fellow Jews, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1).
How will you follow his example today?