Michael's essay: Anti-Semitism is not just going away; it is growing

“In the bulging catalogue of bigotry and hate, anti-Semitism is unique. Like seasonal flu and cockroaches, it never goes away. It has survived for more than 2000 years.”
“In the bulging catalogue of bigotry and hate, anti-Semitism is unique. Like seasonal flu and cockroaches, it never goes away. It has survived for more than 2,000 years.” (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Listen4:24

A listener in mid-Alberta writes in from time to time to complain about the Jewish content in The Sunday Edition.

Apparently, he is haunted by the number of Jewish guests on the program, or the number of stories which might be categorized thematically as Jewish.

In one letter, our correspondent railed: 'I'm never listening to your program again. All I ever hear is Jews and jazz."

I suddenly had one of those Edisonian, eureka moments.

What a thrilling idea for a radio program.

"Good evening and welcome to Jews and Jazz; I'm Michael Enright. Tonight Benny Goodman meets Stan Getz."

Alas only an unrequited radio dream.

In the bulging catalogue of bigotry and hate, anti-Semitism is unique. Like seasonal flu and cockroaches, it never goes away. It has survived for more than 2,000 years.

It lives in almost every corner of the world. It has been noted that anti-Semitism can exist in areas where there are few if any Jews.

You can be an anti-Semite even though you have never met a real live Jew.

Its essential evil is overlaid with an intricate matrix of the most outrageous myths: that Jews ritually murder young Christians to use their blood to make matzo; that an international Jewish cabal controls banking world-wide; that Jews own and manipulate international media to their own nefarious ends; that Jews killed Christ.

(It must drive anti-Semites crazy, realizing the first Christians were Jews.)

In large measure, the focus of modern anti-Semitism is a hatred of Israel.

It is entirely possible to vehemently criticize various Israeli governments for their treatment of Palestinians without being a Jew hater.

At the same time, a lot of the criticism of Israel and of Zionism is actually ground cover for anti-Semites who won't be satisfied with anything less than the destruction of the state itself.

The advent of the internet, social media in particular, has made it easier for anti-Semites to spread their messages of hate.

In earlier times, they had to be content with handing out pamphlets on dingy street corners or scrawling on synagogue walls.

Even a casual reading of the numbers suggests that the incidence of anti-Semitic acts is increasing.

A Toronto synagogue received this letter in December. It was sent to at least four other synagogues in the country, including two in Edmonton. (B'nai Brith Canada)
B'Nai Brith, the Jewish organization which has been tracking these things for 35 years, says that in 2016, the latest year for figures, 1,728 anti-Semitic incidents were reported across the country, an increase of 26 per cent over the year before and the highest ever recorded.

Some 20 percent involved Holocaust denial, a sharp increase from the five percent of 2015.

These are a few of the vagrant thoughts that pestered my imagination as I sat through an amazing celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 10 days ago in Lower Manhattan.

Four performers, two African American men and two Jewish women, kept the audience spell-bound as they performed each others' time-worn music.

The black singers sang Yiddish songs about persecution and  deliverance, the Jewish women sang old-time spirituals with nods to Porgy and Bess and Louis Armstrong.

The message of the songs and the singers was simple — that it is hard to hate a stranger whom, it turns out, is just like the rest of us.

That even something as pernicious as anti-Semitism can be overcome when people come to truly understand each other.

Not a new idea. In fact something of a cliché.

Who knows, if we tried hard enough, it just might work. 

Click 'listen' above to hear the essay.