How to Fight Anti-Semitism by Bari Weiss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is an important book. It say things that need to be said, that need to be understood, and that need to be shared widely.
It is not a detailed book; it is a not deep theoretical analysis of anti-Semitism. It is not a rigorous history of anti-Semitism: either through the ages or in contemporary America. It touches on all these in a way: pulling from works and thinkers who do engage in those more detailed analyses. The point here is more to get both the sense of the reality of anti-Semitism in the here and now, and through ages, in order to affirm that anti-Semitism is still a threat, worldwide and in America. All this to lay the groundwork for what Jews (and non-Jews) need to do to fight against anti-Semitism.
Weiss briefly recounts the history of anti-Semitism, then looks at anti-Semitism (and its growth) on the right, on the left, and in the Islamic world. She then closes with advice on how to fight anti-Semitism. If you lean more to the right, you will likely find her at times ungenerous to the right. But, similarly, if you lean left, you will likely find her ungenerous occasionally to the left. Both concerns may be accurate, though it strikes me that she strikes a good balance.
Two points that struck me and will stay with me:
1. Anti-Semitism at root is a conspiracy theory. It is not merely or even hatred of Jews. It is not just another form of racism. It is, at root, a conspiratorial idea about the Jewish people as a nefarious, dangerous, or powerful force behind whatever one takes as bad or powerful in the world. In this way, it is paradoxically compatible with being friendly to Jews or being pro-Israel—if the root of this friendliness, admiration, or support is based on this conspiracy theory about the Jews. Though eventually, this conspiracy theory calls for extermination: either by murder or by assimilation.
2. The best way to fight anti-Semitism is to build and to affirm. Build one’s life, one’s community. Affirm one’s Jewishness and values:
“we fight by waging an affirmative battle for who we are. By entering the fray for our values, for our ideas, for our ancestors, for our families, for our communities, for the generations that will come after us” (168).
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