How to Fight Anti-Semitism 

By – February 4, 2020

Bari Weiss’ urgent new book may be small in size, but it packs a pow­er­ful mes­sage: there is an alarm­ing increase in anti­semitism in the Unit­ed States, and every sin­gle one of us must defend our­selves. In prose that is at once calm and mea­sured, yet strong and rous­ing, she sounds her clar­i­on call to com­bat, artic­u­lat­ing dif­fer­ent types of present-day anti­semites, and out­lin­ing the meth­ods that will be most effec­tive in bring­ing us out of what she sees as a ris­ing darkness.

A New York Times staff writer and op-ed edi­tor, Weiss says her book is for any­one, Jew or gen­tile, who is con­cerned not with what is fash­ion­able, but with what is true.” Weiss sees the new, dan­ger­ous­ly high lev­el of Amer­i­can anti­semitism com­ing from the far right and the far left, and she exam­ines each threat with an eye toward cre­at­ing a bal­anced view of both their goals and tac­tics. At its core, she sees the aim of anti­semitism as the elim­i­na­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple and Judaism itself, whether this is accom­plished through vio­lence or the polit­i­cal destruc­tion of the State of Israel.

Weiss’s expo­si­tion of mod­ern anti­semitism is deep and lay­ered, and her mul­ti­fac­eted plan for Jews and their allies to fight it is cre­ative and insight­ful. She does not sug­gest that we stage protests, write press releas­es, or facil­i­tate dia­logue groups. Instead, she tells us to embrace Judaism, renew our val­ues, and respect our­selves. Weiss states, There has not been a sin­gle moment in Jew­ish his­to­ry where there weren’t anti-Semi­tes deter­mined to erad­i­cate Judaism and the Jews.” She urges us to call out hate­ful speech and actions; to defend oth­er minori­ties fac­ing big­otry, build com­mu­ni­ty, and sup­port Israel. Join more than one syn­a­gogue, she sug­gests, and con­sid­er reclaim­ing the peace that comes from observ­ing Shabbat.

Jew­ish authen­tic­i­ty, or pos­i­tiv­i­ty, encour­ages us to be proud of our cul­ture, and firm in our respect and admi­ra­tion for our his­tor­i­cal lega­cy, Weiss tells us. Strength­en our Jew­ish iden­ti­ty, and we will strength­en our image in the world.

The book also puts mod­ern anti­semitism into his­tor­i­cal con­text, trac­ing anti-Jew­ish actions and atti­tudes through his­to­ry. Weiss gives a clear sense of how pre­cious she sees the civ­i­liza­tion built by and for the Jews. She is an out­spo­ken advo­cate for Jews and Zion­ism, and from the out­set she makes sure the read­er hears loud­ly and unequiv­o­cal­ly the alarm bell that drove her to write this out­stand­ing book.

Lin­da F. Burghardt is a New York-based jour­nal­ist and author who has con­tributed com­men­tary, break­ing news, and fea­tures to major news­pa­pers across the U.S., in addi­tion to hav­ing three non-fic­tion books pub­lished. She writes fre­quent­ly on Jew­ish top­ics and is now serv­ing as Schol­ar-in-Res­i­dence at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al & Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau County.

How to Fight Anti-Semi­tism is a pow­er­ful tool for any­one try­ing to under­stand the renewed pow­er of anti­semitism in today’s world. Weiss asks her read­ers to con­front the real­i­ty of anti­semitism today and to define how it plays out dif­fer­ent­ly on both sides of the polit­i­cal spec­trum. Weiss is at her best when she acts as a spot­light, offer­ing clear and usable def­i­n­i­tions for an ancient force that often eludes sim­ple char­ac­ter­i­za­tions. She explains that anti­semitism is not just anoth­er form of racism. Rather, it is a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, a con­ta­gious thought virus that turns Jews into the sym­bol of what­ev­er a giv­en civ­i­liza­tion defines as its most sin­is­ter and threat­en­ing qual­i­ties.” In this way, anti­semitism is not just a threat to the Jews, it is a threat to all peo­ple. Any soci­ety that tol­er­ates lies, hatred, and con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries will end up embrac­ing oth­er forms of racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion. In the end, Weiss’s answer is a two-pronged approach: 1) think clear­ly and have the courage to stand up against anti­semitism and 2) dou­ble down on being Jew­ish and embrace all of the wis­dom, beau­ty, and pow­er of Jew­ish life.