Perhaps the terrorist attack on Monday evening in Vienna did not target Jews directly, but when bad times come, and they have come, Jews are in everyone’s sights. It is with good reason that Jewish community leaders in Austria advised against wearing Jewish symbols openly and shut down synagogues until further notice. But caution won’t help anymore. Unless they unite now and restore the real meaning of Judaism, Jews in Europe will soon become a memory, and Hitler’s dream of a Jew-free Europe will come true.
It is human nature to think that the present will continue. Regrettably, it never does. The only thing that’s constant is change, and changes now are happening fast, and for the worst. The antisemitic cycle is ever rolling. The hiatus that Jews were given after the Holocaust has ended and the latent enmity toward them grows increasingly intense and violent.
Jews always expect others to change and think that they are pristine, mere victims of unfounded hatred. That is not the case; it’s the Jews who have to change. Their reluctance to change before the Holocaust ended in their extermination, and their reluctance to change now will end the same way. This is how it’s always been, and this is how it always will be until Jews agree to do what they must do to end their trouble once and for all.
To sum up the Jewish mission in a few words, we can say that to save their skins, Jews must set an example of unity despite, and above their disagreements and mutual dislike. In a few more words, whenever there is trouble in the world, Jews will be accused of causing it. It is not merely a scapegoat mechanism of political leaders; every person has a deep-seated gut feeling that Jews have some sort of “key” to making the world a better place. When they aren’t sharing that key, they are blamed for causing trouble since people feel that Jews could have made things well but didn’t, so trouble ensued.
This feeling cannot be uprooted; it is as ancient as Judaism itself and stems from the same sore that caused Abraham to form the nation back in Babylon. Until that sore is healed, resentment toward Jews will continue.
It is no coincidence that non-Jews blame Jews for inciting wars and causing conflicts. Abraham united the people who came to him around the principle of unity and love of others above all the differences and enmity among them. He had to; in his days, the Babylonian people were going through a social crisis and internal conflicts became prevalent. Abraham realized that he couldn’t make them stop hating, but he could help them rise above their hatred and forge strong bonds with one another nonetheless.
Regrettably for Babylon, Abraham had to leave his homeland and head west, to Canaan. Along the way, people came to him from all over the Fertile Crescent and asked to join his group. They belonged to different tribes and clans, which were often at war and hated one another. But under Abraham’s guidance, they learned to love each other despite the underlying enmity.
Abraham’s group was a miracle. He formed a nation that was like no other, based entirely on the idea of connection above rejection, and completely devoid of biological kinship. When his people, who later became known as Jews, valued unity above everything else, they were a sight to see, the apex of humanity. When they abandoned unity, they returned to being members of rivaling tribes and lashed out at each other like rabid dogs.
When the Jews achieved unity after they escaped from Egypt, they were big enough to prove that they were capable of setting an example for the rest of the world. Only then were they declared a nation and were given the task to be “a light unto nations,” to bring the method of unity above enmity to all the peoples of the world. This is why you can express the spirit of the Torah in one short motto: “That which you hate, do not do unto your neighbor.” And as old Hillel said, “The rest is commentary; go and study.” If you wish to go even further, take Rabbi Akiva’s motto, which constitutes absolute altruism: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Living out these mottos constitutes being “a light unto nations,” and for thousands of years, we Jews have not been doing it. We did not keep our promise. We let our enmity take over. We became once more like rabid dogs and slaughtered one another until the Romans had no trouble taking over Jerusalem and sending us into an exile that is still continuing.
Moreover, we have betrayed our vocation, to be “a light unto nations.” We have not brought unity to the world; we abandoned our legacy, and this is why the nations hate us and blame us for their wars. If we showed the way, they would know how to unite and wouldn’t have to fight. But since we’re showing nothing but mutual enmity, they, too, fight and blame us for it.
It will not help us to protest against unjust hatred. The world feels that its hatred is utterly justified for the reason I just detailed. People may have felt bad about the Holocaust so they gave us time off, but the timeout is over and we are called upon once more to do our duty. If we comply, we will be welcome everywhere. If we do not, we will be persecuted and murdered like never before.
For more on this topic, look in Like a Bundle of Reeds: why unity and mutual guarantee are today’s call of the hour, and The Jewish Choice: Unity or Anti-Semitism, Historical facts on anti-Semitism as a reflection of Jewish social discord.