It seems like a vicious circle: Every time Jews settle somewhere, the local population welcomes them, they prosper there and believe that they have found their “new Jerusalem,” new homeland, but right when they become complacent, their hosts turn against them, banish them or kill them, and often do both. Since the Jews were exiled from Jerusalem in the first century CE, they have been driven out from nearly one thousand places. If you stick a pin anywhere on a map of Earth, chances are that Jews lived there and were ousted from there.
We thought we were safe in England until we were driven out from there in the 13th century. We thought we were safe in Spain until they expelled us in the 15th century. We thought we were safe in Poland until we were butchered there in the 17th century. We thought we were safe in Russia until the pogroms of the late 19th century taught us better. We thought we were safe in Germany until the Nazis came and taught us that no place and no time are safe for the Jews.
Now, many of us still think we are safe in America and in Israel. We are not, and we mustn’t mistake complacency for safety.
Yet, this is not an unbreakable spell. If we conduct ourselves correctly, we can lift the curse and have a bright and prosperous future. For this, we must build a canopy of unity over our divisions, which will shelter us from the stormy clouds ahead.
We are nearing a critical point in the history of the world, and we Jews will be at its center, as we always have been. We will be accused of everything that is wrong in the world, as we always are, and there is a lot that is wrong with it today.
There will be no distinction between Jews in Israel and Jews abroad; all of us will face the world’s indictments. Moreover, the more we stall, the more momentum and intensity the hatred of the Jews will gain.
In the past, we could run from one country to another when things got bad. But one of the most important lessons we can learn from the Holocaust is that Germany was not alone in its hatred for the Jews. The Nazis were willing to expel the Jews right up to the Final Solution, but the developed countries closed their gates without exception. They even convened in Evian, France, for a special conference in 1938, where they decided not to grant German and Austrian Jews visas, while adding denunciation of how the Nazis are treating “their” Jews. Hitler took it as proof that the world tacitly agrees with his arguments against the Jews.
European Jewry had nowhere to run, and the vast majority of it was eliminated. Now we are facing a worldwide wave. If there was nowhere to go then, there is certainly nowhere to go now.
However, the ominous future does not mean that there is no hope. On the contrary, we have every reason to be hopeful since we have a key that can solve the problem in an instant if we only place it in the lock and turn it open.
Our shelter is not physical, but spiritual: It is our unity. As such, it needs no place, and we need not flee to one country or another. All we need is to find the strength within us to stop hating one another. After all, this is why we were expelled from Jerusalem in the first place.
It is beyond the span of such a short piece as this to detail their words, but our sages throughout the ages have advised us to do only one thing to avert trouble: unite. One by one, they promised that if we love each other as brothers, we will be safe from harm.
There have been too few times in history when we listened to them, and these times were so peaceful that we hardly hear of them today. It is simply that there were no wars, poverty, or division in Israel during those times; there was nothing “interesting” to report. Nevertheless, this is our way out of trouble; unity is our salvation. For more details on the merits of our unity, please look in my book The Jewish Choice: Unity or Antisemitism.
Our unity will not give us any military strength. It is itself the source of our power since this is what the world wants to see from us—that we unite above our divisions. At a time of great division, humanity wants the Jews to lead not in cyber technologies, but in resolving social rifts through cohesion and solidarity.
When Henry Ford, a notorious antisemite, advised his readers to learn from the ancient Jewish society (see the book referenced above), this is what he aimed for. When member of the Russian Parliament Vasily Shulgin, a rabid antisemite, wrote in the early 20th century that if the Jews were teachers, he and all the Russians would follow them (again, see the reference above), he meant teachers in unity and love of others.
Unity is our shelter. If we build it, we will be safe and appreciated everywhere. The only benefit that can come from the rising wave of antisemitism is that if we turn to unity, we will save ourselves from harm and save the world from war. I hope we take the advice of our sages before the wave crests on us and breaks.
A French gendarme stands at a gate near a plaque desecrated with a swastika at the Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim