Jewish Journal

The Best Defense Against Anti-Semitism

by Lia Mandelbaum

April 20, 2011 | 12:59 pm

Their covered faces symbolize their lack of an identity and sense of self

I’ve started my first quarter at Cal State LA, and so far I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be.  I really like the energy on campus, the diversity amongst the students and the quality of teaching by my professors.  One of my classes is PHI 327, Philosophy, Gender and Culture.  We’re currently reading Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate by Jean-Paul Sartre.  When I first started reading Sartre’s in depth analysis of the character traits found within the anti-Semite, I was becoming emotionally charged with anger, and felt a heavy pain in my chest.  My head was spinning and I was struggling to absorb and process the material.  Fortunately I was able to have a moment to step back and witness how powerful anger is.  Anger can easily trap your mind and remove you from being aware of your surroundings.  I realized that anger is like a drug, and in that moment I had to rip myself away from it.  I knew that this was exactly the same drug that fuels Anti-Semites, but their dose is far more potent.  In the same way that people escape themselves through drugs and alcohol, the anti-Semite escapes themselves through their hatred for Jews.

The anti-Semites desperate need for Jews

There is a line in the book that made me stop and think about how I would interpret it.  Sartre says if the Jew did not exist, the anti-Semite would invent him.  That line tells me that really, the anti-Semites hatred for Jews has nothing to do with Jews.  It tells me that the anti-Semite needs someone outside of himself to use as means of forming an identity because without them they have no sense of self.  They also use their hatred for Jews as a way to interpret history, economics, global relations, etc. Sartre also says “The anti-Semite is in the unhappy position of having a vital need for the very enemy he wishes to destroy.”

Rational vs. Irrational

What stood out to me in my professor’s lecture today, was when he interpreted Sartre’s view of what a coward is, and then how he expanded on it.  A coward exits the process of truth, rationality, politics and ethics, because they are running from themselves and what it means to exist.  A rational person with an allegiance to the truth,  passionately wants to understand the world and recognizes that there are many things they don’t know.  They are open to understanding when their interpretations are actually wrong, flawed or could be a lot stronger.  Understanding the world is a never-ending process that lasts until the day you die. 

Applying anti-Semitism to Passover

I was thinking about how I could apply these lessons to Passover, and I found that the life of the anti-Semite could easily be related towards the theme of the exodus from slavery in Egypt.  My best defense against anti-Semitism is by not living like those who are trapped by hatred and a delusional sense of self and the world around them.  I must make the obligation everyday to make an exodus from any beliefs I have that may trap me and detach me from my dignity, essence, truth, integrity and G-d.  Also, the anti-Semite feeds off of people’s anger towards them, and I do not want to give them that gratification.  I must be the rational person with an allegiance to the truth, and interpret the world around me with educated eyes.  Confucius said, “Among truly educated persons there is no discrimination.” 

I give my gratitude to Cal State University for helping me to make my exodus by providing me with a powerful space where I can continue to grow into the best person I can be.

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Tera “Nova Jade* Greene is a professional lesbian of color and Jew by Choice.  She is a producer of music and film, a renowned DJ and always finds herself in the midst of...

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