Tag Archives: Megillah (book of Esther)

Historian Deborah Lipstadt Assesses the New Anti-Semitism

Historian Deborah Lipstadt has published an accessible and comprehensive book about contemporary anti-Semitism called “Antisemitism: Here and Now.” The book, in which she spells anti-Semitism as “antisemitism” for reasons she outlines—is structured as a series of letters she writes to a fictional student and colleague — both of whom are composites of people Lipstadt has taught and worked with at Emory University in Atlanta.

Lipstadt, the author of books on Holocaust denial and the Adolf Eichmann trial, has experienced anti-Semitism as a result of confronting Holocaust deniers. In the early 2000s, she prevailed in a defamation lawsuit brought by David Irving, one of the more prolific and notorious Holocaust “revisionists.” Her victory was dramatized in “Denial,” a 2016 movie starring Rachel Weisz.

Lipstadt writes that anti-Semitism is challenging to define:

“It is hard, if not impossible, to explain something that is essentially irrational, delusional, and absurd.”

She recently spoke to JewishBoston about her new book and the ongoing scourge of anti-Semitism around the world.

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Is today’s anti-Semitism “old wine in new bottles?”

On some level, it is old wine in new bottles. There are certain aspects of the stereotype which continue to exist and don’t go away. What’s different today is a number of things. First of all, it’s coming from the right and the left simultaneously. That’s different. At the same time, we’ve got a third source, and that is Islamic extremists who have been responsible for dangerous, deadly events in Europe. In some sectors of the Muslim community, it has become embedded among people who wouldn’t think to do anything violent but think evil things of Jews. This combination is different, but the charges are classic.

Actor Rachel Weisz and author Deborah Lipstadt on the set of their film “Denial,” a Bleecker Street release. (Photo credit: Liam Daniel/Bleecker Street)

Actor Rachel Weisz and author Deborah Lipstadt on the set of their film “Denial,” a Bleecker Street release. (Photo credit: Liam Daniel/Bleecker Street)

In your introduction, you write, “By the time this book appears there will have been new examples of antisemitism.”

In some ways, the book is a work in progress. I was sure by the time it was published there would have been a number of instances that could have appeared. Five weeks after I hit the send button, Pittsburgh happened.

Speaking of ongoing anti-Semitism, what inspired you to write a book about it?

I wrote an article right after Gaza happened the summer of 2014 for The New York Times op-ed page. What struck me was the degree of anti-Semitism that got mixed up in opposition to that war. But it wasn’t just the war. There was the 2006 murder of Ilan Halimi. In 2012 there were the murders at a Jewish school in Toulouse. Then there was the shooting at the Jewish Museum of Brussels just before Gaza. Anti-Semitism was coming back in a way that deserved attention. The Times article was very popular, and my agent asked where my book proposal was. I sent him a brief proposal as a favor. He came back to me shortly afterward and said he sold the book. That’s how I came to write a book about anti-Semitism.

You talk about what I describe as “low-voltage anti-Semitism” that can happen casually at dinner parties or in dorm rooms. How do Jews deal with that?

While this book has received mostly amazing reviews, like any author, I tend to linger on the one or two negative ones. One of the reviews said I should not have told my fictitious student Abigail that when she encountered anti-Semitism among her roommates to go back and have a discussion. The reviewer said, “I would have told her to find new friends.” That’s the wrong answer. We’ll run out of friends very quickly if we do that. There is a lot of misunderstanding of what anti-Semitism is and what constitutes it. Our job should be to try to explain that to people. However, when you call me a termite [as Louis Farrakhan did] because I’m a Jew, I’m not going to try and educate you anymore. We have to discern between ignorance and what is absorbed from the ethos sphere, and the committed anti-Semite.

What do you say to young Jews participating in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement? And what are some of the anti-Semitic tropes associated with BDS?

Many people on campus who support BDS probably couldn’t find Israel on a map. I don’t immediately brand every person who supports BDS as an anti-Semite. Some people erroneously equate BDS with their parents’ votes against apartheid. But if you drill down to what BDS is all about it, it calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. That is anti-Semitism. As for the tropes, it’s this talk of power, control and money. It’s the anti-Semitic stereotypes put into a Middle Eastern context. A few days ago, people said the seven Labour lawmakers who resigned over anti-Semitism in their party were being paid to do so by Israel. If that supposition weren’t so dangerous, it would be simply absurd.

Antisemitism

(Courtesy image)

Are anti-Zionists and anti-Semites the same?

They are backing into each other. If you look at each of them in 1935 or 1945, they are not one and the same. Bret Stephens had a great article about the difference. I second what he says very much. Look at the division and we now see something quite distinct. We see something that has become this hostility to Israel. Opposition to Israeli policy is not anti-Semitism. It’s important to recognize that. We’re talking about a myopic view that all the troubles in the world are the Palestinians’—the only one at fault in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is Israel. Something is wrong with that.

I recently heard a story about a student in a New York City public high school who asked her teacher to sign a letter of recommendation for a summer program. She brought him the form, and when he saw it was for Israel, he said he wouldn’t write a letter for her. She asked if he would write a letter for a program in North Korea, China, Myanmar or Sudan, and he said yes.

Something is wrong when your singular focus is on one country. Something is wrong when you look at this complicated situation in Israel where there are wrongs on both sides. We see a dedication to Palestinian organizations that have a major commitment to the destruction of Israel within their charters. And you have to ask, why this myopic view? That’s when you come to anti-Semitism.

It’s almost Purim, and your middle name is Esther. Do you feel you have a Queen Esther-like role in the Jewish community?

Someone once sent me a quote from the Book of Esther where Mordechai comes to Esther to tell her she has to approach the king, or our people will be murdered. She initially says she can’t go to the king because she will be killed. But then she does talk to him on behalf of her people. In fighting deniers and anti-Semitism, I don’t feel I’m a queen of anything. What I do feel is very gratified that I’ve been given a chance to do this work. I wish anti-Semitism were an old problem, but there’s an urgency to understand it. People are so grateful and appreciative that I do that. I feel humbled and thankful that I’m getting this kind of reaction. I’m not a Queen Esther, but I have been given a similar gift of being in the right place at the right time. This enables me to contribute to an important battle.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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Speaking up and Celebration of Purim

Tonight starts the celebration of Purim, for many known as the Jewish carnival. In many families it is a pleasant day for the kids they being allowed to dress up and them looking for presents which are sent by family members and friends. First the children were asked to fast and to keep those things that the like much, to share with others who have less then them.

From today until Schmini Shel Pesach the final day of Passover on Nisan 22, commemorating the Splitting of the Red Sea, the climax of the Exodus from Egypt, and the day when we focus on the final liberation, the one that’s yet to happen. We look at the days of or moments of liberation the Hashem has given to His People. These days we remember the time of Moshe and Estêr, but also we reflect on the way God is with us all the time.

Starting with the commemoration of the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from the wicked Haman his plot

“to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day,”

as recorded in the Megillah (book of Esther).

Esther before Ahasuerus, by Franciszek Smuglewicz, 1778

The Jew-hating Haman, appointed prime minister of the Persian Empire under King Aḥašvērōš, convinced the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of all the Jews on the 13th of Adar, a date chosen by a lottery Haman made.
Mardəkī or Mordecai galvanized all the Jews, convincing them to repent, fast and pray to the Most High Elohim. After the first wife of the king had been executed for failing to follow his orders, he arranged a beauty pageant to find a new queen. A Jewish girl, Esther, found favour in the king’s eyes and became the new queen, though she refused to divulge her nationality. After Haman had required to kill the Jews Esther revealed to the king her Jewish identity, which would mean when the decree would be executed his beauty and loved one would be killed also. To avoid such drama Haman was hanged and instead of him Mordechai was appointed prime minister. A new decree was issued, granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies.

On the 13th of Adar, the Jews mobilized and killed many of their enemies. On the 14th of Adar, they rested and celebrated. In the capital city of Shushan, they took one more day to finish the job.

Since Haman had thrown lots to determine when he would carry out his diabolical scheme this remembrance period is also called “Feast of lots”.

Queen Estêr (Esther) is the heroine of the Megillah tale, and has been a character used in several films and some ballets. From a simple girl she could take a very high position, which made her able to use her influence to save the Jewish people. But this was only possible by revealing her nationality. She could have been quiet and let the Jews been killed, but preferred to speak, endangering herself. Though the king madly in love with her did not kill her but killed the man who had asked for the Jews to be killed.

Married to a non-Jew she was stuck having the privilege to live in a palace, and the years after this event was still unable to join her people in their celebrations. She had saved her people, but could not save herself from her ‘castle-walls’. She was trapped, living between two worlds.

We have to take care we get not trapped, but also that we do not stay silent. Certainly in these times when we can find more and more people who do find that this world only belongs to (trinitarian) Christians. Looking around and following the news, we hear several times a week how Jews are bullied or even how certain people try to kill Jews on the street (like the incident in Antwerp last week).

Rabbi Michael Knopf who writes extensively on matters of halakhah (the Jewish legal tradition) a few days ago wrote about Purim and the Responsibilities of Privilege and looking at our position in this world wrote:

We cannot be truly safe, truly free, truly prosperous, until everyone is safe, free, and prosperous.

He also remembered Martin Luther King, Jr. who wrote,

“I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” (“Letter from a Birmingham Jail”).

These coming days we especially look at the way God helped His People and how they acted in their life on the way to the Promised Land. Most of them never saw that place which could have been an ‘heaven on earth’. Throughout history we have seen many pogroms and years of torture and killings of our ancestors. These days we can remember them but also remember the liberation of so many. Because these days that is going to be our focus, how the Elohim is there to help us and to guide us to be able to live in a world which does not like the Children of God. Going up to Pesach, the climax of the year 15-22 Nisan, remembering the Passover and liberation of Gods people.

The Rabbi reminds us:

If you are reading this column, chances are good that you are among the ranks of the most fortunate people to ever live.
Mordechai‘ s challenge to Esther is, therefore, our challenge as well. When there are those in our world, in our country, whose lives are at risk, do we stand by, fearful that speaking up will cost us our position? Or do we remember that our fate is bound up in their fate, too, and perhaps we have attained our privilege for just such a crisis?

This was the question of Esther’s time. This is the question of our time. As we celebrate Purim, let us honor Mordechai’s challenge, and recall Esther’s heroic response. {Purim and the Responsibilities of Privilege }

On the Israel Forever Foundation website and on Inspiration from Zion: This is a Love Story we also find the warning

Today we are not witnessing the Holocaust but there are world leaders who advocate for the elimination of the Jewish State. There are individuals who openly declare that the genocide of the Jewish people should have been completed. Antisemitism is again becoming something that is socially acceptable to express in public. {Purim: Not to speak is to speak}

And a question

In a world where Antisemitism is again becoming socially acceptable, where Jews are told that they cannot be both feminists and Zionists and many Jews are afraid to speak out about the injustices against our people – what message could be more relevant? {Purim: Not to speak is to speak}

 

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Additional reading

  1. Purim or Ta’aniet Estêr
  2. Beginning of weeks for the Feasts of deliverance
  3. The son of David on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread
  4. High Holidays not only for Israel
  5. 8 Reasons Christian Holidays Should Not Be Observed
  6. Observance of a day to Remember
  7. Around the feast of Unleavened Bread
  8. Day of remembrance coming near
  9. Actions to be a reflection of openness of heart
  10. Solution for Willing hearts filled with gifts
  11. Vayikra after its opening word וַיִּקְרָא, which means and He called
  12. Deliverance and establishement of a theocracy
  13. Preparation for Passover
  14. A new exodus and offering of a Lamb
  15. Sukkoth, Gog, Magog, Armageddon, a covenant and Jerusalem
  16. Wednesday 5 April – Sunday 9 April 30 CE Pesach or Passover versus Easter
  17. Most important day in Christian year
  18. Most important weekend of the year 2016
  19. This day shall be unto you for a memorial and you shall keep it a feast to the Most High God
  20. 14-15 Nisan and Easter
  21. 14 Nisan a day to remember #1 Inception
  22. 14 Nisan a day to remember #2 Time of Jesus
  23. 14 Nisan a day to remember #3 Before the Passover-feast
  24. 14 Nisan a day to remember #4 A Lamb slain
  25. 14 Nisan a day to remember #5 The Day to celebrate
  26. Easter holiday, fun and rejoicing
  27. A Great Gift commemorated
  28. Jesus memorial
  29. Thinking about fear for the Loving God and an Invitation for 14 Nisan
  30. What to do in the Face of Global Anti-semitism

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  5. Purim and Living Between Worlds
  6. Purim To The RescueThe Purim Miracle 1
  7. The purim miracle 2
  8. Deceit Meets Truth at PurimPurim… The Invisible Hand – By MarcPurim: Not to speak is to speak
  9. Purim or Feast of lots
  10. Purim Sameach!
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  12. The Rebbe on Parashat Zakhor and Purim (March 23-24, 1940 in the Warsaw Ghetto)
  13. For Such a Time as This
  14. Kosher Wine and Show Tunes on tap for Purim
  15. Rav Avigdor Miller on Drinking Like a Goy on Purim
  16. The holiday of Purim
  17. #Purim Life Takes A-Way M’om’ents; Thy Divine Sight, Makes A-Weigh For More Meant/Mentorship of Meritorious M’om’entum’s Immaculate/Infinite/Evolutionary Worthiness Exalted Renaissance Orientated C’om’munion’s……………
  18. Purim, Exile, and Redemption
  19. Purim and the Responsibilities of Privilege
  20. The Coin Flip (Purim)
  21. Purim: The Upside Down Drama of Esther
  22. Esther 9, the Jews triumph, Purim celebrated.
  23. Purim 2018
  24. The Purim-miracle 4
  25. For Such a Time as This

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