Rabbi Sacks on Combatting Antisemitism

JInsider (March 2010)

We have to be very clear, in the 21st Century, of a fundamental principle: Jews cannot fight antisemitism alone. The victim cannot cure the crime. The hated cannot cure the hate. And this is something that is sometimes very difficult to understand with hindsight. And I think we should judge no-one with hindsight, because in the same situation, each one of us might so easily have made the same mistake.

But in hindsight, the Jews of Germany in the 19th century made a momentous and tragic mistake. They said, 'Since Jews are the objects of antisemitism, Jews must be the cause of antisemitism. And therefore, if we are the cause of antisemitism, we can be the cure of antisemitism. They hate us because we’re different, let’s stop being different. Okay? We eat different foods. Let’s get rid of the Laws of Kashrut. We observe a different Holy day, let’s move Shabbat to Sunday.'

That’s what some Jews in Germany actually did. 'They don’t like us because we have different marriage and divorce laws. Well, let’s say dina d’malchuta dina; the law of the land is the law. Let’s stop having our own special Jewish marriages and divorces.' The whole shooting match, everything that made Jews different from others. Jews in Germany - some Jews - gave up, in the 19th century.

How much did that diminish antisemitism? Not one millimetre. Why? Because, it’s a fallacy. Jews don’t cause antisemitism, something in the mind of the antisemite causes antisemitism. And therefore, if we think that is something we alone can do to cure antisemitism, we are making a great mistake.

And therefore, we have to stand up loud and clear and say, 'We as Jews will fight for the right of Christians anywhere in the world to live their faith without fear. But we ask Christians to stand up for the right of Jews anywhere else in the world to live their faith without fear.' I personally, and our community, have led the fight against Islamophobia and we always will do. But we have to ask Muslims, 'You have to lead the fight against Judeophobia.'

We have to stand together to fight hate, not Jews alone but every single person who cares for the sanctity of life and for a free and just and tolerant society. And we must never be left alone. We must gather allies because ultimately the hatred of Jews is hatred of difference, which is hatred of humanity. The enemies of Jews are the enemies of freedom, wherever it is. And that is why we must stand together to fight hate, in all its forms.