What Should I Know About Prejudice? Originally Published June 5-6, 2020.

Recently the Anti-Defamation League created a new section on their website, titled “Antisemitism Uncovered:  A Guide to Old Myths in a New Era.”  It resides at https://antisemitism.adl.org/.

The ADL means this as a resource for both historic reference and current expressions.  And as Mrs. Grammer the history teacher used to tell us, we cannot understand the present unless we know what came before. 

Prejudice is very much in the news right now.  And it is among the topics on which we should keep abreast and attempt to effect change for the good.  (For instance, it is very important to know about the coronavirus and to take protective actions.)  You likely already know a lot of what is in the new resource I am about to mention, but we could always use a reminder that its relevance may be increasing. 

So we study the past, and we remember how we Jews were one of the earliest oppressed peoples, back in Egypt.  Moses lived around 1300 BCE, give or take several hundred years, depending on which scholar is opining.  (Some sources say he was born on Adar 7, in the year 2368 from creation, which would be 1393 BCE.)  That was a long time ago, and prejudice and hatred go back even further.  The ADL’s site does not really give a concise timeline.  For chronology one may go to the Wikipedia page “Timeline of Antisemitism” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_antisemitism), which begins late in the history, at 740 BCE in Assyria.  Even in the book of Amos (1:11), from around that time, we read about “the never-ending hatred of the Jews.”  (Some translations differ.)

Armed with this knowledge of the past, some understanding of human inclinations, and knowing that times are now very trying, we should be looking out for our neighbors as well.  We should heed the messages of the current demonstrators and understand that we can help effect change.  Hatred against those of Asian descent is also hard upon us (often because of misperceptions about COVID-19), along with continuing prejudice against immigrants and minorities of all stripes.  (Even if all peoples had stripes, some would find a way to hate.)  The very least we can do is to stop such negativity in its tracks, and point out that we are all just human beings.  This is especially true in social media, which we should scrutinize before forwarding.  So as we all enjoy the various memes floating about, and laugh at the truly funny among them and pass them along further, let’s remember to just as surely chop off those that sprout from hatred - of anyone.

Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers up all faults.”  Proverbs 10:18 goes on to say, “He who conceals hatred has lying lips, while he who speaks forth slander is a dullard.”  Further, Proverbs 26:18 et seq., warns, “Like a madman scattering deadly firebrands, arrows, and death, is one who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I was only joking.’ Where there is no wood, there the fire goes out; where there is no talebearer, the strife ceases.”

Masks may keep people from spewing viruses, but very little can keep the discontented and disenfranchised and disaffected (and ignorant) from spewing prejudice.  Let’s not make it worse; we can make it better.  Let our broader community be our strength.  For the sake of our neighbors and ourselves.  #StrongerThanHate.