How churches and Christians can combat the rising tide of anti-Semitism

To be ‘anti-Semitic would be rejecting Jesus’

People stand together during an interfaith Rally Against Anti-Semitism hosted by Greater Miami Jewish Federation at the Holocaust Memorial on June 03, 2021, in Miami Beach, Florida.
People stand together during an interfaith Rally Against Anti-Semitism hosted by Greater Miami Jewish Federation at the Holocaust Memorial on June 03, 2021, in Miami Beach, Florida. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A need to 'repudiate'

Some Christians consciously or unconsciously harbor anti-Semitic thoughts, Spitzer said, including the idea that "Jews are really good with money and saving money" or "Jews are greedy."

"It's become a stereotype and a very harmful one — the greedy Jew — which is very repugnant to all people of any sensitivity," Spitzer stated. 

Spitzer said Jews have historically been seen as Christ killers by Christians in Europe, which he called "a false reading of the New Testament that needs to be repudiated."

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"I speak as a Christian theologian. From a Christian standpoint, there is no collective guilt that the Jewish people bear through the centuries because of what happened to Jesus. Jesus was crucified under Roman law. And so, it's very important to realize that some of the things that Christians have said have led to the excesses of Nazi anti-Semitism and Holocaust," Spitzer continued. 

"Today, modern forms of what's being called 'white Christian nationalism,' as we've seen in [the 2017] Charlottesville [Unite the Right rally], are new expressions of anti-Semitism that the Church needs to repudiate. And I would like to suggest that there are people on the left [making] many anti-Zionist statements which seek to delegitimize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish nation. [They] are often founded in an anti-Semitic perspective."

Pastors and Christians should "gently" and "clearly" express the truth to those holding anti-Semitic viewpoints, he said, adding they should engage in this conversation not with "anger, belligerence or hate" but with "open minds and hearts."

"I think the first thing that we should do is … after having listened to make sure we truly understand what they're saying, we need to make it clear in a very civil and polite way that we do not hold to such a view and we do not consider that view founded in truth, or in history, or in logic or in experience," Spitzer said. 

"And sometimes, people say things assuming you'll agree with their prejudice. They may not even realize how prejudiced it is. And so, I think gently and clearly, we can say to people, speaking again out of our core conviction, that we repudiate all forms of anti-Semitism, as well as other forms of prejudice against other people."

Spitzer believes it's important to understand that Christianity is historically based on Judaism as a religion and Jewish culture in many ways.

"There can be no divide between Jews and Christians," Spitzer added. "Because Jesus, who Christians worship, was Jewish from His birth to death. He was always Jewish and nothing but Jewish. To be anti-Semitic would be rejecting Jesus because He's Jewish."

Michael Brown, an outspoken, Messianic Jewish believer and apologist, told CP that anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are on the rise. He said Americans need to "wake up" and "realize" that anti-Semitic hate crimes and conspiracy theories are "demonic" and a "spiritual stronghold" from Hell.

Brown is among many Christian experts active in the fight against anti-Semitism and is the author of the 2021 book Christian Antisemitism: Confronting the Lies in Today's Church.

Brown warns that many Americans adopt ideas such as "Jewish people are controlling all the media, banks and aspiring for world domination" or "Jewish people are threatening a pure American nation, and they shouldn't have a homeland."    

"On the one hand, some of this is [a] spiritual battle. There is a lot of deception out there. And if you present someone with facts and logic, and there's a stronghold in their heart or mind, they're not going to hear what you have to say," said Brown, who was born and raised in New York. 

"On the other hand, many people really are misinformed. Many people build stereotypes. But again, a lot of it is a spiritual stronghold, meaning that we really have to pray to God to open hearts and minds to the Spirit of truth." 

Echoing Spitzer, Brown said Christians and church leaders should begin to "correct wrong thinking, debunk lies and false accusations" and become familiar with the Jewish population in their communities.   

"People can really get to know upstanding Jews and their communities, spend time with them,  [and] interact. When you put a face to a name, it can really counteract anti-Semitism," Brown said. 

"And when we are reaching out to the Jewish community in a tangible way, we should say, 'as followers of Jesus, we stand with you against anti-Semitism, against violence. Yes, we would love everyone to believe in Jesus, including you, but we're not here to proselytize.' We're here to say, 'we stand with you, and if someone wants to hurt you, we're standing side-by-side with you.'"

Brown said there are many reasons for the spike in anti-Semitism in America, starting with the rise in "hatred within America of group towards group."

"It's a difficult time in our nation," he said. "There's a lot of division and tension and pressure. And it seems that media, politicians, social media just inflame the tensions and the hatred in all different directions, and we see all these violent hate crimes in all different directions as well."

Reconciliation and justice

Brown emphasized that anti-Semitism is "somewhat perennial."

"There is something about hatred of the Jews that has been found in almost every culture and every religion in every country over the centuries. So it's no surprise when there's going to be a demonization of different peoples, that the Jews will be at the center of it," Brown stated. 

"Because Jewish Americans on average are more prosperous and successful than other Americans, [people] can come up with various conspiracy theories about Jewish control and Jewish power, and that plays into it as well." 

Brown was born in 1955, over a decade after World War II, which was a time when he said there was "more ammunition" against anti-Semitism due to the "horrors of the Holocaust." 

At that time, he said there was "more reflection about violence and hatred towards the Jewish people and more sympathy for the birth of the modern state of Israel." 

As a native New Yorker, Brown remembers there was "more solidarity between black Americans and Jewish Americans." But now, a tremendous rift exists between both minority groups. 

"Some of [the tension] has to do with demographics and greater income and educational levels in the Jewish community compared to the black community that certainly stir up animosity," Brown said. 

"The fact that religious Jews very much kind of keep to themselves can be perceived as different or arrogant or looking down at other groups, looking down at blacks. That perception has risen." 

New York churches are in a "hotbed of pressure tension" as hate crimes increase, Brown said, adding that the churches need to come together for "reconciliation" and "justice." 

"New York churches, in general, need to lead the way in working together for common interest in the city. In other words, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, others — the larger community — [to achieve] what reconciliation looks like, what justice looks like. So that's a broad call on churches who are in an ethnic melting pot," he said.

More education is another way that people can work to break down barriers, Brown added. 

"More specifically, when it comes to the Jewish people, there needs to be education about God's ongoing purposes for Israel and the Jewish people. There needs to be teaching against replacement theology — the notion that God has finished with Israel and all the promises once given to Israel are now given to the Church — that creates a curtain of arrogance and anti-Jewish views," Brown continued. 

According to Hudson, the rise of anti-Semitism in New York City is likely due to the sizeable Jewish population combined with the community's proximity to people of other cultures.

"With the Jewish community being so large, they are maybe being perceived as more powerful or [more] in control," she said. "I think that's part of why you see such an increase there. It's very concentrated, and many people are taking up their frustrations on them there."

Hudson said that in some cases in New York City, more observant Jewish communities have been more at risk. 

"They are visibly Jewish because they dress a certain way, and they can be targeted easily on the street," she said. 

Hudson said that different factors behind the rise in anti-Semitism in the last year play on "people's fears." 

"So obviously, we had a huge disruption in the world with the pandemic. There's a lot of fear. There's a lot of isolation from each other, as well as political polarization," Hudson said. "I believe all of those factors have contributed to the rise in hate crimes and, specifically, a rise of anti-Semitic hate crimes."

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