Navigating Antisemitism Through Jewish Wisdom and Tradition

In the aftermath of the pandemic, the global landscape is marked by heightened tensions surrounding racism, prejudice, and antisemitism. Recent events, such as the tragic death of George Floyd and the distressing revelations of graves of Aboriginal children in Canada, have served as stark reminders of the pressing need to address these issues.

There has been a troubling surge in antisemitic rhetoric and actions, significantly affecting the Jewish community across different areas. Prejudice and discrimination are increasing, unfairly impacting Jewish individuals and organizations. Despite facing unjustified hatred and persecution, the Jewish people have demonstrated extraordinary resilience and unwavering determination to not be snared in such discriminatory practices

Guided by Judaism’s vast wisdom and heritage, we explore how the Jewish community has successfully navigated through demonization without succumbing to bitterness. Over the centuries, profound ethical principles have been imparted through Jewish texts and the teachings of Rabbis, forming the foundation for confronting antisemitism with resilience and dignity.

  • “That which is hateful to you, do not do unto others.” – Rabbi Hillel, 1st century AD *1
  • “Do not oppress the stranger because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” – Torah, Exodus *2
  • “Care for the widow and the orphan.” – Torah, Exodus *3
  • “Do not bear a grudge against your neighbor.” – Torah, Leviticus *4

The State of Israel, deeply rooted in this rich biblical tradition, upholds the mandate to “not oppress the stranger.” Embracing this ethos, Israel actively seeks to integrate Arab and non-Jewish residents into its social fabric. Despite unfounded allegations of “apartheid” and “colonialism,” Israeli Arab citizens contribute across various professions, including government and the military.

In line with the biblical injunction to “care for the widow and the orphan,” Israel maintains a robust social welfare system, providing universal free medical care, public education, and the impartial application of the rule of law, irrespective of socio-economic status.

Beyond its borders, Israel shares scientific knowledge with struggling nations and exemplifies compassion in times of crisis. It consistently ranks among the first responders, delivering medical supplies and aid globally, including recent assistance in Florida during the Surfside condo collapse.

In his insightful work “Not in God’s Name,” Rabbi Sacks challenges misinterpretations of biblical stories, illustrating a foundational premise: the Creator’s equal love for all humanity. He explores the roots of antisemitism, acknowledging human instincts like sibling rivalry, but advocates character development education centered on fostering brotherly love as the antidote.

How can one attain a profound education?

Studying the teachings of Rabbis over the centuries demonstrates a deep understanding of how education can be meaningful and transformative. They utilize storytelling, questioning, analysis, and repetition to promote a life centred on brotherly love. These tools are seamlessly integrated into Jewish daily life. The Passover Holiday Seder exemplifies how these principles are effectively implemented. Let’s analyze the Passover Seder to see how this educational approach works.

Engaging Children in Jewish Education

Jewish education starts in the home with children. Therefore, everything about the family Seder is geared towards children noticing and asking questions, from the traditional “four questions” asked by the youngest participant at the table to every other detail of the evening. The Passover Seder is experiential learning. The story is told with props and reminders for both young and old. For example, Jews are instructed to consume only unleavened bread – matzah – during the seven-day Passover feast. At the Seder table, we point to the matzah and say, “This is the poor bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in Egypt.”

Symbolism of Matzah and Bitter Herbs

The matzo symbolically connects us to the harsh reality of slavery in Egypt, serving as a reminder of the profound lack of control over one’s destiny. As we partake in the matzo and sample the “marror,” the bitter herb—often embodied by horseradish on the Seder plate—we encounter the tangible taste of the bitterness of oppression and servitude throughout the evening.

Empathy through Rituals

In our ritual, we recount the Ten Plagues that befell Egypt, dipping a finger into the wine and extracting a drop for each plague. This act serves as a poignant reminder of our empathy for the suffering of the Egyptians who endured those afflictions and met a tragic end at sea. Recognizing them as fellow creations of G-d, we shed tears for their plight, acknowledging our shared humanity in the face of adversity.

“We were slaves to Pharaoh in the land of Egypt. And the Lord, our G-d, took us out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched forearm. And if the Holy One, blessed be He, had not taken our ancestors from Egypt, behold we and our children and our children’s children would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt.” (Haggadah text)

Every year, you participate in a ritual during the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 or in the face of modern-day pandemic challenges in Montreal. The Haggadah text confirms:

“Even if we were all sages, all discerning, all elders, all knowledgeable about the Torah, it would be incumbent upon us to tell the story of the exodus from Egypt. And anyone who adds and spends extra time telling the story of the exodus from Egypt, behold he is praiseworthy.”

My family has a tradition of sharing our story at the Passover table. We talk about how we survived the Holocaust in Hungary and escaped to Montreal from Soviet Hungary. Everyone has a story of overcoming challenges, just like us. In fact, I’m convinced that if more people could experience a Passover Seder, it would help to reduce global animosity.




  1. Hillel, Talmud Shabbat 31A
  2. “Do not oppress the stranger,” Exodus Chapter 22:20
  3. “Care for the widow and the orphan,” Exodus Chapter 22:21-22
  4. “Do not bear a grudge against your neighbour,” Leviticus Chapter 19:18
  5. Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Schocken Books, 2015

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