Do you feel it as well?
Almost everywhere I go, I feel that antisemitism is a tad more overt than before.
That is not to say that all people are antisemitic. On the contrary, most people I encounter are lovely and kind. Still, I do feel that there is a raised level of antisemitism.
Here is an entry I wrote this week in my online journal:
“To the person who stood next to me in line:
“I saw the hatred in your eyes. I felt it in every fiber of your presence. And I knew why: because I am visibly Jewish.
“Did you try thinking how ridiculous this is? You know nothing about me. Not what I do, not what I believe in. All you know is that I am Jewish, and that was enough for you to hate me.
“I don’t know what they taught you, but I will tell you what they taught me:
“Every person was created by G-d. We all have our mission on this earth and should try our best to get along.
“So I smiled and said good morning. And you had no choice but to reply.
“You said good morning with a visibly fake smile.
“But you know what? That was progress.”
Antisemitism is nothing new. And these weeks, we read in the Torah about what was perhaps the first recorded case of antisemitism.
It wasn’t just individuals who hated Jews; it was a state-sponsored attack on the Jewish people. The ancient Egyptian government designated the Hebrews as persona non grata, accused them of dual loyalty, and subjected them to slavery and persecution.
The Jewish response was something that keeps on inspiring us until today. The Hebrews in Egypt didn’t try to hide their identity. Instead, they doubled down on their Jewish pride and chose to display their Jewishness in the open.
One way was by retaining their Hebrew names. Imagine how distinct and unfamiliar these Hebrew names must have sounded to the Egyptians. It was a tell-all sign that said, “look at me; I am different,” yet the Jews insisted on using their Hebrew names.
And it worked.
The Midrash declares that in this action, the Jewish people merited to the great miracle of the exodus.
Fast forward to today. The best response to any display of antisemitism is increasing our Jewish pride.
This got me thinking about the following idea: how about if, in addition to all the essential things that are done to combat antisemitism, all Jews start using their Hebrew names more often?
Almost everyone has a Hebrew name that their parents gave them (and if not, one can add a Jewish name later in life), but for many, the Hebrew name is something that is being used only in a Jewish context. Now, with the increased antisemitism, it’s time to use this name proudly!
Consider incorporating your Hebrew name alongside your English name. Think about adding it to your business cards, email signatures, and social media accounts. This is going to be the best way of saying: I am a Jew, and I am proud!
It worked for the Jews in Egypt, and, hopefully, it would work for us too: May our collective Jewish pride give us great miracles, with the greatest miracle of all: the coming of Moshiach, Amen.
Mendy Kaminker is the rabbi at Chabad of Hackensack. He looks forward to your thoughts and comments at rabbi@ChabadHackensack.com