DARE TO ASK: Ignorance often leads to hostility
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why is there such hostility toward Jewish people?
Reez, 32, Asian male, Toronto
Throughout history, Jews were outsiders. Political power derived its
legitimacy from Christianity, so Jews were politically suspect. Economically,
they were useful but despised: not being allowed to own land in many places,
they were forced into mercantile trades; having connections with other Jews in
other cities helped them prosper in trade, furthering the association between
Jews and money. On a religious level, Jews were viewed as having rejected (and
perhaps killed) Christ. At the same time, Jews had beliefs that further
alienated Christians: refusing to eat food prepared by Christians, for example.
Jerry, 55, Jewish, Connecticut
It's common for the majority to hold hostility toward those who wave PC
cards. It's OK to make a Christian joke, or a white joke, but the second you
tread upon Jewish territory, or Hispanic territory, you've crossed the line.
It's like when your younger brother can hit you and not get in trouble, but the
second you touch him you're yelled at and grounded.
Annie, 21, Catholic, Pebble Beach, Calif.
Part of what draws hostility is ignorance. You hope people would be more open
to people being different, but as my non-Jewish colleagues say, "You Jews have
so many rules." 613, to be exact.
Elie, 26, Jewish, New York
In Why the Jews (Touchstone), Dennis Prager and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin shred
long-time excuses for anti-Semitism (Jewish Conspiracy, control of the media,
financial exploitation) and home in on one premise for Jew-hatred's uniqueness:
Jews are, well, Jewish.
"The questions are why, to begin with, people hate Jews, and then invent
reasons to do so. The answer is Judaism, its distinctiveness and its
challenges," they write.
First, there are Judaism's core beliefs: Their God is the true God; they have
been chosen by Him; and they are obligated to change the world. Add in the
higher quality of life most Jews lead by adhering to their beliefs, and the
authors conclude that "only a people representing a threat to the core values,
allegiances, and beliefs of others could arouse such universal, deep, and
That's harsh. But Art Teitelbaum, Southern area director for the
Anti-Defamation League in Miami, says the authors' work is well-respected. He
added another reason why hostility toward Jews is so entrenched:
"In every case . . . anti-Semitism for the bigot has utility. It serves the
Oh, and being "chosen"? It's not what people think, he said.
"It's not being chosen for privilege, but for responsibility . . . in fact,
there's a funny scene in Fiddler on the Roof where Tevya says to God, 'If this
is what it means to be chosen . . . can you please choose someone else?' "
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information.