Jew-Hatred Hits Home

I am mad. I am hopping, spitting, busting-things mad.

Here’s what I’m mad about:


Swastika outside HUC-JIR
Vandalized sign in front of Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, OH. Photo credit: Gannett Newspapers.

This is the sign outside Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, OH. Someone decided it was a worthwhile way to spend their time to paint a swastika in front of the oldest rabbinical school in the Western Hemisphere.

I headlined this “Jew Hatred Hits Home” because this is my school, one of my Jewish homes. I studied on another campus, but my degree and my ordination are from HUC-JIR. My mentors and teachers studied at this school. The “chain of tradition” first described in the Mishnah runs through this campus to hundreds of rabbis and their students:

משֶׁה קִבֵּל תּוֹרָה מִסִּינַי, וּמְסָרָהּ לִיהוֹשֻׁעַ, וִיהוֹשֻׁעַ לִזְקֵנִים, וּזְקֵנִים לִנְבִיאִים, וּנְבִיאִים מְסָרוּהָ לְאַנְשֵׁי כְנֶסֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה. הֵם אָמְרוּ שְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים, הֱווּ מְתוּנִים בַּדִּין, וְהַעֲמִידוּ תַלְמִידִים הַרְבֵּה, וַעֲשׂוּ סְיָג לַתּוֹרָה:

Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Yehoshua, and Yehoshua to the Elders, and the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples and make a fence for the Torah. – Pirkei Avot, 1.1

I call this “Jew-Hatred” rather than “Anti-Semitism” because I have had it with the faux-intellectual terminology of the Nazis and their ilk. Their predecessors and they may have coined and popularized the word, but I refuse to use it any more. I’ll call it what it is: Jew-hatred.

I could tell you about the background of my school, why it is particularly galling that this sign was marked with a swastika, but my colleague Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin has already written a beautiful article in his Martini Judaism column with Religion News Service. Click the link for more of the story, and to discover another blog I read regularly.

Do not kid yourself that this is “random rednecks” or some such thing. We’ve seen a dramatic uptick in Jew-Hating incidents in 2016, especially since the election. Those and the even more dramatic increase in anti-Muslim incidents worry me very much. The Anti-Defamation League has published a list of the primary manifestations of Jew-hatred in 2016, and it is chilling.

Eight years ago, when I first began teaching basic Judaism classes, I would preface my lecture on Jew-Hatred with a little explanation of why we needed to study it. I remember saying that while it was “hard to believe that there could be a resurgence of it in the United States,” history shows us that it has a way of coming back. Then I’d say, “but let’s hope not in our lifetimes.”

I can’t say that anymore.

Update: This article talks about the response of the Cincinnati citizenry and leadership to the vandalism. I have to say that it reassures me. Also, while I chose to let my emotion show in my post, I think the low-key response of the College-Institute itself makes me proud. I continue to learn from my teachers!

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

21 thoughts on “Jew-Hatred Hits Home”

  1. My grandmother always used to say, “It’s not if …. It’s when” and when I see new stories in the media every week of the incidents of hatred that are taking place across the world, in countries where people thought it would never happen, I shake my head and think, here we go again! And I am totally with you on the term anti-semitism, and have been for a very long time, it’s a total whitewash weasel word .. Let’s call it exactly what it is – hatred.

    1. I like the phrase “whitewash weasel word” – exactly.

      Here we go again, indeed. I hope that we can put the brakes on before it goes too far.

  2. “Like” really isn’t the correct button. I like that you and others are speaking out quickly and loudly. I do not like that it is happening. I hate the fact that I know many people who are supporting the president elect specifically because of their US conservative Christian ideas of what it means to “bless Israel,” but will do nothing in response to this abuse of our own neighbors. Angered and sickened by what is happening, I am with you. Hate must be opposed.

    1. Rabbi Steven Chester once said to me that the most important thing is to see if the police show up, and then how long it takes them to arrive. As long as we have the support of local law enforcement these things are upsetting and unpleasant but not a crisis. The trouble is that this time, while the local authorities are supportive, the new administration seems totally unconcerned. That worries me a bunch, and my elected reps are going to hear about it.

  3. Reblogged this on Cairns and commented:
    This is not OK. It is not isolated and random. It must be opposed.

    If you say you stand with Israel, but support the spread of this hatred at home, you are kidding yourself. If you oppose treatment of Palestinians there, but fail to oppose hatred here, I find your positions inconsistent.
    Hate is hate. Hate is wrong.
    Vandalism today unopposed invites greater violence tomorrow.
    We must stand.

  4. I worked with a Catholic priest for seven years and I thought he was a nice guy. Then one day he told me that Jews control the American government in order to manipulate world events. He began to get terribly angry. I was scared and so grateful that we had chosen to meet in a public place. I couldn’t get away from him fast enough. I called my rabbi, who knew the priest, and told him. I expected comforting words but my rabbi just sighed and said, “I often wonder which of my Christian colleagues would stand by me if America turned against the Jews.” It’s times like this that make me grateful for work done between the faiths.

  5. It happened before Christmas in a smaller city east of us. The younger people who did it were bragging about painting the swastika. One of their friends thought of it differently and reported them to the police.

  6. Reblogged this on Journalism as Art and commented:
    “It has been told to you, O human..” sums it up in a few words. Methinks people would give of their time more wisely by volunteering some of it to openness. Hate can no longer be disguised as anti-semantic, anti-gay. How about a shot of truth in your cocktail of hate?

  7. According to Rambam “When one of the gentiles comes to convert, we inspect his background.1 If an ulterior motive for conversion is not found, we ask him: ‘Why did you choose to convert? Don’t you know that in the present era, the Jews are afflicted, crushed, subjugated, strained, and suffering comes upon them?'” (Issurei Biah 14:1)

    Why do I bring this up? Well, I am a convert to Judaism. When I started my Masorti conversion (I was previously converting Reform) my rabbi asked this very question. “Don’t you know that in the present era, the Jews are afflicted, crushed, subjugated, strained, and suffering comes upon them?” I told him that yes, I knew this but I had done my homework and I decided to throw my lot in with the Jewish people.

    Now that anti-Semitism/anti-Jew hatred is on the rise I am even more painfully aware of my decision. Do not get me wrong, I would not change my decision even if I could. I am just more aware of my Jewishness now more than ever. I am proud to be called a Jew.

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