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It is a sad reality that Jewish people are often faced with discrimination, be it in the workplace, on the street, or online. I myself have experienced antisemitism from time to time. Hatred against the Jewish people is historical, and unfortunately it is still sometimes found to be deeply ingrained into non-Jewish culture, sometimes unknowingly (such as stereotyping).

How should a Jewish person respond to antisemitism? I have heard a wide range of individual opinions, from activism and awareness to brushing it off as a product of the Exile, an unsolvable issue until the Messianic era (or that it is something left for God to judge and that we should not interfere but rather continue to be a good example to others).

I'm mainly looking for traditional Jewish responses and less personal opinion. Although I myself believe that we should take great offense to antisemitic remarks, perhaps "a soft answer" is the proper way.

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  • I believe the traditional response has always been to keep a low profile. A recall few Midrashim in Midrash rabbah speak this out.
    – robev
    Nov 21 '21 at 7:04
  • @robev That may have been because of danger, which although we are faced with dangerous situations today, it is not nearly to the same degree as in previous generations. If I call out antisemitism nowadays, I don't threaten having my entire village burned down or community murdered in a blood libel.
    – ezra
    Nov 21 '21 at 7:06
  • Not directly but one could argue the more outspoken the anti anti semitism voice, over time the antisemitic groups become louder and more violent
    – robev
    Nov 21 '21 at 7:09
  • Depends a lot on context. If it is on the public stage, it must be opposed. In private, one rebbe told us, "If a dog barks at you, you don't bark back."
    – N.T.
    Nov 21 '21 at 8:21
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    This seems to be a duplicate of judaism.stackexchange.com/q/13141
    – msh210
    Nov 21 '21 at 13:21
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On a spiritual level, the Rabbis tell us that anti-semitism is caused by our actions- that is, by our failure to keep the mitzvot. It is often said in the name of Rav Chaim Volozhin that “If the Jew doesn’t make kiddush, the goy will make havdalah.”

Therefore, a logical response to antisemitism would be to redouble your own Avodat Hashem and do whatever you can to encourage other Jews to keep the mitzvot. Should you be successful, not only will you eliminate antisemitism, you could very well bring the Geulah.

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  • I find this answer bizarre.
    – pcoz
    Nov 21 '21 at 21:41
  • All that is fine and good, but it isn't really clear what you're saying. While I agree improving your Avodat Hashem and encouraging other Jewish people to do so is one way we can bring Geulah, I don't see it as a short-term answer. Are you saying one should ignore antisemitism that comes his way (don't call it out, don't rebuke) and simply work on his character? Doesn't seem like much of an answer to me.
    – ezra
    Nov 22 '21 at 6:50
  • It certainly seems counterintuitive, @ezra, but I'll break it down. Antisemitisim arises in the heart of non-Jews due our lack of mitzvot. Obviously not on a concious level, but that's part of how HKBH made the universe. Therefore, strengthening our avodat Hashem gets at the root cause of antisemitism. There are clearly other possible responses to antisemitism even within the framework of religious Judaism, Meir Khan was as religious a guy as they come and his answer was radically different, but if you want to eliminate the phenomenon, this is the way to do it.
    – Josh K
    Nov 22 '21 at 8:11
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I agree with @robev. Chazal advises us not to flaunt our blessings to avoid the envy and jealousy that cause antisemitism. They are tied to this line in Torah:

When Jacob saw that there was grain being sold in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you keep looking at one another?” [Genesis 42:1]

Interpretations:

Since you are strong and handsome, do not stand together in one place, lest the evil eye prevail over you. [Midrash Tanḥuma, Miketz 8:1] (In other words, I don’t want to lose all of you at once.)

Do not show yourselves, when you are satiated, before Esau or Ishmael, so that they not be jealous of you. [Taanit 10b]

Zohar: Even God is displeased when you flaunt your blessings. By provoking the envy of your neighbors, you also provoke Heavenly judgment. [Quoted in Shenei Luchot HaBrit, Torah Shebiktav, Vayeshev, Miketz, Vayigash, Derekh Ḥayyim, Miketz 5]

We can't hide everything -- financial, intellectual, military, social action successes, etc.. The only solution is: We should be prepared to endure and fight the consequences of our good fortune.

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  • Antisemitism isn't always fueled by envy of Jewish success, though. Also this answer seems to suggest how we can possibly prevent antisemitism, but doesn't deal with how we should react to it.
    – ezra
    Nov 22 '21 at 6:46
  • @ezra -- "Antisemitism isn't always fueled by envy of Jewish success". It is, but that's a different discussion. Nov 22 '21 at 11:11

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