Living While Jewish: Fighting Anti-Semitism And Hate In The 21st Century

03/20/2015 10:12 pm ET | Updated Mar 20, 2015
Aurelien Meunier via Getty Images

Welcome to the latest ALL TOGETHER -- the podcast dedicated to exploring how ethics, religion and spiritual practice inform our personal lives, our communities and our world. ALL TOGETHER is hosted this week by Carol Kuruvilla, Associate Editor of HuffPost Religion. You can download All Together on iTunes, or Stitcher.

At weddings, at work, even at Fashion Week, Simone Rodan Benzaquen says there’s one thing Jews in Europe are always willing to discuss: Is it time to leave?

Benzaquen is the Paris director of the American Jewish Committee. She was in Paris for the attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and waited in horror to find out what happened to the Jewish people held hostage inside a kosher supermarket two days later.

But before the supermarket, there was Toulouse, where a gunman stormed into a Jewish school, killing a rabbi and four young children. And before Toulouse, there were the many other attacks against Jews in France — both verbal and physical. As an advocate for her people, Benzaquen couldn't help keeping a tally.

“The situation is incredibly different from the ‘30s. We don’t have state anti-Semitism, very far from it — not only is the government not anti-Semitic, but the contrary,” Benzaquen told HuffPost. “But I imagine that people had the kind of discussions in the ‘30s like that, like, ‘Should we be leaving, should we be staying, is it reasonable to stay, are we responsible parents, all of these kinds of things.”

Although they make up just 0.2 percent of the world’s population, or about 14 million people, the number of countries where Jewish people are harassed has reached a seven-year high.

According to the Pew Research Center, Jewish people faced religious harassment in about 71 countries in 2012. In 2013, that number jumped to 77.

While Christians are more likely to experience governmental restrictions on religion, such as through discriminatory laws, Jews are much more likely to be targeted by individuals or groups.

On this week’s ALL TOGETHER, we listen to Benzaquen’s story about what it is like to be a Jewish person in France today. But we don’t stop there — we’re also looking at what can be done. How can we work across religions and across countries to fight anti-Semitism? How do we really combat hate?

We’ll hear from Yehezkel Landau, an associate professor of interfaith relations at Hartford Seminary. Landau tells us about the “Open House in Ramle,” a building that is home to both Jewish and Arab families.

Ruth Messinger, the president of the American Jewish World Service, also shares stories of interfaith encounters. Her work in the developing world has brought her face to face with people who are very different from her and she’s convinced that it’s these types of meetings that will turn the tide.

As Messinger told HuffPost, “The more that people come to know each other and stop seeing any other person as simply a stereotype of this group or that group, the more their understanding grows and the greater degree of not only tolerance but effective collaboration exists.”

Kosher Supermarket Attack Near Paris
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