How to Fight Anti-Semitism – mini book review

By Fredric Price on December 10, 2020

I have some friends who think we are living in a period of deja vu that relates to what was going on in Germany just prior to Hitler assuming the chancellor’s position in 1933. Other think that this is a wild exaggeration, that we are going through a period of ‘lone wolf’ attacks that are not representative of how Jews are treated in the U.S. Some offer harangues on how the alt-right is primarily responsible for anti-Semitic attacks, while others indicate that it is the fault of the alt-left. Some say the problems have surfaced because of income inequality and others say that it is the US support for Israel that fuels these acts. As the saying goes, 10 Jews, 10 different opinions. Now, fortunately, Bari Weiss has waded into this area, and she puts her considerable reporting and analytical chops on the line in her outstanding book, “How to Fight Anti-Semitism.” This book should be required reading for every Jewish high school and college student, regardless of any person’s political orientation. We need to understand the root causes of anti-Semitic behaviors in the US today and know what we can do to respond to them effectively. Enough talk, she seems to be saying; read and relate, take action. She’s hit the mark. Below are two articles that highlight Ms. Weiss’ main points.


From the link on Amazon:

WINNER OF THE NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARD • “Stunning . . . Bari Weiss is heroic, fearless, brilliant and big-hearted. Most importantly, she is right.”—Lisa Taddeo, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Three Women

On October 27, 2018, eleven Jews were gunned down as they prayed at their synagogue in Pittsburgh. It was the deadliest attack on Jews in American history.

For most Americans, the massacre at Tree of Life, the synagogue where Bari Weiss became a bat mitzvah, came as a total shock. But anti-Semitism is the oldest hatred, commonplace across the Middle East and on the rise for years in Europe. So that terrible morning in Pittsburgh raised a question Americans can no longer avoid: Could it happen here?

This book is Weiss’s answer.

Like many, Weiss long believed this country could escape the rising tide of anti-Semitism. With its promise of free speech and religion, its insistence that all people are created equal, its tolerance for difference, and its emphasis on shared ideals rather than bloodlines, America has been, even with all its flaws, a new Jerusalem for the Jewish people. But now the luckiest Jews in history are beginning to face a three-headed dragon known all too well to Jews of other times and places: the physical fear of violent assault, the moral fear of ideological vilification, and the political fear of resurgent fascism and populism.

No longer the exclusive province of the far right, the far left, and assorted religious bigots, anti-Semitism now finds a home in identity politics as well as the reaction against identity politics, in the renewal of America First isolationism and the rise of one-world socialism, and in the spread of Islamist ideas into unlikely places. A hatred that was, until recently, reliably taboo is migrating toward the mainstream, amplified by social media and a culture of conspiracy that threatens us all.

Weiss is one of our most provocative writers, and her cri de couer makes a powerful case for renewing Jewish and American values in this uncertain moment. Not just for the sake of America’s Jews, but for the sake of America.


Review from The Jewish Book Council:

By Lin­da F. Burghardt – February 4, 2020

Bari Weiss’ urgent new book may be small in size, but it packs a pow­er­ful mes­sage: there is an alarm­ing increase in anti­semitism in the Unit­ed States, and every sin­gle one of us must defend our­selves. In prose that is at once calm and mea­sured, yet strong and rous­ing, she sounds her clar­i­on call to com­bat, artic­u­lat­ing dif­fer­ent types of present-day anti­semites, and out­lin­ing the meth­ods that will be most effec­tive in bring­ing us out of what she sees as a ris­ing darkness.

A New York Times staff writer and op-ed edi­tor, Weiss says her book is for “any­one, Jew or gen­tile, who is con­cerned not with what is fash­ion­able, but with what is true.” Weiss sees the new, dan­ger­ous­ly high lev­el of Amer­i­can anti­semitism com­ing from the far right and the far left, and she exam­ines each threat with an eye toward cre­at­ing a bal­anced view of both their goals and tac­tics. At its core, she sees the aim of anti­semitism as the elim­i­na­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple and Judaism itself, whether this is accom­plished through vio­lence or the polit­i­cal destruc­tion of the State of Israel.Weiss’s expo­si­tion of mod­ern anti­semitism is deep and lay­ered, and her mul­ti­fac­eted plan for Jews and their allies to fight it is cre­ative and insight­ful. She does not sug­gest that we stage protests, write press releas­es, or facil­i­tate dia­logue groups. Instead, she tells us to embrace Judaism, renew our val­ues, and respect our­selves. Weiss states, “There has not been a sin­gle moment in Jew­ish his­to­ry where there weren’t anti-Semi­tes deter­mined to erad­i­cate Judaism and the Jews.” She urges us to call out hate­ful speech and actions; to defend oth­er minori­ties fac­ing big­otry, build com­mu­ni­ty, and sup­port Israel. Join more than one syn­a­gogue, she sug­gests, and con­sid­er reclaim­ing the peace that comes from observ­ing Shabbat.

Jew­ish authen­tic­i­ty, or pos­i­tiv­i­ty, encour­ages us to be proud of our cul­ture, and firm in our respect and admi­ra­tion for our his­tor­i­cal lega­cy, Weiss tells us. Strength­en our Jew­ish iden­ti­ty, and we will strength­en our image in the world.

The book also puts mod­ern anti­semitism into his­tor­i­cal con­text, trac­ing anti-Jew­ish actions and atti­tudes through his­to­ry. Weiss gives a clear sense of how pre­cious she sees the civ­i­liza­tion built by and for the Jews. She is an out­spo­ken advo­cate for Jews and Zion­ism, and from the out­set she makes sure the read­er hears loud­ly and unequiv­o­cal­ly the alarm bell that drove her to write this out­stand­ing book.

Lin­da F. Burghardt is a New York-based jour­nal­ist and author who has con­tributed com­men­tary, break­ing news, and fea­tures to major news­pa­pers across the U.S., in addi­tion to hav­ing three non-fic­tion books pub­lished. She writes fre­quent­ly on Jew­ish top­ics and is now serv­ing as Schol­ar-in-Res­i­dence at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al & Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau County.