The massacre of Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue last week was the most deadly attack on Jews in our nation's history. And while a single deranged person did this on his own, these things do not happen in a vacuum. The problem is, when it comes to examining the things filling that vacuum, the ones prominent in our minds, and the ones that reinforce our biases, are the only ones we tend to see.
As a 60 year old Jew, I assumed Jew hatred was based on ancient gripes that only simple minds could abide, and since simple minds would always be around, so would Jew hatred. I still believe that on some level, but I've also come to better understand the things that fill that vacuum and cause men to act on these ancient gripes.
While my last name is distinctly German, my family all came from Russia, and I can't trace a single family member back to Germany. Why did my family leave Germany so long ago? Today, we tend to trace Jew hatred back to Nazi Germany because it is so prominent in the modern psyche. Thus every Jew hater, like the guy who shot-up the synagogue in PA, is compared to a Nazi. But, it goes back much further than that.
Jews began being murdered in Germany en masse way back in the 11th century. Not only were Jews a religious minority, they were also blamed for usury, plagues, and, of course, killing Jesus. Back then, the church prevented Christians from lending money, so if you borrowed money, you were probably indebted to a Jew. Jews were also somewhat less susceptible to plagues which tended to affect agrarian populations to a greater degree. These things formed the basis of Jew hatred. Then came the Crusades in the 11th century and Jews began their long history of being slaughtered by Germans.
But many Jews remained in Germany despite the Crusades and mass slaughters. Sometimes they even thrived. Then came Martin Luther.
I only recently became aware of the Jew hating writings of Martin Luther in Germany, 1543. Martin Luther, a key figure in the Protestant Reformation and one of the most influential Christians in history, was also a rabid Jew hater. Luther wrote a book called "The Jews and their Lies", in which he laid out the case that ultimately led to the bulk of the Jews being driven from Germany, and eventually The Holocaust.
Luther called Jews vermin, vipers, dumb, miserable, stupid, fools, blind, senseless, thieves, usurers, and more in a screed that goes on for 75 pages. Among his many recommendations for dealing with the Jews was to burn their synagogues, burn their houses, not allow them safe passage on roads, and force them into labor.
Here's a sample of his conclusions:
Burn down their synagogues, forbid all that I enumerated earlier, force them to work, and deal harshly with them, as Moses did in the wilderness, slaying three thousand lest the whole people perish.
These words have reverberated throughout history.
Which brings me to my point. In the wake of the slaughter in Pittsburgh, many are looking to point fingers and find out what led this deranged man to take action. What ideas filled the vacuum of his twisted mind? Who knows. The only thing we know is that he was not a Donald Trump supporter and thus was likely listening to other voices.
A week before the murders, a modern American religious leader and influential Democrat named Louis Farrakhan went on a Jew hating rant in front of a large cheering crowd, and then followed up with this Tweet:
As far as I can tell, no prominent Democrat has publicly and emphatically condemned Louis Farrakhan for his latest Jew hating rant. Words and ideas matter. They echo through history. As a Jew, I must shine a light on this, and point out its pedigree.
Louis Farrakhan is currently in Iran and chanting "Death to America" and "Death to Israel". Democrat leaders have remained steadfast in their.....silence.