As many surveys have shown, Americans tend to have warm feelings toward Jews. But that’s gotten lost in our relentless campaign to expose hate.
(JNS) Good news is boring. If you want excitement, it’s best to focus on things like danger. Media mavens and fundraisers know this: Danger rivets the mind, pumps up the heart and opens pockets.
We see this in the drama surrounding antisemitism. News of a swastika sprayed on a synagogue wall will get breathless coverage and quickly spread through social media. All told, enormous resources and countless initiatives and organizations are now devoted to exposing and fighting this Jew hatred wherever and whenever it rears its head.
Without blinking an eye, we have routinely assumed that the more we expose and fight this hate, the more we will reduce it.
But what if the opposite were true? What if the more we fight and expose the hate, the more we increase it? After all, isn’t that what has happened in recent years? We’ve doubled down and tripled down on our fight and all we hear is that antisemitism is “worse than ever.”
That phrase—worse than ever—is the lifeblood of activism and click-hungry media outlets. It embodies a crisis mentality that animates and energizes both donors and readers.
“People hate Jews” is a lot more attention-getting and lucrative than “people love Jews.”
But how accurate is it?
One of the fallouts of focusing so much on the hate is that it can distort reality, making the problem seem worse than it is. And since people tend to believe the old adage that there’s “no smoke without fire,” our crisis mentality runs the risk of actually encouraging more hatred. (Why do so many people hate Jews? Am I missing something? Should I hate them too?)
So, here’s a thought: What if we turned the tables on “no smoke without fire” and replaced the smoke of hate with the sunshine of affection? In other words, instead of focusing so much on exposing those who hate Jews, how about exposing those who love Jews?
It’s not as if they don’t exist. As many surveys have shown, Americans tend to have warm feelings toward Jews. In fact, in a 2019 Pew survey, Jews were the most liked religious group in America. The study also found that the more Americans knew about Judaism, the more they liked Jews.
That pro-Jewish vibe, unfortunately, has gotten lost in our relentless campaign to expose any sign of hate against Jews. I often wonder if some of those haters ever look at how hysterical Jews can get and tell themselves: “We have them on the run—we’re winning!”
The point is not to stop fighting hate but to shift where we make the most noise. We can fight haters efficiently and legally, as when we push for the IHRA definition of antisemitism, without giving haters the attention they crave. Meanwhile, since we know that Americans already have warm feelings toward Jews and Judaism, why not build on those good feelings?
For example, at a time when loneliness and isolation have reached alarming levels, why not share the human connection of Shabbat with our fellow Americans? Just as everyone loves Thanksgiving, why not promote a weekly “Friday night of gratitude” that will encourage Americans of all stripes to partake in this invaluable Jewish ritual?
There are many other such ideas. The point is to inject more positivity in our conversation with America. We can’t allow complaining about Jew hatred to become our #1 talking point. That can backfire simply because people don’t like complainers. Jews should aim higher than that. The mantra of “ending hatred” may make us feel good, but it’s both a utopian fantasy and a low bar. It feels limiting to tell Americans that our main concern is to “end” something. Isn’t the Jewish way more about starting great things?
“Don’t hate us” is like saying “leave us alone,” as if all we want is to stay in our corners and not engage. But Americans have had warm feelings toward Jews precisely because we love to engage and give back.
Indeed, we’ve given back so much to America because we’re not a minority group that worries only about its own interests. We want what’s best for the Jews, yes, but also what’s best for America.
Our obsessive focus with “ending Jew hatred” risks undermining that altruistic bond. We know that Jew haters (and all haters, for that matter) will never go away. We also know that plenty of Americans have had many reasons to love and admire Jews. In the long run, putting “love of Jews” in the air could well become the smartest way to counter antisemitism and isolate the haters.
It may not be as exciting as yelling danger, but if we’re serious about winning the fight, let’s not rule out the more positive approach—even if it means having to read the occasional boring column.
This article was originally published by the Jewish Journal.