Seeking Definitions of Anti-Semitism Is Not Useful

Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer

In a recent article, Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer beautifully communicates his disgust with the recent Biden Administration’s 60-page paper supporting three different definitions of anti-Semitism.  Fischer and other Jewish organizations prefer the one definition put forward by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) rather than having that one plus two others listed as acceptable to the USA; however, Fischer also expresses some reservations even about the acceptable one.

Rabbi Fischer has a vigorous style which I always enjoy reading.  However, whether there is one definition or multiple definitions of anti-Semitism is a bit beside the point.  We really do not need a definition of anti-Semitism to know what it is.  For example, even if certain countries are willing to have some commercial or scientific dealings with Israel or with certain Jewish businessmen representing some corporations or with Jared Kushner, they might still be very much anti-Semitic!  If they are more greedy than they are anti-Semitic that still does not mean they are NOT anti-Semitic.  If we see a child mistreated by a sexual pervert, we do not need to check the definition of “perversion” before intervening.

To me, anti-Semitism is part of Western consciousness as well as Muslim consciousness.  Whatever the socio-religious culture, in most cases, it is latent but in some persons it is active.  Throughout the Muslim world it is largely active, but then there are various degrees of active.  The number of Muslims that would commit or even plan a terrorist attack on Israel, while larger than in Western non-Islamic societies, is smaller than the much larger number that would be comfortable expressing and/or nodding silent agreement to extremely hateful and poisonous statements about Jews and Israelis.

The very desire to seek a definition or definitions for anti-Semitism is another one of many naive bourgeois notions that with a “definition” one is thereby combatting or limiting anti-Semitism.  Anti-Semitism is first and foremost a heart problem, a consciousness problem, a spiritual problem, and an historical problem. Control over language (definitions) lends itself to the illusion of control over self, spirit, and mind.

A heart problem: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7).  As Jews, we should be asking people throughout the world to love and appreciate the Jewish people.  A good friend of mine periodically sends me and others information about the latest developments and inventions in medical science and other areas of science that are taking place in Israel.  These are baruchas not only for Israel but eventually will redound to the benefit of every human being in the world. Even members of the PLO and Hamas seek medical care in Israel – they do not fly off to Muslim countries or even to Europe to seek relief from pain and/or death.  While it is very good to broker deals that increase economic relations and travel relations between Israel and traditional enemies of Israel, a missing message in all this is a public expression of the need for anti-Semitic quislings as well as outright enemies of Israel and/or the Jewish people to have love and respect for the Jewish people.

Consider anti-Semites such as Ilhan Omar or Rashida Tlaib.  Not only   are they filled with malicious and wrong-headed views, but their intentions are vile.  They must completely renovate their outlooks and instead have hearts of appreciation and love for the people of Israel and for Jews worldwide.  I would love to answer big-mouth Tlaib by telling her that Israel has blessed the Arabs in so many ways. The criticisms coming out of the mouths of these ladies should be corrected, but at a deeper level they must be told repeatedly that they must learn to love the Jewish people and Israel.  Only love will heal their endless recriminations and negativity.  However, while trying to turn their intentions from hate to love, please wear a bulletproof vest if you are Jewish and in the same room with them.

A consciousness problem: The great rabbi Abraham Heschel said, “There is a built-in sense of indebtedness in the consciousness of man, an awareness of owing gratitude, or being called upon at certain moments to reciprocate, to answer, to live in a way which is compatible with the grandeur and mystery of living.”  There must be greater acknowledgment by Israelis, worldwide Jewry, and by all supporters of Israel and by those who sincerely love and respect the Jewish people of the incredible contributions of the Jewish people to the advancement of the world in every field of accomplishment – physical science, music, medicine, mathematics, philosophy, art, etc.

When this writer was growing up in Philadelphia, my friends and I would sometimes have self-congratulatory conversations about all the great breakthroughs that were made by Jewish persons of genius.  These conversations were in a boastful spirit and were motivated by self-aggrandizing motives.  However, there is a place for communicating these great realities of Jewish creativity and inventiveness.  Would it not make sense to constantly remind our enemies how the standard of living for Arabs in Israel has risen because of the existence of the State of Israel? Before Zionism and the creation of Israel, that portion of the world was impoverished.  Yet today it is thriving and the Arab population living in and around Israel has benefited from the economic growth brought by the Jewish work ethic and Jewish drive and accomplishment in many fields of endeavor.  Would it be remiss to remind Ms. Omar or Ms. Tlaib or even Mr. Sanders who, like many commies, often seems indifferent to the blessings of being a Jew, that the values of socialism and communism lead to the dimming of initiative and creativity, and that his goals that dilute the value of the USA and Israel are actually supporting mediocrity.

A spiritual problem:  Anti-Semitism originates either in false religion or atheism.  This writer found an interesting and concise summary of Israel’s responsibilities:  “Israel’s responsibilities have included keeping and preserving the Law (Joshua 22:5); being “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6); and bringing “renown and praise and honor” to the Lord (Jeremiah 13:11). Their high calling is straight from the God who chose them out of all the nations of the earth.”

The thirty-nine books of the Old Testament are even included in the Bibles used by most Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox churches.  Does a person stand ready to salute that reality?  Does a person stand ready to face rejection and/or death based on this foundational reality?  The intimate bond between the spiritual founding and course of Judaism and Israel is so intimate with the reality of Almighty God that no definition can possibly capture that essence.  Verbal or physical attacks or negativity stigmatizes the person who engages in such attacks or negativity.  They are stigmatized not because they have offended against a definition that sits on someone’s shelf, but because they have offended our Creator.


Jeffrey Ludwig

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About the Author

Jeffrey Ludwig
Jeffrey Ludwig is a semi-retired Pastor of Bible Christian Church who serves as a guest preacher in local churches and teaches philosophy part-time at a university. He is the author of four  books available on and has published over 275 articles online. He has been married for 28 years and he and his wife are proud parents of a grown daughter. Email: