After 9/11, Americans came together as a nation. Flags were prominently displayed and people made a conscious effort to be polite and kind to each other.
One of our proudest moments was that Americans did not randomly attack Muslims or mosques. Isolated incidents were appropriately condemned. Sadly, however, during the current pandemic, anti-Semitism has not diminished.
Recently, there have been highly publicized instances of prominent cultural and sports figures promulgating stereotypical comments about Jews and Judaism. Such incidents highlight the great need for an ongoing effort to educate non-Jews about our faith, history and shared spiritual connections.
As the founder of a nonprofit organization devoted to this type of interfaith education and awareness, I have reached one basic conclusion: If we wish to reduce anti-Semitism, we must do so on an ongoing basis, using all types of media. It is a fundamental mistake to assume that other faiths know and understand Jews and Judaism: They do not.
Traditionally, we as a community react to an event after it has occurred. By then, of course, it is too late to help those initially infected with the virus of prejudice and hatred. Our condemnation is correct, but does that act as an efficient antidote for future incidents? The paradox is that Christians are quite interested and willing to learn about our faith. I begin my talks by expressing the belief that Judaism is the mother faith and Christianity the child. That frames the type of relationship that our faiths should have, one of respect, dignity and understanding, as a parent and child.
As we look forward to a post-pandemic world when we can return to a new normal, let’s have in our minds a new level of interfaith awareness and understanding. We haven’t gotten it right in 2,000 years; let’s do so now.
Rabbi Albert Slomovitz is founder of the founder of The Jewish-Christian Discovery Center, associate rabbi of Congregation Etz Chaim and assistant professor of history at Kennesaw State University.