The Key to Jewish Survival

by Susan L. Lipson (Poway, CA)

Anti-Semitism has been a blessing for the Jewish people. Yes, you read that right, and yes, I am a Jew. And no, I’m not being totally ironic. I am pointing out a paradoxical fact: anti-Semitism has been the key to Jewish survival by blessing us Jews with the will to survive, a will born of an “all-for-one-and-one-for-all” Musketeer mentality, uniting us against those who oppose us. Hatred has brought us together as a team more than love ever has, and far more than Judaism itself. Without anti-Semites, Jews would have no desire to fight for the survival of our people.

But what exactly are we fighting  for? A religion (about which the majority of us are woefully ignorant)? A right to be different (isn’t that just a rebellion without a cause)? Traditions (based on nostalgia, duty, guilt)? A culture or race (a distinction that disappeared courtesy of the Diaspora)? God (that supreme, yet often doubted Creator who chose us as the “light unto the nations” in the first place)?

Despite the desire of anti-Semites to snuff out our light, Jews have survived by reacting as a strong and stubborn group to that which threatens us. Our survival today is based more on reactions to the world than on actions as Jews, a trend that has produced the vast majority of complacent, scantily educated Jews who have allowed Friday nights to slip away into football games and parties, and Saturdays to become workdays. Reactionary Jewishness has made outrage, distrust, and contempt take the place of Torah, service, and acts of loving-kindness—the pillars of Judaism.

When Jewish fundraising organizations bring speakers to Jewish communities, they look for politically controversial people and subjects that present threats to Jewish people and/or Judaism itself. They know that overt anti-Semites like Louis Farrakhan will draw bigger crowds than, say, an overtly Jewish speaker like Professor Alan Dershowitz. (Dershowitz recalled in one interview how Farrakhan once took Dershowitz’s designated place as a featured speaker—and that recollection, by the way, inspired this essay.) Crowds gather in direct proportion to the anger evoked by the event, for the majority of Jews have become reactive, no longer active, Jews. We need no anti-Semites to snuff out our light; we do just fine on our own with our passivity.

We are passive because of either ignorance about our religion, laziness in facing our obligations as Jews, willingness to assimilate into easier lifestyles, defeatism in the face of historical challenges, disappointment in the unnecessary divisions within our own Jewish communities, fear of suffering, self-loathing brought on by absorption of prejudice around us, or rebellion against our families. We have thus become the biggest threat to our own destruction by being Jews who choose not to live Jewish lives. We should be thankful the angry Jew-haters have kept us alive, if not thriving. Thriving is up to us.

Susan L. Lipson, a children’s novelist and poet, has taught writing in the San Diego area for more than ten years. Her latest books are Knock on Wood (a middle-grade novel) and Writing Success Through Poetry. She writes two blogs: and

Lipson also writes songs, including Jewish spiritual songs, some of which have been performed by synagogue choirs and soloists.

Contact her via Facebook or MySpace (Susan L. Lipson).

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Filed under American Jewry, Jewish identity

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