A Christian call to stand up against growing antisemitism

Last week a Jewish high school senior who does interfaith work locally with other teens told me that his suburban Jewish high school recently was evacuated after being threatened with gun violence.

Happily, the threat never materialized. Sadly, the student seemed resigned to waiting for the next threat. "That's just part of being Jewish in America," he told me.

That's where we are in our nation right now.

A suburban Jewish cemetery was recently vandalized. Jewish kids are being threatened or mocked. Celebrities are praising Hitler or supporting antisemitic tropes. Some politicians dine with or appear side by side with white supremacists who argue that America's Christian "culture" is under attack by non-Christians. White supremacy is rising as white supremacists recruit kids to hate through websites and podcasts.

Meanwhile, a November study of employers by the website found that one quarter of the employers surveyed were less likely to hire Jewish candidates, citing antisemitic tropes as the reason. Finally, the Anti-Defamation League reports that antisemitic hate crimes reached a record level in 2021.

As a Catholic priest who helped found a suburban interfaith organization 10 years ago, I have a message for my fellow Christians: This is our problem too. We need to speak out without delay.

In 2010 local Muslim and Jewish leaders worked with me to found the Children of Abraham Coaltion, a nonprofit organization that brings together Muslims, Jews and Christians of all ages to learn about each other's faiths and work for interfaith respect. At that time, we were prompted by rising Islamophobia when a "Christian" pastor in Florida made national news by his desire to publicly burn the Holy Qur'an. Since then we have been training people to act as interfaith leaders by helping them build relationships with people across faith boundaries while also seeing the beauty of God through the eyes of another faith.

I do this as a Catholic priest for three reasons. First, my faith demands that I speak out against hate aimed at any faith tradition and learn enough to stand against the stereotypes that fuel that hate. Second, as a leader in the majority religion in this nation - Christianity - it is incumbent that I use whatever influence that majority status gives me on the behalf of any minority facing attack. Third, my personal faith has been deeply enriched as I witness the deep faith practiced by my Muslim and Jewish friends - young and older.

Today, I invite all Christians to take action with me. This is a dangerous time in our nation for minority religions. Islamic organizations also have tracked a rise in anti-Muslim incidents. Antisemitism is often called the "canary in the coal mine" when it comes to threats against minorities. When Jews are targeted, it means that other minorities are also or soon will be facing similar hate.

Fellow Christians, here's what we need to do.

Condemn from the pulpit antisemitism and the tropes that fuel it. Challenge the people who follow Jesus to learn more about how our Jewish friends are being targeted and how to take action against it.

Reach out to Jewish friends and colleagues to offer support. Become a visible ally of those folks by telling them you will confront friends or work colleagues who voice ant-semitic remarks.

Train our young people to know the truth about Judaism and speak out against hate in their schools and social groups. As I write this, anti-Semites are recruiting our young people on the web. We need to proactively train our young people to resist those efforts and help their friends do the same.

In closing, I thank my Jewish friends for all they have taught me these many years about life, God and faith. May this Hanukkah season, starting on Sunday, surround you with light, peace and countless Christian allies.

• Father Corey Brost is executive director of Viator House of Hospital and a co-founder of Children of Abraham Coalition in Arlington Heights.

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