The definition of being “anti-semitic” according to Google is as follows: “hostile to or prejudiced against Jewish people,”. But from the perspective of someone who believes they’re anti semitic, does it mean the same?
I’ve been friends with someone who believes themself to be anti semitic for years. It wasn’t until more recently I found out they think this way, and it wasn’t until recently I started to find my Jewish identity.
Having both of these events occur around the same time made it difficult for me to figure out my friendship with them. On one hand, they are actually a very sweet person and someone I can really trust, but on the other hand they single handedly admit to hating the religion I immerse myself in. It’s a difficult situation, but here’s what I learned.
From having conversations with this person, I realized the reason they’re antisemitic is not because they have a hatred towards Jews, but because they don’t understand it. I’ve realized they don’t understand the religion at all, so they mistake misunderstanding for hatred. This is a common misconception. Many people mistake hatred for not understanding something. For example, we may hate a class because we have a low grade in it, and we may love a class because it comes easy to us. This goes the same for our beliefs. If we don’t understand it, we don’t want to understand because it’s “too much work”. This makes us strongly dislike it because we feel, in a way, stupid, not understanding. After learning this, I had a new perspective on my friendship.
The offensive comments, slurs, and negative actions people exemplify show the hatred and bias towards jews. I realized a change needed to be made when I saw a swastika hanging as though it were a portrait in my school bathroom. Discussing this with my Jewish friends is one thing, but when I mentioned it to my friend who was anti-semitic, they found it funny. That’s when I decided once and for all, I would confront them.
In the end, they didn’t take me seriously which put a large dent into our friendship. This upset me, seeing these changes I was subconsciously making. Why should I change because someone doesn’t like who I am? I explained this to them, and while they didn’t exactly understand, they stopped making jokes.
The once loud person I used to know became quiet around me. The once funny and annoying person I was close with became more reserved. I felt bad seeing the impact it had on them, but it only further reassured me that they realized to what they’d done.
This only proves that not allowing others to impact your self image is the key to preventing the spread of anti-semitism in the future. Not everyone is going to love who we identify as, but there isn’t anything they can do to change it. All we have to do is make them understand us, what we believe in, and who we are, to stop them from going against something they don’t even know. Conversations with this friend helped me recognize that those who say either microaggressions, or things towards a specific religion, race, etc., don’t understand, and it’s up to us to speak out and help them.
Sarah Begun is a BBG living in Cherry Hill, New Jersey who plays bass guitar, and lacrosse.
All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.
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