SOME THINGS YOU MUST COME TO TERMS WITH
Allyship begins with you. That means that you must do the tough and often uncomfortable work of unraveling your antisemitic bias. Antisemitism is known as the world’s oldest hatred for a reason. It’s foundational to almost all societies in the world. Almost everyone, statistically, displays some form of antisemitic bias, whether said bias is a conscious one or not. Do the difficult inner work before you point fingers at others.
Perhaps what is most difficult about meaningfully combatting antisemitism is that antisemitism exists in the foundations of both Christianity and Islam, and religion is a very personal matter for people, and as such, many Jews are hesitant to address this. In my view, however, it’s imperative to be honest about it. We are not asking you to disavow your religious beliefs or your relationship with your God; rather, we want you to acknowledge, examine, and reconcile with the fact that not only have Christianity (and Islam) long been (mis)used to harm Jews, but that antisemitism exists in both Christian and Muslim religious texts. The Gospels, for example, were written various decades after the death of Jesus, when the New Christians were trying to distance themselves from Jews, as the Romans were seriously persecuting Jews at this time. This certainly influenced the content and tone of the Gospels. I have a more in-depth post on this titled NO, THE JEWS DID NOT KILL JESUS.
Additionally, the Tanakh [Hebrew Bible] — also problematically called the “Old Testament” — was appropriated from Jews. Judaism is a closed ethnoreligion, tribe, and nation (not to be confused with modern nation-state). The Tanakh was never meant to be understood outside of its tribal and national context, and Jews did not consent to its appropriation.
I know this is super uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable even typing this. But I’m tired of beating around the bush because that’s not helping Jews — it’s appeasing our historical oppressors instead. It’s disingenuous to talk about “shared values” and “solidarity” without first addressing that the source of modern, post-exile antisemitism is deeply embedded into the cultural context of the origins of your religion.
RECOGNIZE POWER DYNAMICS
Understand that when we are speaking of Christian-Jewish interpersonal and inter-communal relationships, we are not standing on equal footing. Christians have held systemic power over Jews for the past 2000 years. That’s two millennia of asymmetrical relations. Christian churches in the United States, for example, did not start changing their tune toward Jews until the 1960s and 1970s, post-Holocaust. Similarly, it wasn’t until 1964 that the Catholic Church finally disavowed the teaching of Jewish deicide — the antisemitic conspiracy that Jews both killed Jesus and are also collectively responsible for his crucifixion.
2000 years of systemic violence, marginalization, segregation, ethnic cleansing, discrimination, and genocide are not undone in a few decades. Christians are inherently in a position of systemic power over Jews. This is especially true for white Christians.
Population-wise, the asymmetry is staggering. There are some 15 million Jews in the world, consisting of about 0.2 percent of the population. On the other hand, there are 2.4 billion Christians in the world, making up 31 percent of the world population. Again, we are in no way standing on equal footing here.
This means that Jews expressing anger, frustration, hurt, distrust, and even dislike toward Christians is in no way equivalent to Christian antisemitism, which has cost the lives of millions upon millions of Jews.
YES, JESUS WAS JEWISH. BUT YOU’RE NOT. JEWISH CLOSED PRACTICES ARE NOT FOR YOU
Judaism and Christianity are inherently different in the sense that Christianity is a universalizing religion, spread primarily through proselytization and colonialism, whereas Judaism is not a religion in the western or modern sense of the word but is rather a collection of the spiritual beliefs, laws, customs, and culture of the Jewish tribe and nation. Understanding Jewish cultural and religious dynamics and boundaries from a Christian lens is inherently problematic. In other words, Christianity might be for everyone, but Judaism is not. Judaism has a very stringent process of “conversion,” which can more accurately be described as naturalization into the Jewish tribe (for a sort of — but not entirely — accurate modern comparison, think of it like this: you move to a different country and become a citizen of that country after passing a naturalization exam).
Yes, the first Christians were Jews. But only a century or so after the death of Jesus, Jews had already disavowed Christians as members of the Nation of Israel. In other words, their membership was revoked, as the Jewish community as a whole decided that the teachings of Christianity were inherently incompatible with Judaism. By then, most Christians were not of Jewish ancestry anyway. This disavowal was later codified into Halacha, or Jewish law, which states that those who abandon Judaism by choice become “meshumadim,” considered Jewish only for the purpose of Jewish lineage (i.e. their children would be considered Jewish) but cannot claim any privilege pertaining to Jewish status. This does not apply to Jewish atheists, as Judaism permits agnosticism and atheism.
Much like other ancient tribes have parameters for tribal membership, so do Jews, and these parameters cannot be understood through a Christian, western, or modern lens. You don’t have to understand these parameters, but you should respect them if you genuinely want to be an ally.
BUT JESUS DID XYZ, SO I GET TO DO IT TOO.
No. You don’t. Just as Jews disavowed the New Christians early on, so did the Christians disavow the Jews — even before the Gospels were completed. You can’t have it both ways. You don’t get to appropriate our culture now, after 2000 years of violent rejection. That’s not how this works.
Not only that, but more often than not, this statement is plainly historically inaccurate. Jesus was alive prior to the destruction of the Second Temple. Prior to its destruction, Jewish cultural, spiritual, and social life centered around the Temple. Many of the customs we have today — such as Passover Seders as they are held today — were established out of necessity once we could no longer practice our culture, spirituality, and traditions at the Temple.
(So no, contrary to popular belief, the Last Supper was not a Seder. Jesus was actually crucified before the start of Passover that year, anyway).
If you are invited to partake in Jewish holidays or traditions by your Jewish friends or family, that’s amazing! But you are there as a guest. You are not there to take over and do things your own way. There are, however, some things that are inappropriate no matter what, such as wearing Jewish spiritual regalia or forming part of a minyan.
If you want to begin the process of conversion, there’s an established and respectful route for that, under the guidance of a rabbi. Anything else is appropriative and inappropriate.
WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS, NOT TOOLS, TOKENS, OR VEHICLES
You should support Jews for one reason and one reason only: we are human beings. That’s it. If you only support us because your church says so, your Bible says so, or you think supporting us will speed up the Second Coming — something Jews neither believe in nor care about — you are not supporting us for the right reasons. You’re using us. You want to get something out of us. That’s both exploitative and dehumanizing.
Christian Zionism — not to be confused with Zionism — is the belief that the return of Jews to the Land of Israel and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was the fulfilment of a Biblical prophecy. Many Christian Zionists also believe that the gathering of all Jews in Israel is a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Jesus. Jews will then be faced with the choice of converting to Christianity or death.
Christian Zionism has nothing to do with Jewish sovereignty and self-determination in our ancestral land; if anything, it’s quite the opposite, as Christian Zionists believe Jews must abandon our entire identity and become Christians.
In the United States, 80% of Evangelical Christians are Christian Zionists, believing that the establishment of the State of Israel fulfilled a Biblical prophecy and is a prerequisite for the return of Christ. Considering Jews overwhelmingly have no desire to convert to Christianity or bring about the Second Coming of Jesus, it comes as no surprise that surveys have found American Jews deeply, deeply distrust Christian Zionists.
Yes, you can be a Christian and a Zionist — in fact, supporting Jewish autonomy and self-determination is probably the least you can do after persecuting us for 2000 years — but Christian Zionism is its own movement altogether. Christian Zionism sees Jews and the State of Israel as a means to an end. It’s an exploitative movement with no regard for Jewish autonomy, sovereignty, identity, safety, or beliefs.
LISTEN. DON’T SPEAK OVER US
Allyship is about passing the mic — not stepping up to the mic. This is especially important for Christians to remember because, as explained prior, there are exponentially more Christians than Jews in the world. Though we certainly have our own voices, they already are so drowned out because we are such a tiny population, so it doesn’t help when you make more noise supposedly on our behalf.
Oftentimes, when Christians speak over us, not only do they misrepresent us, but they put us in tangible danger. For example, when Christians march with Israeli flags to “protest” the trans and gay community, as just recently happened, Jews and Israelis will be blamed for their bigotry, even though their views are statistically not representative of Jews or Israelis as a whole. But because we are such a small population, most people don’t know this, so they associate us with these bigots.
A perfect example of this when Christians use the term “Judeo-Christian” or “Judeo-Christian values.” The term was originally coined in the 1930s by American progressive Christian interfaith groups, with the hope of combatting growing antisemitic sentiment in the United States and Europe in the lead up to the Holocaust.
However, following World War II, the term was co-opted by conservative American politicians as a catchphrase against “godless communism.” Ironically, during the period of McCarthyism, Jews were disproportionately targeted under the guise of anti-communism. In the 1960s and 1970s, white Evangelical pastors further co-opted the term to use it as a rallying call against the Equal Rights Amendment and to oppose gay rights, the legalization of abortion, and more, which is ironic, since Jews overwhelmingly support abortion rights and same-sex marriage.
Following the 1979 Iran Revolution, the term was once again co-opted by conservatives to spread Islamophobic rhetoric. When Christians use the term “Judeo-Christian values” to justify their Islamophobia, Jews are then associated with Islamophobia, which isolates us and puts us in tangible danger.
It’s important to note that “listen to us” does not mean “only listen to Jews you agree with.” That’s tokenization. It means listen to the Jewish community as a whole.
DO NOT, EVER, PROSELYTIZE
Proselytization is the policy of attempting to convert others to one’s religious or political beliefs. Though proselytization is considered a pillar of many religions and denominations — for example, “spreading the word” is at the core of Evangelical Christianity — many consider proselytization just another form of forced conversion, as proselytizers often employ bribery, coercion, and other violent methods.
The Indigenous-led United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues defines Indigenous Peoples using a guideline with a number of differentiating characteristics, which, among other things, include: a “distinct language, culture, and beliefs” and a “resolve to maintain and reproduce their ancestral environments and systems as distinctive peoples and communities.” In other words, preserving and maintaining distinct belief systems is super important to the health and prosperity of Indigenous tribes, and Jews are no exception. For more on this, see the third post pinned to the top of my profile.
Christianity, as a universalizing religion, spread through proselytization and colonialism. Colonialism is often justified in the name of religion. For example, Spain colonized much of the Americas in the name of Catholicism.
Soft colonialism, also known as cultural imperialism or cultural colonialism, imposes cultural hegemony onto the colonized population; in other words, colonizers chip away at the distinct cultural identity of Indigenous Peoples in favor of the colonizer culture and identity until a difference no longer exists between the colonizer and the colonized. Cultural colonialism can happen via a number of means, including physical violence and missionary work.
To add to this, since antiquity, foreign empires have imposed their religions on the Jewish People as a tool to chip away at a distinct Jewish identity. Since the advent of Christianity, Christians have sought to convert Jews, often by force. For instance, during the Spanish Inquisition, Jews were forced to choose between conversion to Catholicism, forced displacement, or death. As such, some 200,000-600,000 Jews converted to Christianity under duress, eventually leaving behind all semblance of a distinct Jewish cultural, ethnic, religious, and tribal identity.
In trying to convert us to Christianity, not only are you crossing a boundary that has been the source of so much intergenerational pain, but you are inherently eroding our very identity and what’s important to us. That’s the opposite of being an ally.
ALLYSHIP WITH JEWS MEANS ALLYSHIP WITH ALL JEWS, NOT JUST THE ONES YOU LIKE OR THE ONES THAT SERVE YOUR INTERESTS
Protecting the safety of Jews means protecting the safety of all Jews, even those you dislike or those who live in different intersections of identity. You can’t claim to be an ally to Jews but then express racism toward Black Jews. You can’t claim to be an ally to Jews but then express queerphobia toward LGBTQ+ Jews. This is further compounded by the fact that a lot of other bigotries, such as homophobia and transphobia, are deeply intertwined with antisemitism. For more on this, see my post THE LINK BETWEEN ANTISEMITISM AND HOMOPHOBIA. You can’t fight antisemitism while also upholding other bigotries rooted in antisemitism.
Scolding Jews who you seem to be violating your Christian or personal interpretation of Jewish law or the Torah is so absolutely inappropriate and quite frankly none of your business. You don’t get to decide which Jews are being Jewish the right way. You are way, way outside of your lane here and overstepping boundaries. Not all conversations are for you and respecting that boundary is an important part of being an ally.
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