do you have a Jewish friend?


That's great! In a world with less than 16 million Jews, forming only 0.2 percent of the world population, knowing and loving a Jewish person is a blessing.

That said…

Having a Jewish friend does not mean you can't be antisemitic. It does not mean you understand antisemitism. And it certainly does not mean you get to say how Jews, collectively, think or feel about anything. 



Antisemitism is much more than a person-to-person bigotry or bias. Rather, antisemitism homogenizes Jews, depicting us collectively as an antisemitic stereotype. That’s why antisemitic conspiracies paint “the Jews” as a nefarious, singular group of people, all working together towards the goal of controlling and manipulating the world to our benefit. 

This is absurd, of course. Most Jews don’t know each other. Every single Jewish person has their own background, opinions, ideas, political views, goals, and more. Because there are just under 16 million of us, this means that there are 16 million different Jewish backgrounds, opinions, ideas, political views, goals, and more. 

Knowing what one of us thinks is not knowing what all of us think. However your Jewish friend thinks is only what they think — not what all of us think or should think. When you point out to your Jewish friend to rebuke other Jews, you are doing what antisemites have long done: assume that we should all be the same. But we’re not, nor should we be.



You might’ve heard the saying “two Jews, three opinions.” While this saying might be rooted in the stereotype that Jews are infamously argumentative, the truth is that debate, disagreement, and dispute have long been Jewish values. The Jewish tradition of argument and disagreement dates all the way back to the days of the Torah.

Pirkei Avot distinguishes between legitimate arguments — those that are “for the sake of heaven” — and illegitimate arguments, which do not pursue this purpose. Arguments entered in good faith are encouraged, whereas arguments entered in bad faith (for example, to antagonize) are discouraged.

The Talmud, the central text of rabbinic Judaism and the main source of Halacha (rabbinic law) and Jewish theology, almost entirely consists of debate between Jewish scholars through the centuries.

No community has monolithic views. This is especially true of the Jewish community, which has, for millennia, especially valued disagreement and debate. Your friend’s views are representative of themselves only.



As Andrés Spokoiny wrote in a September 2021 Tablet Magazine column, “communities have boundaries.” Though debate in Judaism and Jewish culture is highly encouraged, at some point, some views are so far past the boundary of what the Jewish community can and cannot accept that at some point, a line is crossed. 

A primary example of this is, for example, the Jewish rejection of Jesus as the Messiah in the first century. After all, the first Christians were Jewish, but at some point, the majority of Jews decided that belief in Jesus crossed the line into “not Judaism.”

Consider that, for instance, with so many different opinions, it seems surprising that some Jewish customs and rules, for example, are pretty much set in stone, such as the fact that we observe Shabbat on Saturdays or the fact that pork is not kosher. That’s because when Jews disagree, it’s the consensus that will take precedence. This comes directly from the Torah: Moses asked G-d what he was supposed to do with 98 different opinions, and God responded, “Majority rule.”

For such a small group of people that has such notoriously diverse views, it’s significant to note that 86-97 percent of Jews — depending on the poll — support the existence of the State of Israel. Of course, this doesn’t mean that 86-97 percent of Jews agree with every single one of its policies, its politicians, its actions, and more. However, Jews who do not support Israel’s existence are a very fringe minority. Pointing to them to silence the other 86-97 percent of us is blatant tokenism (and, as we’ve heard repeatedly in social justice circles, tokenism is racism…or, in this case, antisemitism). 



For as long as antisemitism has existed, antisemites have imposed a good vs bad Jew dichotomy on us.

Who is a “good Jew”? A “good Jew” is a Jew whose viewpoints validate those of non-Jewish folks. This, of course, is a form of antisemitic tokenization. A “bad Jew,” on the other hand, is a Jew whose views challenge those of non-Jews. Antisemites treat “bad Jews” as disposable, because they do not validate their views. In other words, if we cannot serve you, you consider us bad.

Sadly, historically, many, many Jews have (quite literally) bent over backwards to meet the antisemite’s expectation of a “good Jew.” Over 2000 years ago, Hellenized Jews, or Jews who’d assimilated into Greek culture, went through great lengths to gain the acceptance of the Greek rulers of Judea, so much so that some even reversed their circumcisions to be allowed to participate in the ancient Olympic Games.

Ultimately, antisemites hurt all Jews, whether they consider us “good” or “bad.” Hitler, for example, did not spare the Jews who joined the pro-Nazi Association of German National Jews. Stalin did not spare the Jews who joined the anti-Zionist Yevsetskiya, whose goal was to de-Hebraize and Russify Soviet Jews. Hamas did not spare Israeli peace activists. The pro-Hamas protestors in the west will not spare pro-Palestine Jews…as they’ve already turned on groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow. 

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