How to Fight Anti-Semitism




Award Winner

September 10, 2019 | ISBN 9780593136065

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About the Book

“The most important book you will read this year.”—Caitlin Flanagan, author of To Hell with All That

WINNER OF THE NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARD • The prescient former New York Times writer delivers an urgent wake-up call to all Americans exposing the alarming rise of anti-Semitism in this country—and explains what we can do to defeat it.

On October 27, 2018, eleven Jews were gunned down as they prayed at their synagogue in Pittsburgh. It was the deadliest attack on Jews in American history.
For most Americans, the massacre at Tree of Life, the synagogue where Bari Weiss became a bat mitzvah, came as a shock. But anti-Semitism is the oldest hatred, commonplace across the Middle East and on the rise for years in Europe. So that terrible morning in Pittsburgh, as well as the continued surge of hate crimes against Jews in cities and towns across the country, raise a question Americans cannot avoid: Could it happen here?
This book is Weiss’s answer.
Like many, Weiss long believed this country could escape the rising tide of anti-Semitism. With its promise of free speech and religion, its insistence that all people are created equal, its tolerance for difference, and its emphasis on shared ideals rather than bloodlines, America has been, even with all its flaws, a new Jerusalem for the Jewish people. But now the luckiest Jews in history are beginning to face a three-headed dragon known all too well to Jews of other times and places: the physical fear of violent assault, the moral fear of ideological vilification, and the political fear of resurgent fascism and populism.
No longer the exclusive province of the far right, the far left, and assorted religious bigots, anti-Semitism now finds a home in identity politics as well as the reaction against identity politics, in the renewal of America First isolationism and the rise of one-world socialism, and in the spread of Islamist ideas into unlikely places. A hatred that was, until recently, reliably taboo is migrating toward the mainstream, amplified by social media and a culture of conspiracy that threatens us all.
Weiss is one of our most provocative writers, and her cri de coeur makes a powerful case for renewing Jewish and American values in this uncertain moment. Not just for the sake of America’s Jews, but for the sake of America.
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Listen to a sample from How to Fight Anti-Semitism

Praise for How to Fight Anti-Semitism

“A timely warning against a Judaism that trembles at the knees.”Washington Examiner

“Bari Weiss has written what must be judged a brave book. . . . Weiss has delivered a praiseworthy and concise brief against modern-day anti-Semitism.”The New York Times

“Weiss’s book feels like one long, soul-wrenching letter, written in a charmingly accessible style by a proud American reeling from the realization that the haters are on the rise in this land we love.”Jewish Journal

“An important read . . . Because a battle over normalizing anti-Semitism is already underway, Weiss’s real public service is encouraging mainstream Americans to join the forces of light.”The Federalist

“What Heinrich Graetz required six volumes of Jewish history to encompass, Bari Weiss has achieved with remarkable succinctness. This important book will engender a thousand conversations.”—Cynthia Ozick

“Her childhood synagogue in Pittsburgh was the site of last year’s Shabbat morning massacre. This passionate, vividly written, regularly insightful book is her pained, fighting elegy.”The Guardian

“A bold summons to confront humanity’s oldest hatred.”National Review

“Weiss’s refreshingly forthright opinions and remarkably thorough yet concise history lessons make this a must-read for anyone seeking to understand and stop the rise of a pernicious ideology.”Publishers Weekly

“At the core of the text is the author’s concern for the health and safety of American citizens, and she encourages anyone ‘who loves freedom and seeks to protect it’ to join with her in vigorous activism.”Kirkus Reviews
“This is the most important book you will read this year. Concise, morally certain, it’s a bullet train from the first sentence to the last. There needs to be a copy in every classroom in the country. If you think something dark is rising, you’re right. What can you do? This is what you do.”—Caitlin Flanagan, staff writer, The Atlantic, and author of To Hell with All That

How to Fight Anti-Semitism is urgent, frank, and fearless. There is something here to offend everyone—because there is something here to awaken everyone.”—Rabbi David Wolpe, author of David: The Divided Heart

“While European anti-Semitism has put Jews in mortal danger for too long, the ‘shining city upon a hill’—America—has descended into this same toxic darkness. Bari Weiss’s book is a powerful wake-up call against complacency and should push all freethinkers on both sides of the Atlantic to take a stand against new guises of the oldest form of hate in the world. How to Fight Anti-Semitism? Yes. But it could also be called How to Save Liberal Democracy.’”—Bernard-Henri Lévy, bestselling author of The Empire and the Five Kings
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How to Fight Anti-Semitism

“There is a shooter at tree of life.”

The first text came through our family chat at 10:22 a.m. It was from my baby sister, Suzy. I typed back immediately: “Is dad.”

My mouth turned to cotton as I waited for a response to my incomplete question.

My parents live a mile and a half from the Tree of Life synagogue. Three congregations meet in the building for Shabbat morning services; my dad is sometimes at one of them.

“We’re home,” my mom wrote. “do t worry.”

Casey, my second-youngest sister, had heard more: “Magazine high powered ak 47. Doug is on police radio,” she said of her husband, a local firefighter.

Someone sent around a link to the Psalms—“in you our ancestors trusted; they trusted and you saved them”—sacred poems Jews have always recited in times of distress. Several texts suggested that there were hostages, early and hopeful speculation. My mom wrote simply: “I’m sure we will know people there.”

Minutes slouched by. I turned on CNN. Nothing yet. I refreshed and refreshed and refreshed Twitter every few seconds. There were posts from some local sources urging people to stay away from the area; warnings that the police had shut down that part of the neighborhood; speculation that the shooter might be on the loose. I thought about the Boston Marathon bombers—how one of the Tsarnaev brothers hid in a boat in someone’s backyard—and told my parents not to leave the house.

Soon I started getting WhatsApp messages from close friends in Israel, where Shabbat was ending—a strange reversal from the years of the Second Intifada when I would write them: Are you safe?

I checked the news again. Early reports of a shooting in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. No name yet. No victim count. Refresh Twitter.

At some point in those creeping minutes, between Suzy’s first text and the moment I booked a plane ticket back to my hometown to witness what the killer had done, my third-youngest sister, Molly, told us that she had heard something on the police scanner.

“He’s screaming all these Jews need to die.”

• • • 
I didn’t yet know that I would come to see that phrase as the one that marked the before and the after. That I would come to see that command—the one that had been uttered in a different tongue by Amalek, the villain who stalked the weakest of the ancient Israelites in the desert on their way to the Promised Land; the one that had been echoed by Amalek’s ilk down through the generations; and the one that was now being shouted in mine—as my alarm bell. Those words would wake me up to the fact that I had spent much of my life on a holiday from history. And history, in a hail of bullets, had made its unequivocal return.

But this realization was to come. The morning of October 27, 2018, in a hotel room in Phoenix, I was pouring sweat and drinking lukewarm room-service coffee, replying to my editor at the Times to say yes, I would write a column immediately about what was going on.

This was before I learned that the name of the shooter was Robert Bowers, before I read what he had written on the social media website Gab: “There is no #MAGA as long as there is a kike infestation.” It was before I knew he believed that the Jewish people were responsible for the sin of bringing Muslims to America: “Open you Eyes! It’s the filthy EVIL jews Bringing the Filthy EVIL Muslims into the Country!!” Bowers hated the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a Jewish organization founded in the late 1800s to resettle Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe. Today, it does the righteous work of rescuing Jews and non-Jews facing persecution all over the world. His final post before he entered the building was: “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” Tree of Life had been one of 270 synagogues around the country that had hosted National Refugee Shabbat the previous Saturday. That morning during services, American rabbis had spoken about the most fundamental and recurrent theme in the Bible: Do not oppress a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

About the Author

Bari Weiss
Bari Weiss is a writer and editor who worked for the opinion section of The New York Times from 2017 to 2020. Previously, she was an op-ed and book review editor at The Wall Street Journal and a senior editor at Tablet, the online magazine of Jewish politics and culture. She is a native of Pittsburgh and lives in New York City. More by Bari Weiss
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