The Crucial Importance of the study or Religion, Philosophy and Ethics in contemporary society: Foremost thinker in Jewish Theology and contemporary Feminist Studies reacts to the warning given to German Jews not to wear kippas after rise in anti-Semitism-

Professor Melissa Raphael of University of Gloucesterhsire’ s Religion, Philosophy and Ethics gives her own views on the disturbing geopolitical issues that are currently shaping the rise in antisemitism and Europe and beyond raised in the recent BBC article

Image used: Burning and killing of Jews wearing the distinctive medieval pileus cornutus or “horned skullcap” by Folkmar, Prague

‘To some extent, this is nothing new.  For many years, male Orthodox friends visiting from the US or Israel have worn baseball caps instead of kippot, feeling unwilling to draw hostile attention to themselves as Jews, especially outside Britain’s multi-ethnic big cities.  But even in large cities here and in Europe, I now rarely, if ever, attend a synagogue service where the doors are not guarded by police, professional security guards, or volunteers from the congregation.

While I am too used to this situation to find it disturbing, what is profoundly worrying to me is that antisemitism, and the violence of its thinking, and sometimes its language and actions, is growing exponentially at the juncture of three discourses that, for very different reasons, demonize Jews.

The first two of these three groupings are the resurgent far right, with its increasing enthusiasm for fascism and those on the far-left who equate Jews with capitalism and Israel with the genocidal, race-enslaving Third Reich.  The third locus of antisemitism, often combined with religious anti-Judaism is, as Angela Merkel (in 2018) and many others have pointed out, institutionalized in some Islamic communities, and it is too often ignored, even when Islamophobia is quite properly condemned.

It may be that the rise in contemporary violence against Jews and other Others is also an early warning of wider global instabilities.  The yawning gap between the haves and the have-nots will almost inevitably widen yet further over the coming years.  Climate change looks set to create vast numbers of environmental refugees; AI and robotic labour look set to replace much of the world’s workforce, including its professional and skilled sectors.

In such a potentially flammable geopolitical situation, we need to nourish those signs of resistance that give grounds for hope that we are not witnessing a mass slide into intolerance, hatred, amnesia and denial.  Last year, for example, over 2000 Jews, Muslims, atheists and Christians took to German’s streets wearing kippot in protest against the antisemitism that led to a Syrian asylum-seeker in Berlin to attack a Jew wearing a kippah.  Or again, in October last year, after the Pittsburgh shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue, Muslim organizations, as well as Christian ones, raised large sums of money to help victims and their families, as well as reaching out to the Jewish community in solidarity and compassion.  These networks of care, cooperation and dialogue need to be built and, dare I say it, it’s degree courses like our own RPE course that are really well-placed to equip students with the knowledge, skills and values to do so! ‘

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