Taken from the Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions
Here is a dose of daily religion from A to Z.
Today’s religious topic is as follows:
“Anti-Semitism”, hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group. The terms “anti-Semitic” and “anti-Semitism” are translations of German antisemitisch and Antisemitismus, which first appeared in Germany in the autumn of 1879 to designate the anti-Jewish campaigns then underway in central Europe; their coinage is often attributed to the agitator Wilhelm Marr, though Marr did not use the words in print before 1880.
Anti-Semitism has existed to some degree wherever Jews have settled outside of Palestine. By the 4th century CE, Christians had come generally to regard Jews as the crucifiers of Christ and his church, had lost their homeland and were condemned to perpetual migration. When the Christian church became dominant in the Roman Empire, its leaders inspired many laws segregating Jews from Christians and curtailing Jews’ religious rights.
In much of Europe during the Middle Ages, Jews were denied citizenship, barred from holding government and military posts, and excluded from membership in guilds and the professions. The claim that Jews sacrificed Christian children at PASSOVER was first made in the 12th century and, by the 1930s, had become part of Nazi propaganda, as did another instrument of 12th-Century anti-Semitism—the compulsory yellow badge, which identified the wearer as a Jew. The segregation of Jewish urban populations into ghettos also dates from the Middle Ages and lasted until the 19th and early 20th centuries in much of Europe.
As some Jews became prominent in trade, banking, and money lending, their success aroused the envy of the populace. This resentment prompted the expulsion of Jews from several countries or regions, including England (1290), France (14th century), German (1350s), Portugal (1496), Provence (1512), and the Papal States (1569). Persecutions by the INQUISITION in Spain culminated in 1492 in the forced expulsion of that country’s Jewish population. As a result the centers of Jewish life shifted from western Europe to Turkey, Poland, and Russia.
With the Enlightenment and the French Revolution Jews began to gain civil rights in western European countries. When Jewish economic and cultural successes once again aroused resentment and hostility and mixed with the reassertion of European nationalism, anti-Semitism acquired a racial character, as ethnically homogeneous peoples descried the existence in their midst of “alien” Jewish elements. Pseudoscientific theories asserting that the Jews were inferior to the so-called ARYAN races gave anti-Semitism new respectability and popular support, especially in countries where existing social or political grievances could be ostensibly blamed on Jews. In Germany and Austrian in the late 19th century, anti-Semitism became an organized movement with its own political parties.
The Russian Empire had restricted Jews to western regions known as the PALE of Settlement ever since the 1790s. The empire’s May Laws of 1882, enacted after widespread anti-Jewish riots had broken out in the Russian Pale the previous year, stripped Jews of their rural landholdings and restricted them to the towns and cities within the Pale. These measures spurred the emigration of several million Jews to the United States in the next four decades, plus a somewhat smaller emigration into western Europe.
In France the Dreyfus affair became a focal point for anti-Semitism. In 1894 Alfred Dreyfus, a highly placed Jewish army officer, was falsely accused of treason. His vindication was hampered by the French military and the bitterly anti-Semitic French press, and the controversy that ensued damaged the cohesion of French political life.
During the first decade of the 20th century, serious pogroms occurred in Kishinyov (now Chisinau, Moldova) in 1903 and 1905, and the Russian secret police published a forgery entitled Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion that, as the supposed blueprint for a Jewish plot to achieve world domination, furnished propaganda for subsequent generations of anti-Semitic agitators. The widespread economic and political dislocations caused by World War I intensified anti-Semitism in Europe. In addition, the many Jewish Bolshevik leaders in the Russian Revolution of November 1917 gave anti-Semites a new focus for their prejudices in the threat of “Jewish Bolshevism.” German anti-Semites joined forces with revanchist nationalists in attempting to blame Jews for that country’s defeat.
The storm of anti-Semitic violence in Nazi Germany under the leadership of Adolf Hitler in 1933-45 also inspired anti-Jewish movements elsewhere. Anti-Semitism was promulgated in France by the Cagoulards (French: “Hooded Men”), in Hungary by the Arrow Cross, in England by the British Union of Fascists, and in the United States by the German-American Bund and the Silver Shirts.
The novelty of the Nazi brand of anti-Semitism was that it crossed class barriers. The idea of Aryan racial superiority elites. In Germany anti-Semitism became official government policy—taught in the schools and elaborated in “scientific”journals and by a huge propaganda organization. In 1941 the liquidation of European Jewry became official party policy. An estimated 5,700,000 Jews were exterminated in such death camps as Auschwitz, Chelmno, Belzec, Majdanek, and Treblinka during World War II.
After the Nazi defeat in 1945, anti-Semitism lost ground in western Europe and the United States, but developments in the Soviet Union and the Middle East gave it new significance in those areas. Anti-Semitic discrimination remained a feature of Soviet society from Stalinist times.
The immigration of large numbers of Jews to Palestine in the 20th century and the creation of the State of Israel (1948) aroused new currents of hostility within the Arab world that had previously tolerated the Jewish communities, resulting in the adoption of many anti-Jewish measures throughout the Muslim countries of the Middle East. In response, most of those countries’ Jews immigrated to Israel in the decades after the latter’s founding.
(Comeback on 11/21/14 and continue to learn about religion. Tomorrow you’ll read and learn more about “Antyesti”.
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