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On the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the similarities are striking

Interior view of the destroyed Fasanenstrasse Synagogue, Berlin, burned on Kristallnacht (Photo: Public domain)

Just before my Bat Mitzvah several years ago, my conservative rabbi gave me a copy of the Jewish classic, “To Be a Jew”, by Hayim Donin. The book is a comprehensive overview of Jewish observances and applications to modern daily life and the rationale behind them. It covers everything from the cornerstones of Judaism to Jewish ethics and morals, to Jewish family life. When paired with the siddur (Hebrew prayer book), it serves as an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to understand the traditional Jewish faith. My rabbi’s admonishment at the time I was crossing from childhood to adulthood was, “Never forget who you are.”  

For the past four weeks, while Israelis have been experiencing a national trauma and Jewish people everywhere are seeing antisemitism surge, I have been reminded of just how important those words were from my rabbi, the son of Holocaust survivors.

I’ve felt deep grief every time I see the pictures of babies, children and elderly who are still being held hostage in Gaza, felt the anger and sorrow over the stories of torture that took place on Oct. 7, and watched in horror as antisemitism rears its ugly head across the globe with an intensity unparalleled since the Holocaust.

The 400% rise in antisemitism in the U.S. and 500% rise throughout the world since the Hamas attack; the threats against Jewish students across college campuses; the cries for ‘jihad’ throughout cities in Europe; the expressions of support for Hamas from American professors that called the attack “exhilarating”; and the anti-Israel demonstrations here in the U.S. have all compounded the trauma Jewish people the world over are experiencing.

It goes without saying that the Jewish people are a family with a collective consciousness, no matter how far apart we live. What happens to one Jewish person happens to all. The entire family is experiencing some level of PTSD. The pain Israelis went through on Oct. 7 – and since that dark day – is a pain that is piercing every Jewish soul in one way or another. The Jewish practices regarding mourning involve different periods of deep reflection and prayer, but when the world is politicizing what’s going on, even that becomes extremely difficult.

Over the past month, I personally have felt mentally and emotionally stuck every time I sit down to write something. I only make it halfway through before I lose focus. My head seems to be in a cloud most of the time. And just when I think things may be getting better, there’s another news story about an inciteful act of antisemitism or anti-Israel rally and those negative emotions are there all over again.

For weeks, I’ve listened to the stories of Jewish chaplains on college campuses being threatened in their private homes. I’ve heard the reports about Jewish students being locked in a library for fear of protesters who burst past security to bang on the doors. I’ve seen the footage of hundreds of thousands of anti-Israel and pro-Hamas demonstrators blocking the Brooklyn Bridge in New York and marching across Europe and Washington D.C. I’ve read about business owners in France posting signs in their storefront windows that say, “No Jews allowed.” I’ve seen pictures of people burning the Israeli flag or being physically kicked out of an NFL game for displaying it on their private box suite. I’ve listened to Jewish students describe how they’ve been instructed by their university staff to stay home during rallies or hide signs of their Jewish identity. And, more recently, I’ve read about the Anne Frank Kindergarten in Germany taking final steps to change its name because it’s “too political.”

These are major headlines across multiple media outlets on the right and the left, not just stories that are part of a social media echo chamber.

It is frightening to think that to be a Jew in 2023 is strikingly similar to being a Jew in 1938. How can we be seeing the same level of violent and intense antisemitism that led up to Kristallnacht 85 years ago, after the horrors of the Holocaust?

Antisemitism has always been present and on the rise in recent years but its dark resurgence in the form of an unholy alliance between the progressive left and radical Islam has produced a dangerous level of hatred for Jews and Christians in this generation. Those two diametrically opposed groups are fiercely united in one belief: 

The God of Israel is not the one true God, the bible isn’t true, and the voices of the people who align themselves with those beliefs must be eliminated from society.

That is how they justify the barbaric slaughter of innocent people and refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.

That is also how anyone in America can criticize Israel’s counterattack against Hamas who takes more precautions than any other nation for civilian casualties in Gaza when our own fight against ISIS and Al Qaeda resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11 – not that far in the past.

It is also why the progressives who preached Black Lives Matter and “Me Too” sermons all over social media a few years ago have suddenly fallen silent when it comes to Jewish lives. They don’t care anything about “justice,” “equity” or “human rights.” They deny who Hamas is and what they have done to Israelis and Palestinians. Their movement, even as sincere in their “compassion” as their members can be, is built on a faulty foundation.

The double standard and bias against Israel is not logical. The 500% rise in antisemitism is not incidental. It’s part of a wave of spiritual darkness threatening God’s people just like it did before the rebirth of Israel.

It’s often been said that the modern-day nation of Israel is proof that God exists because its miraculous rebirth fulfilled biblical prophecy. The same principle applies when it comes to the darkness and evil we’re seeing today against the Jewish people. It is solid proof that there is a source of evil at work with one goal: To destroy Israel and those who align themselves with the God of Israel.

Maybe this will finally be the line in the sand for Jewish progressives in America and throughout Europe and Israel. Maybe they will finally divorce themselves from a hypocritical movement that has no clear moral standard.

Maybe they will see the answer isn’t a movement or a political solution. Instead, it’s a person who happens to be the greatest example the world has ever seen of what it means “To Be a Jew.”

Maybe they will come to realize he is the one who brings light to the darkness, spreads peace where there is hatred, justice where there is oppression, and freedom where there is captivity.

His name means salvation and that is what He freely gives to all who call on Him.

The Bible says He “will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the heavens will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel.” Joel 3:16

That day years ago when my rabbi told me to “never forget who you are,” I doubt he could have imagined what we are facing now in 2023.

I can say, with certainty, 'Rabbi, I haven’t forgotten and no matter how dark it gets, I never will.'

Avigayil Rivkah is a writer and speaker on the Jewish roots of the Christian faith, Jewish culture and Israel news. She is a Jewish believer in Jesus and writes at

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