Anti-Semitism in Pittsburgh

The hideous mass shooting this past Saturday at the Tree of Life Synagogue (L’Simcha Congregation) in Pittsburgh has reminded us that the ugly bigotry of anti-Semitism is still in our midst. It sits and waits in the grass like an insidious serpent. It looks for an opportune moment to raise its dreadful head and then it strikes.

When it struck this past weekend in the person of a lone gunman, 11 lives were snuffed out and 6 others were wounded including four law enforcement officers. All those who perished were Jewish and over the age of 50. The names of those who lost their lives are:

Richard Gottfried, 65

Rose Mallinger, 97

Jerry Rabinowitz, 66

Cecil Rosenthal, 59

David Rosenthal, 54 (brother of Cecil)

Bernice Simon, 84

Sylvan Simon, 86 (husband of Bernice)

Daniel Stein, 71

Melvin Wax, 88

Irving Younger, 69

Their families are in great need of our prayers.

Anti-Semitism is horrid, sickening and demonic. From the perspective of those who read and believe the Bible it is also an age-old problem. In Genesis 12 we see the LORD God choosing a man named Abram (Exalted father), later God renamed him Abraham (Father of multitudes) to bring about a nation of His own, a chosen people. Later in Genesis 15 we see the LORD God making a covenant with Abraham, a promise of the LORD’s commitment to Abraham and to his seed. From that day forward there has been opposition to this chosen people.

Anti-Semitism is as old as the nation of Israel. One of the times it raises it head is in Numbers 22-24 when the Moabite King Balak tries in vain to get the prophet for hire Balaam to curse Israel. Balak was afraid of the Jews so out of that fear he sought to have them divinely cursed. After many attempts, Balaam gives up and says of the nation of Israel, “Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you.”(Numbers 24:9) hereby restating God’s promises in Genesis 12:1-3. People, leaders, and even nations are still afraid of the Jewish people and thus anti-Semitism has still found a place 3500 years after Balak.

Multiple times through the years anti-Semitism has raised its head with reference to Israel though her cousin the Edomites. Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Isaac is the son of promise whereas Ishmael is the son born out of impatience. Isaac has two sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob is later renamed Israel (prince with God) and it is from him and his 12 sons (thus the 12 tribes of Israel) that the people of God multiply. Esau is the father of the Edomites.

In Psalm 137:7 we read of the anti-Semitism of Edom at the time of the Babylonian invasion that left Jerusalem in ruins (586 BC). The text says “Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem, how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare, down to its foundations!” The Edomites were jealous of Israel and thus they rooted against God’s chosen people. The tiny book of Obadiah (only 21 verses) chronicles the Edomites’ anti-Semitism and the price they will pay for it. Their jealousy will be remembered in the day of the LORD. People, leaders, and even nations are still jealous of the Jewish people and thus anti-Semitism has still found a place 2500 years after the Edomites.

One of the more familiar cases of anti-Semitism raising its head is found in the book of Esther. The main anti-Semite was a man named Haman who had come to hate one Jew, Mordecai, in particular and by extension wanted to have all Jews destroyed. He went as far as getting an order of mass execution for all the Jews in the Persian Empire. Note his reasoning in Esther 3:8 – Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so that it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them.” This bigotry and hatred is turned around by God through Queen Esther, herself a Jew, with the product being Haman’s hanging, Mordecai being promoted, and the Jews’ preservation. People, leaders, and even nations are still hating the Jewish people and thus anti-Semitism has still found a place 2400 years after Haman.

We could chronicle anti-Semitism throughout the Scriptures, but’s let’s fast forward to the last book of the Bible, Revelation. It contains an interesting and powerful vison in reference to anti-Semitism and its source. Please read the text below.

Revelation 12:1–6

1And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

2She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.

3And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems.

4His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.

5She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,

6and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

I believe the Woman here is the nation of Israel. I am sure the great dragon is none other than Satan (See Revelation 12:7ff). The child of the woman I believe to be the Christ, the Messiah. The Woman needed protection from the Dragon and so did her Child. The anti-Semitism here is demonically initiated from the Devil himself against Israel because she is the vessel though which the Messiah and His kingdom come. Is it possible that the Jewish people in the past, present, and into the future will experience anti-Semitism not just because of fear, jealousy and hatred but because Satan himself is involved seeking to thwart God’s plan? I think the answer is a resounding yes. The Jews who have given us the Scriptures, the moral Law of God (The Ten Commandments) and the Messiah are the target of Satan and his minions here on earth and will be until the day of our Lord’s coming.

In light of this age-old problem and the recent acts of anti-Semitism, what should we do as serious followers of Christ? Let me suggest a few simple things.

  1. We need to know our Jewish neighbors in our community. We should be praying for their safety for they are a target. We should let them know in word and deed that we are concerned for them.
  1. We need to pray for the safety of the synagogues and Rabbi’s in our community. If things escalate any further, we need to consider forming human chains around these houses of worship on the Sabbath and especially High Holy Days for protection. The smaller synagogues can’t afford security and law enforcement can’t be everywhere. At the very least, every synagogue and Jewish Community Center should have a virtual prayer covering from us.
  1. We need to pray for the nation of Israel and the Peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6 – Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! “May they be secure who love you!). Israel is surrounded by hostile nations and needs God’s protection.
  2. Evangelical leaders need to dialogue with local Jewish leaders to understand and help with their concerns.
  3. We need to see the Jewish nation and Jewish people from God’s viewpoint. We need to reject theological systems that reject Israel’s place in God’s plans in the future (See Romans 9-11).

In closing, let me say that it takes a certain God-given conviction and courage to stand up against anti-Semitism. Words need to be accompanied by deeds. The kind of conviction and courage needed is demonstrated by the Huguenot Village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France. In 1942, the people of Le Chambon and their Protestant Minister Pastor Andre Trocme were faced with some difficult decisions. The greatest anti-Semitic experiment was happening via Nazi Germany, the extermination of the Jews as a people. France was occupied by Germany at the time and many Jews, particularly children, with Pastor Trocme’s help had found refuge in Le Chambon. When paid a visit by the authorities, a group of students approached the Nazi leader in charge and handed him a letter. Here is the paragraph from this letter I want us to hold on to from these students. We should take great inspiration from it. It embodies the courage and conviction we need to have. They wrote:

“We feel obliged to tell you that there are among us a certain number of Jews. But, we make no distinction between Jews and non-Jews. It is contrary to the Gospel teaching. If our comrades, whose only fault is to be born in another religion, received the order to let themselves be deported, or even examined, they would disobey the order received, and we would try to hide them as best we could. We have Jews. You’re not getting them.

God help us to be that courageous. Amen

Blessings,

Dr. Dave Watson

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