The History of Antisemitism

What does Antisemitism mean, and where does it come from?

Antisemitism has been around for thousands of years, and though some of its rationalizations and methodologies have changed over time, antisemitism was a major influence on Hitler and was propagated by the Nazis for the implementation of the Holocaust.

The Definition of Antisemitism

Antisemitism is, put simply, a hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, racial, or ethnic group. The harmful stereotypes with which Jews have been characterized have changed slightly throughout history, but have always been used as a means of justifying a causeless hatred already present in a person or society.

It is crucially important to remember that these accusations are completely baseless; they are inaccurate, untrue, and cannot, nor should ever be, proven or justified. There is no way to truly and accurately depict the origins of this belief system, as it develops from rationalizations for a prejudice already present in society- one can only examine how it grew and was explained by those who perpetuated it.

The Difference between Anti-Judaism and Antisemitism

Although these two concepts are used interchangeably today, there exists an important difference between anti-Judaism and antisemitism.

Anti-Judaism is defined as hostility against Jews based on solely religious grounds. With this, a Jew is defined by his or her religious beliefs; one is no longer considered a Jew after one has been baptized into another religion.

Antisemitism is defined as hostility against Jews based on racial grounds. In this case, a Jew is thought of as part of a distinct social group defined by descent of a bloodline. One is considered a Jew if one’s ancestors were Jewish, regardless of whether or not one actually practices Judaism.

Antisemitism did not actually appear until the late 19th c., but after the Enlightenment, the terms began to incorporate one another, adopting and utilizing ideas from their opposite. Today it is extremely difficult to determine a clear distinction between the two.