“Rabbi, you look like the Taliban”

Friday, 6 June, 2014 - 11:34 am

“You look like the Taliban,” one of my friends in Luzern once told me, “but you’re not.” I asked him; “how do you know?” So he answered, ”because I know you.”

I really don’t like to sit and discuss anti-Semitism. I prefer to think that even though it exists, and is hiding under the surface, we don’t need to wake it up. However, this simple assumption that many people (especially from smaller cities or villages, who don’t know any Jews,) have, that Jews are problematic unless they prove it otherwise, annoys me.

This week it happened again.

My fitness trainer whom I now know for about a year and half, told me very openly that he tells all his Swiss friends, that the Jews are not like they think they are. “They are not from Mars,” is what he said. He tells them, "I know a Jew who comes to me and he is completely normal". He went on to tell me what I already knew, the lack of knowledge that most people have about Judaism is very big.

I meet with students quite often, and always use these meetings to teach them and to change stigmas which they have in their minds. Officially the reasons for these meetings are usually various topics in Judasim, but when we get to the question and answers, the topic of anti-Semitism, and the stereotypes about Jews always comes up. It is quite scary to hear the stigmas which are upon us.

The responsibility is not only on rabbis or community leaders. It is the responsibility of every single Jew or non-Jew to use every opportunity to break these stigmas. Serious anti-Semitism which was once hatred of our religion, later on Racism, and today the hatred towards the State of Israel, under the guise of human rights, cannot be eradicated, but we can certainly work to minimize it here and there.

My fitness instructor, who is now an unofficial fighter against stigmas on Jews, asked me towards the end of our conversation: “Is it true that Migros and Coop (from the largest companies in Switzerland) belong to Jews?” I replied with a smile: "No (t yet)."

We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but we have good chances.

Wishing you a Shabbat of freedom,

Rabbi Chaim

Comments on: “Rabbi, you look like the Taliban”

Rahel wrote...

I am not Jewish myself, but my husband is. I remember the images my sisters boyfiends (now husbands) had. They asked me if my (then still) boyfriend is walking around in long black coats and black hats (no- he's not). They thought that all Jews must be very rich etc... Luckily today they have a different image and also came to visit us in Israel a few times.
It is sad- especially in these days- how people still have those stereotypes in their heads.