According to the dictionary, the definition of appropriation is the act of taking something from someone else for your own use without asking permission from the originator. When we talk about it, the subject is always centered around cultural appropriation with an undertone of rage. Granted, rage is warranted when your own customs and traditions that you can’t succeed with are someone else’s meal ticket to success. And throughout the years, I’ve come to see the examples in the music I listen to and the way American pop culture has been dominated by it. However, the one appropriation that no one ever acknowledges is that of Judaism, and it’s time to address it.
Now, before I dive deep, I want to preface that I’m talking about more than just Jewish prayers. The use of our customs and prayers dives deeper than a quote from Psalms or Deuteronomy. At the core of it all, the appropriation begins and ends with antisemitism from all four corners of the Earth. When the world takes our texts, prophets, and traditions and incorporates it into their own while consistently taking a dump on us, the problem shows itself clearly. It’s about time for everyone to acknowledge it, just as they’ve done with every other form of appropriation in the culture.
Throughout History, Jews All Over the World Have Been Persecuted and Slaughtered
Whether it be the Spanish Inquisitions in the 1400s, the expulsion of Arab Jews from North Africa and the Middle East in the early 1900s, or the Holocaust, antisemitism has always run deep in the fabric of humanity. Of course, before the birth of Christianity and Islam, Jews were still consistently persecuted, but there’s a difference. To experience persecution by a Muslim, Christian, and Catholic majority is to experience it from those who bear the fruits of our own labor. Feeling offended and defensive? Let’s take a look at the history of the three Abrahamic religions and you’ll see what I mean.
Without Judaism, There Would Be No Christianity or Islam
Believe it or not, there is more than just one thing that all three Abrahamic religions have in common. Aside from a belief in one G-d, these religions also believe in the words of the same prophets: Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac. Now, what do these prophets have in common with each other? They were all the patriarchs of the Jewish people who existed way before Christianity and Islam. Both religions also revere Moses as a holy prophet, yet Moses freed the Jews from Egypt and received the Jewish Torah on Mount Sinai. He didn’t receive the Quran or the Christian Bible, and his story stems around the slavery and exodus of, once again, the Jewish people.
Whenever a Christian or Catholic quotes Deuteronomy, they’re quoting from the Jewish texts. If you see anyone quoting psalms, they’re quoting prayers that were written by King David, a major figure in Jewish history. As a whole, Christianity and Catholicism have based their New Testament off the Torah while renaming it the “Old Testament”, thus merely acknowledging the roots. While both religions view Jesus’ last supper as a meal, he was actually observing a Passover Sedar on a Jewish holiday. The examples can go on, but I’m sure I’ve made my point.
This isn’t to say that any religion is better than the other but to merely point out the roots from the ground of which the world’s largest flowers have blossomed. Without Judaism, there would be no Jesus for Christians and Catholics to worship. Jesus was a Jew from the Galilee in Israel and all of his wisdom came from the Jewish Torah. His mother, Mary, was a Jew and so were their ancestors stemming back to Abraham himself. Yet, somehow this fact is conveniently forgotten as the alt-right throws a hand to Hitler and religious leaders like Reverand Al Sharpton live off a legacy of antisemitism and incitement.
Christians and Muslims Have Persecuted and Massacred Jews Throughout History, but Many People Forget It.
Of course, the Holocaust is the most notorious persecution of Jews, but did you know that nearly 800,000 Jews were kicked out of Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East? Did you know that their belongings were stripped from them while they were forced to leave behind their entire lives? And how about the “Farhud” which was a massacre of the Jews in Iraq in the 1800s? This was all at the hands of countries dominated by a religion that partially stems from the very people they were persecuting.
And how about the Spanish Inquisitions and the Crusades? Is it not ironic that both Christian and Catholic leaders opted to expel any Jew who refused to convert to their religion? And if we aren’t talking about mass murders and expulsions, let’s talk about antisemitism throughout history. Jews were blamed for the black plague and almost every other tragedy up to 9/11 and beyond. Not only that, but we are constantly stereotyped as controlling the media and the world through our “Zionist agenda”. These stereotypes and conspiracy theories, alongside our noses and alleged devil horns, are still perpetuated to this day in the same religious countries from which we’ve been executed and expelled.
Judaism Fed Western Society Its Values
With the West being heavily dominated by Judeo-Christian values, I feel like I almost don’t even have to explain this. The term “Judeo-Christian” should be enough of a description of how influential Judaism is. A flower can’t stand in a garden without the seeds that preceded, and this goes the same for the West. From the earliest days of the United States, the Hebrew Bible was weaved in the fabric of a blossoming nation. In fact, the earliest settlers in the United States compared their freedom from Brittain to that of the Jews and their exodus from Egypt. Taking it further, they wanted to instill HEBREW law within their community — It didn’t work out, but I’m sure you catch the drift.
Under the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is inscribed a verse from Leviticus, which came from the Jewish bible. The very first design for the official seal of the United States depicted the image of the Jewish exodus from Egypt with the Hebrew Bible being the main influence. Also, given that Sunday is the day of rest in America, it’s important to note that the concept came from the Jewish day of rest — Shabbat. I could go on and on, but my point is clear: our customs and traditions have fed the West almost everything they thrive off of, even if many people don’t care to realize it.
Antisemitism is on the Rise Worldwide, and People Still Stay Silent
With an uprise in antisemitic attacks on Jews in Brooklyn in the most recent times, the outrage has been silent. Every single day, an orthodox Jew has been assaulted, harassed, and now stabbed in their own homes during Chanukah. There was a shooting at a kosher market carried out by a Black Hebrew Israelite who wanted to shoot up a Jewish school, but the world was silent. It’s pretty clear that because the shooter wasn’t a white supremacist, it wasn’t worth the time of the same people who constantly cry out against racism, homophobia, Islamaphobia, sexism, and everything else but antisemitism.
Anti-Semitism is also sharply on the rise in Europe and has been for years. Within the last decade, attacks on Jews in France have peaked while calls for a renewal of Nazism in Hungary have become the norm. Many Jews live in fear in the very same place where they maintained their communities, even before and after the Holocaust. Due to the fact that German rappers can get away with chanting “f*ck the Jews” in the name of politics and still get rewarded, the fear is beyond valid. When a man can walk into an elderly Jewish woman’s apartment, shout “Allahu Akbar” at the top of his lungs, and slaughter her then get away with it because he was high on marijuana, the alarms can pierce your eardrums.
Because of all this, many Jews have been considering leaving Europe to escape what could be the biggest threat to their lives. Yet, you barely ever hear about this on CNN nor Fox News. There’s also barely any coverage on the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries and swastikas painted on Jewish property all over the world. Antisemitic attacks have dramatically increased within recent years, and most people are either too “woke” and napping on it or too busy raising a hand to Hitler under a white hood and sheet.
Silence Speaks Volumes and Even Louder at the Expense of Our Contributions
What hurts the most is that attacks on Jews will continue to rise, and almost nobody but the Jewish people will stand for us. People will continue to quote our bible and rest on Sunday while ignoring our suffering and the constant dangers we face every day. They’ll continue to worship a Jewish savior, dedicate an entire holiday season to him, and still spit on us in the streets, assault us, shoot us, and subject us to danger and hatred daily. Unless the assailant is a white supremacist, our tragedies will stay being like trees falling in the farthest forest because it doesn’t fit the mainstream narrative that only white supremacy is a danger to Jews and nothing else.
Society will continue to justify antisemitism based on the stereotype that all Jews are rich and therefore aren’t in danger when that’s far from the case. They’ll continue to justify terrorism against Israelis and call it “criticizing Israel” just to get away with a deep loathing for Jews. With Bernie Sanders running for president, it’s become even easier to turn an eye away from the truth just as people do by claiming racism doesn’t exist because we had a black president. The parallels are clear and the standards are double while the majority remain blissfully ignorant.
So Why Am I Talking About Appropriation?
When you live in a world where antisemitism is embraced, accepted, and brushed under the rug, you tend to feel chewed up and spat out while your flavor stays in the mouth of those who continue to chew. Around the world, Jews are constantly subject to horrid stereotypes that lead to nasty violence, yet people are silent. When our synagogues are shot up, most of the outrage turns towards gun control laws rather than actually addressing antisemitism. Even then, the majority of those who are partially outraged move on to the next trend of selective social justice and opinions. Altogether, it’s as if our contributions to the world are only good for use and abuse rather than appreciating the people behind it.
We live in a country where white supremacists pose a major threat to all marginalized groups, yet they still thrive off the bible — the very same bible built off the original that was the only one Jesus had because he was Jewish. Isn’t it ironic that the KKK worships a man who would’ve gassed Jesus if he were a German citizen in the 1930's? And how about the majority of Christians in the country who’ve never met a Jew yet continue to believe that we have devil horns and control the media? Or the very fact that to this day, there are still churches teaching their congregants the ancient antisemitic trope that we killed Jesus?
Jews around the world tired of antisemitism being normalized as if it’s not hatred when it’s political or a joke. It makes me sick that people will dedicate themselves to fighting against bigotry yet cosign antisemites like Louis Farrakhan as if calling Jews termites isn’t hateful. It’s even more nauseating that unless a white supremacist has carried out an attack, our pain isn’t worth the time and effort. People need to remember that when they’re praising Jesus, they’re worshipping someone who would’ve been gassed in the ovens if he were alive in Germany. We matter, our lives matter, and if society wants to educate those on cultural appropriation, it’s time we throw that of Judaism into the mix too.