What Causes Antisemitism?

Antisemitism is rising at alarming rates around the globe, yet there is no rational or logical reason for it. Rather, it is Hashem’s way of ensuring that Jews remain distinct from non-Jews. When antisemitism rises, we must distance ourselves from the non-Jewish culture. 

4 min

Kalever Rebbe

Posted on 14.05.24

“And I have distinguished you from the peoples, to be Mine.” (Vayikra 20:26) 


Everyone has seen the rise in antisemitism throughout the world. It is worth exploring the root and source of this hatred. The greatest secular minds have struggled to understand this hatred and they have failed to identify a rational explanation. 

Once we understand the root cause of antisemitism, we will be able to answer the question that everyone seems to be grappling with: what can we do about it? 


Why Do They Hate Us? 

Throughout the generations, we have realized there is no explanation for antisemitism. There is no rational root cause for this hatred. For, no matter where we are, regardless of one’s level of observance and the lifestyle one chooses to live, there are antisemites who make contradictory accusations. 

When antisemites see wealthy Jews, they claim that Jews unfairly control world economies. And, when they see impoverished Jews, they accuse them of being an economic drag on society. They always find different excuses to justify their hatred. And those accusations change with the circumstances that are presented. But the hatred is constant. 

We clearly see that antisemitism is irrational and illogical. Nothing is a catalyst for this hatred. Rather, it is a specific and unique reality created by Hashem’s Hashgacha Pratis, His Divine Design for this world. 


A History of Antisemitism 

Chazal and the tzaddikim have taught us that everything that occurs in this world and everything we experience, serves the singular purpose of our benefit, helping us achieve our unique and precious role in this world through observing the directives of the Torah. 

Hashem orchestrates antisemitism, to prevent us from assimilating or even learning from our host cultures, which would pull us away from our mission in this world. 

We first saw this in Egypt. The Zohar HaKodesh explains (Shemot 14b) a reason for the exile in Egypt, because the Egyptians hated the Jews. They despised them, and this hatred prevented the Egyptians from even being willing to marry the Jews. Therefore, in Egypt, because of antisemitism, there was no intermarriage. This enabled the Jews to raise pure, holy families that did not assimilate or mingle with the Egyptians. 

We also saw this during the time of Achashverosh. Chazal taught (Megillah 97b) that Haman sought his decree against the Jews because they benefited from the Achashverosh’s banquet. Mordechai pleaded with the Jews not to attend. However, many Jews decided to go, and they mingled and socialized with the non-Jews. They started behaving like them. To rectify this, Hashem utilized the decree of Haman and the king of destroying the Jews to reestablish the boundaries and to cease the assimilation. Once the Jews heeded that lesson, the decrees were nullified. 

Chazal taught (Sanhedrin 97b), that the same thing is in every generation, whenever the Jews assimilated into the non-Jewish secular culture, when they start behaving like non-Jews, Hashem sends them a king that institutes harsh decrees like Haman. Once the Jews do teshuva, those decrees vanish, and their lives once again return to normal. 


The Reform Movement 

The founder of Reform Judaism believed that the Jews were hated because they acted and looked different. He adopted and preached that people should be a “Jew in their home, and a regular person when in public.” He promised that by acting and looking like non-Jews, antisemitism would stop, and the Jews would be embraced by society. 

However, the Holocaust proved that this philosophy was misguided and wrong. Instead of Reformed Judaism, which originated in Germany, spreading and ushering in an era of peace, the Holocaust brought in horrors and unimaginable antisemitism. The Germans did not differentiate between Reform and Observant Jews. Even Jews who converted were hunted down. Anyone with Jewish lineage in their family history was persecuted. 

There was a convention for the Reform movement in Braunschweig where they agreed to endorse intermarriage. Afterwards, R’ Yisroel Salanter, zt”l, said, “The ‘permission’ granted by the Reform Movement will be revoked by the non-Jews.” Indeed, the notorious Nuremberg Laws, which was the Nazi platform for racial laws, was later enacted, which outlawed intermarriage. 

R’ Yisroel from Chotrkov, zt”l, passed away at the beginning of Hitler’s rise to power. Before his passing, the Rebbe declared: “When Hashem saw the risk of assimilating in Egypt increased, He created a hatred between the Egyptian and Jews. As the pasuk says (Tehillim 105:25), He turned their heart to hate His people… Now that Jews are assimilating in increased numbers, I fear that they grant the Heavens permission to allow this evil regime to spread to other countries.” 

We also see nowadays that the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz Yisroel has not abated this hatred. In fact, the country is surrounded by nations that want to destroy it. They want to annihilate the Jewish people who live there, even the most secular Jews who want to live in peace with these nations. 

The pasuk says (Eichah 1:17), “Zion spreads out her hands [for help], but there is none to comfort her; the Lord has commanded concerning Jacob [that] his adversaries shall be round about him; Jerusalem has become an outcast among them”. The seforim explain that it is a Divine Kindness that all the neighboring non-Jewish nations hate Israel. For, that hatred helps strengthen their identity as Jews and prevents them from assimilating. 


A Unique Relationship 

When a man marries a woman, he says, “Behold, you are holy to me”. The seforim explain that the most impactful word in that sentence is “to me”. That word alone demonstrates that the wife is holy to him and forbidden to the rest of the world. Hashem uses this same word with the Jewish people when He said (Shemot 25:8), And they shall make Me a sanctuary… This identifies the Jewish people has holy and designated for Hashem; a relationship that no other nation can have. 

This is the promise Hashem is declaring in our pasuk when it says “and I have distinguished you from the peoples”… Hashem will always ensure that there is a separation between the Jews and non-Jews. In other “to be Mine”… That separation will exist so that our commitment and our relationship remain solely connected with Hashem and not the non-Jewish nations. 

This idea is also alluded to by the acronym (א מ ה ל) that is created from the words of the pasuk:

א’בדיל א’תכם מ‘ן ה’עמים ל’היות ל’י -I have distinguished you from the peoples”.

This acronym is the same as ה’רי א’ת מ‘קודשת ל‘י- Behold, you are holy to me (the words said by a groom to his bride). 

Therefore, when there are times when antisemitism is increasing throughout the world, Jews cannot spend their time trying to understand it. They cannot end antisemitism with a strategy or advocacy.

Rather, during times like these, the Jews need to be inspired to change their behavior and to distance themselves further from non-Jewish culture. 

You also need to help Jews enroll their children in Jewish schools where they can be protected from cultural influences. 

In the merit of this commitment, Hashem will save us from the hands of those who hate the Jews and wish to destroy them. 


The Kalever Rebbe is the seventh Rebbe of the Kaalov Chasidic dynasty, begun by his ancestor who was born to his previously childless parents after receiving a blessing from the Baal Shem Tov zy”a, and later learned under the Maggid of Mezeritch zt”l. The Rebbe has been involved in outreach for more than 30 years and writes weekly emails on understanding current issues through the Torah. Sign up at www.kaalov.org.   

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