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December 17, 2014 / 25 Kislev, 5775
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My Encounter With Jew-Hatred

Father Gabriel Rochelle

Father Gabriel Rochelle

I was in one of those big box stores in another city, waiting for a prescription. I was wearing my cassock and vest and skufia (priest’s cap).

I had attended the New Mexico Orthodoxy clergy April meeting and stopped on my way home to fill a prescription, because it was significantly less expensive than at our home pharmacy.

Several people wheeled their carts past me and said hello or made various comments. Folks are not used to seeing clerical garb in public any more, not even on Roman Catholic priests, so people often will ask, “Oh what denomination are you?” That affords me the opportunity for the stock response, “I’m not in a denomination, I’m Orthodox,” which may or may not lead to further conversation.

She was wearing a flower print dress and a matching scarf. The cross around her neck was tasteful, not too prominent, but nevertheless was not a mere charm; she meant it as a statement. She was, I would guess, about 40. She did not ask about my “denomination.” She allowed as how she had once visited an Orthodox church in another city in the state.

In the next breath she quietly said something like, “You’ve got to be careful whom you talk to, because many people who call themselves Christians have given up the true faith.” I realized this might go rapidly downhill, so I simply agreed with her on the theory that she would wheel away at this point.

I was wrong.

She said, “You’ve got to be careful about the Jews, because you know they have taken over Hollywood and Wall Street and all the newspapers.” At this point I looked for any exit I could find, but the prescription was not yet ready.

I said, “Where do you get such slanted information?” She replied that she did not really attend a church, because most of them were bogus, but she trusted a handful of preachers she had found on YouTube. They were telling it “like it is,” including the stuff about the Jews secretly ruling everything.

I thought I would throw in a sarcastic quip about the Protocols of Zion, but I realized she would have received such a statement unblinkingly, as if it were the truth and meant I was beginning to bond with her in our secret knowledge about the state of the world.

I asked if she remembered that Jesus was a Jew and that the earliest church was and could only have been made up of Jews who followed him. She replied that the apostles Paul and Peter had argued about this, that Paul had won, and the Jews under Peter had lost, and nobody could force the Law on us anymore.

I said that Paul struggled mightily with the issue of the relationship between Jews and Christians and that he said God’s plan was to reunite us in some mysterious way at the end of time, but that for the moment we had to struggle to find our unity on the ground.

She stood upright, with a knowing look and narrowed eyes, and told me I was one of those “Christians” who had given up the faith. I heard the quotation marks in her tone of voice.

So I said in a loud voice, as the anger built within me, “These people are liars, they are leading you in the wrong direction, and you had better watch out for your soul.”

At this she hastily pushed her cart down the aisle of over-the-counter medicines and disappeared around the end cap of the next aisle. My heart was pounding. People were looking but trying not to.

I was rattled. I drove home the couple hundred miles, rolling the events over and over in my mind, looking for alternative ways I could have handled the situation. None appeared.

This incident reminded me, in a stark way, that we have not dismantled the tide of hatred for the Jews who “rule the world.” No matter how many decades it’s been since the Holocaust, an ocean of hostility persists, capable of rising to tidal levels in this one woman in a store on a sunny April afternoon. Most unnerving is that these attitudes and concepts and ideas are not at all perceived to be loony, twisted, or in any way prejudiced. They are simply perceived as the truth. And that’s that.

I look in the mirror and ask whether or not I am guilty of perpetuating these dangerous negative myths. I look away, confident that I personally am not. I have devoted a great chunk of my lifetime, energy and work to combating such nonsense. But then I remember that this teaching was not uncommon in churches for more than a millennium, and that in my own tradition pogroms often happened on Holy Thursday – when people were told the Jews killed Jesus.

On a scale of world history, it is only moments since many of us (not all) have given up the teaching of contempt. We have no choice; we have to remain vigilant. Kyrie eleison. Lord, have mercy.


About the Author: Father Gabriel Rochelle is pastor of St. Anthony of the Desert Orthodox Mission in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and a member of the steering committee of the Shalom Hartman Institute’s New Paths: Christians Engaging Israel Project.

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9 Responses to “My Encounter With Jew-Hatred”

  1. Thank you Father Gabrielle Rochelle for speaking up!!! That takes guts and a great character!!! G-d Bless you!!

    Now Europe can’t decide…but secretly does want us but afraid to admit it. It would be easier to hate Jews and hope we wouldn’t be far to make things better (i.e Spain financial disaster..’now welcoming all Jews’ who’s family was exiled )

  2. It, s when the politicians and intelagensia does th is I fear..Not some crazy women in a Walmart.

  3. Our messiah has not come yet…we are still waiting!!!

  4. Rachmiel Ben Ariel says:

    redbear358 writes "Hollywood is controlled by Jews, as well as many newspapers."

    Well, well, well! Aren't you der kleine Antisemit in your own devious way.

  5. Brigitte Erika de Kroon says:

    In my humble opinion, it is pretty daft anyhow, blaming an entire people for the good or bad deeds of some of their group. Good and evil men (and women) can be found in any tribe and/or nation throughout human history.

  6. Lize Bartsch says:

    Rachmiel Ben Ariel I think you could have been Sherlock Holmes!! Will keep you in mind if I have other problems to solve :) I can tell you one other thing and that is that I am not a strict Calvinist. I believe in the free will of man as well as the sovereignty of G-d and His foreknowledge even though in Scripture this is a seeming contradiction. Shalom to you!!

  7. Hashem speaks to anyone who seeks him, Jew or goy. Hashem ONCE spoke directly to the Jewish nation; but according to Hashem through His Prophets, they were not listening.

    Hashem speaks to whomever he pleases; man cannot determine this for Him. Of course, today, most have some Jewish blood in them, whether they can trace their ancestry or not.

    It is presumptive to say that Hashem DOES NOT speak to any particular individual, because none among men can determine the workings of His Way. Hashem speaks directly to those who approach Him in the right way, as did Abraham, Moses, and Jacob. This has less to do with Judaism than it has to do with a right spirit, mind and heart.

    Of course, the promise made to the nation in the past is unbroken. It is simply made to the whole world now, via the Diaspora and the assimilation into all nations. This is a Torah-based conceptualization, referenced time and again as being an aspect of the End Time.

    So, Hashem will speak directly to whoever pleases Him, no matter who among men finds it to be distasteful. Those who are jealous of this of course will never speak to Hashem directly; their attitude would directly preclude it.

    Hashem does not think in the same manner as men do, so his chosen ones are not any of the ones men would choose as righteous, or for their leaders.

    Which is both too bad and a great thing for mankind; as the chosen are thus unnoticed, and are therefore unseen by them. At least the chosen are thus safe, hidden under Hashem’s wings; and the universe thus goes on, for a little while longer…

  8. Rachmiel Ben Ariel says:

    I am on Facebook if you have any additional questions. I am glad to help you.

  9. Lize Bartsch says:

    So true!! Our Evangelical pastor and especially his daughter look very Jewish!!! They have all the Jewish facial characteristics including the nose!! The olive skin, dark hair, oval face, big eyes, etc. I love the Jewish features. We also have another missionary who said that his grand parents changed their surname when they came to the country (they were Jewish) to be able to intermarry with the white South Africans and he looks Jewish too and so does two of his 4 daughters. They are beautiful people in character aswell and very blessed to have them in our midst.

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