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Anti-religious prejudice – sadly, nothing new?

July 13, 2009 – 11:29 pm12 Comments

incognitoBy Rachel Sacks-Davis

I’m sure that it’s no coincidence that the (few) people that I know who have been victims of violent anti-Semitic attacks in Australia have all been religious. Religious Jews who dress in religious garb are more easily identified as Jews, so it makes sense that they would bear a disproportionately large brunt of anti-Jewish sentiment. A state of affairs which might leave those of us whose clothing is not obviously Jewish blissfully ignorant. I wonder whether it is really necessary to spend some time walking around with a kippa or equivalent before making any judgement about the prevalence (or otherwise) of anti-Semitism.

Of course, in all likelihood, frum Jews not only experience more anti-Semitic sentiment, but also experience a degree of anti-religious sentiment. My feeling is that a large segment of Australian society are willing to tolerate people of diverse origins but unfortunately remain hostile towards those that are perceived to be less integrated into mainstream Australian culture.

In this vein, I wonder whether those Indian-Australians who believed that Indian students were victims of violent crime because they were not integrated received more airtime because that view was shared by many other Australians.

In some cases these sentiments are masked in supposedly rational ideology. For example, sentiment against the hijab that claims to protect the rights of Muslim women. Does the convention of wearing a head-scarf (common in the Middle East) really undermine women’s rights any more than the convention of women covering their breasts?

Possibly as a consequence of an Australian predilection for integration, I wonder whether there are also some Jews who feel embarrassed by Jews who are less integrated than themselves. There are many stories about tension between anglo-Jews and post-war European Jewish immigrants, presumably due in part to cultural cringe on the part of those who were already well integrated into Australian society.

Is it possible that prejudice against frum Jews is simply another manifestation of this cultural cringe?

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