A growing subculture blames Jews, rather than Islamic extremists, for the attack on the World Trade Center. A Greek-Orthodox priest has proclaimed that Jews have no place in the Arab world, while the president of Syria accuses them of using Hitler-like tactics in Israel. These were a few examples that three religious scholars provided as evidence of the resurgence in anti-Semitic sentiment during a Feb. 25 symposium at Fordham titled “The New Anti-Semitism: Ancient Antagonisms Aroused?” “The assaults, arson, vandalism, desecration of cemeteries, all motivated by anti-Jewish hatred, may not go unnoticed,” said the Rev. Gerald Blazszcak, S.J., Fordham University Chaplain. Fordham co-sponsored the symposium with the Center for Jewish History and the American Sephardi Federation. Moderator Suzanne Last Stone, J.D., of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law noted that recent incidents present a new face for an old problem.

It used to be that anti-Semitism was a religious and ideological phenomenon. Nowadays, it is also a political one that demonizes Israel, claiming that Jews should not be entitled to political expression, Stone said. Anti-Semitism in the Islamic culture dates back to the days of Muhammad and his 114 revelations described in the Koran, according to Ronald C. Kiener, Ph.D., associate professor of theology at Trinity College in Hartford. “[Islam’s] core religious literary records are filled with contradictory pronouncements about the Jews,” he said during the symposium, which filled Fordham’s McNally Amphitheater. The Koran is the most cited [text]in the debate about Islam’s true feelings about the Jews. During his sojourn in Mecca, Muhammad provided several verses of admiration for the Jews and the Torah. However, following his move to Medina and three great battles in which the Jews reneged on an agreement to fight, Muhammad’s admiration turned to admonishment, Kiener said.

Today, this disdain has descended into accusations of Jewish doctors poisoning Islamic children. “This is the new bottom of hatred that we encounter today,” Kiener said. Christians have had a similarly sordid past pertaining to Jews, according to the Rev. John T. Pawlikowski, O.S.M., professor of social ethics and director of the Catholic Jewish Studies Program at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. However, Pope John Paul II has labeled anti-Semitism a sin and encouraged Catholics to forge new bonds with the Jewish community. “With the Catholic Church as a signatory of [the Israeli/Vatican Accord], it is the church’s obligation to examine forms of anti-Semitism when they surface in Catholic organizations and society,” Pawlikowski said. This charge has not been easy. According to Pawlikowski, the church has been slow to respond in instances where old stereotypes have resurfaced in Europe. “It is the responsibility of Christians never to allow [anyone]to bring up old caricatures of Jews,” he said. Anti-Semitism is intolerable from a Christian perspective and cannot be acceptable in any situation.