Years ago on a trip to Paris with my then 16-year-old daughter, we visited a score of museums: the Louvre, of course, the magnificent Quai Branly, the Rodin museum, the Pompidou center, the Hugo house. Each had a small if cursory security check. Then we sought out the small, very fine Jewish museum in the Marais. Here, we passed through a double glass door that did not allow you to continue to the front until the back had closed. The saddest part was my daughter’s insouciance. “Did you notice the security?” I asked. She nodded, “Dad, it’s the Jewish museum.” There was nothing more to be said.
Antisemitism is a protean hatred. Jews have been hated for being communists and capitalists, for being weak and for being strong, for living in others’ lands and for establishing their own, for reasons theological, historical and purely visceral. The closing of a museum door is a small but potent reminder that hostility toward Jews still infects the world’s bloodstream — indeed in our day it is rising once again. It is a shattering moment when one realizes that one’s child takes that painful reality for granted.
Rabbi David Wolpe’s musings are shared in My Jewish Learning’s Shabbat newsletter, Recharge, a weekly collection of readings to refresh your soul. Sign up to receive the newsletter.