Eradicating Antisemitism

By Ambassador Callista L. Gingrich

As the Israel-Hamas war enters its third week and threatens to expand into a broader conflict, the devastating violence continues to wreak havoc on the region. At the time of this writing, more than 1,400 Israelis and 7,300 Palestinians have been killed, and 229 people are being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. 

As the carnage persists, an America’s New Majority Project poll recently found that more than 75 percent of Americans are closely following the news about the Israel-Hamas war in the Middle East. 

While a majority of voters agree that Israel must do what is necessary to destroy Hamas, and that Hamas is responsible for Palestinian civilian casualties, the outlandish defense of Hamas’s atrocities across the United States– particularly on university campuses – raises great concern.

American universities ought to be centers where ideas, debates, and opinions are freely exchanged, but many, instead, have fostered hateful, antisemitic ideology among the student population. A recent Harvard CAPS/Harris poll found that 48 percent of voters between 18-24 support Hamas in the current conflict.

According to Steven Davidoff Solomon, a corporate law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, “Universities have been engaging for far too long in moral equivocation, and terrorist attacks against innocents should be condemned and not justified.”

Amidst escalating tensions on college campuses, 20-year old Melanie Schwartz, a junior at Cornell, told The Washington Post, “Jewish students are fearful and isolated.”

To help students facing hostility on college campuses, Franciscan University of Steubenville, a private Catholic university in Ohio, has created an expedited transfer process. 

“[W]ith too many universities preaching tolerance but practicing prejudice, we feel compelled to do more. We are witnessing a very troubling spike in antisemitism and serious threats against Jewish students. We want to offer them the chance to transfer immediately to Franciscan,” Father Dave Pivonka, president of Franciscan University, said.

Although Franciscan achieved record-high enrollment this academic year, university administrators are committed to accommodating and creating a safe haven for Jewish transfer students.

“Our community will welcome them with generosity and respect,” Father Pivonka said. “Our religious differences will not cause any conflict. On the contrary, at Franciscan, our radical fidelity to Christ and the Catholic faith demands of us fraternal charity toward our Jewish brothers and sisters, as it does toward all people.”

In recognition of the need to combat antisemitism in the U.S., Franciscan University recently partnered with The Philos Project, a community of Christians who seek to promote positive Christian engagement in the Near East,to cosponsor a joint conference, Nostra Aetate and the Future of Catholic-Jewish Relations at a Time of Rising Antisemitism

The conference focused on addressing antisemitism, “one of the biggest social problems that we’re facing,” according to President of The Philos Project Robert Nicholson. 

Additionally, the conference discussed the significance of Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the Relation of the Catholic Church to Non-Christian Religions, promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1965.  The Declaration marked a turning point in relations between the Catholic Church and Judaism by emphasizing the Jewish roots of the Christian faith and the condemnation of antisemitism.

In the aftermath of World War II, the Catholic Church under Pope Pius XII faced criticism that not enough was done to support our Jewish brethren. In March 2020, Pope Francis opened the Vatican Archives and made the documents of Pope Pius XII’s wartime pontificate accessible for study. Recent discoveries prove, according to German historian Dr. Michael Hesemann, that Pope Pius XII’s efforts “did more to save Jews and to stop the killings, than any politician or religious leader of his time.”

According to Dr. Hesemann, “What has to be rewritten is the ‘black legend’ of the silent and disinterested Pope… Today, we know that Pius XII not only mentioned the horrible fate of the Jews in three public speeches but also tried to save as many as possible.”

As Dr. Hesemann explained to Vatican News, “[I]n 235 monasteries and convents, 4,205 Jews were hidden, plus 160 in Vatican City. Of 3,200, we know the names, thanks to the newly discovered list. Eventually, about 6,400 of the Roman Jews, or 80 percent survived the Holocaust, more than anywhere else where a SS-razzia happened.” 

Today, we see this same fervor among the faithful to bring peace and aid to those affected by the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Amid the current war in the Middle East, Pope Francis has ardently called for an end to the violence and noted that “terrorism and war bring no solutions, but only to the death and suffering of many innocent lives. … Let us pray for peace.”

As the brutality of the Israel-Hamas war wages on, we must eradicate antisemitism and offer our prayers for peace in the Middle East.