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Baseless Hate: Deconstructing anti-Semitism

Yad Vashem’s free online course explores 2,000 years of anti-Semitism, addressing the major questions surrounding its nature and evolution

Video lecture from the online course 'Antisemitism: From its origins to the Present.' (Yad Vashem)
Video lecture from the online course 'Antisemitism: From its origins to the Present.' (Yad Vashem)

“I’ve read much on Jewish history, yet the subject of anti-Semitism has always been something I’ve never understood; I am hoping this course will help.” Jane Gough, online course participant

“As a son and grandson of Auschwitz survivors, I have always been interested in the root cause and history of anti-Semitism and hope to be able to educate others rather than just point at World War II.” Gary Frenkiel, online course participant

What are the origins of anti-Semitism? How has it changed throughout history?

Anti-Semitism is most commonly defined as a hatred of Jews, and the wide range of acts, rhetoric, thoughts and sentiments this hatred evokes. Yet for a word that is so commonly used, its boundaries and expressions often come into scholarly, political and public debate.

A fascinating online course created by Yad Vashem, entitled “Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present,” is now available for a limited time on the UK FutureLearn digital educational platform.

The course navigates more than 2,000 years of history, attempting to answer many of the major questions surrounding the evolution and nature of anti-Semitism, including: How has anti-Semitism served a range of cultures, societies and ideologies? What is it about anti-Semitism that enabled it to become the driving force behind one of the worst atrocities of our times – the Holocaust? What happened to anti-Semitism after the Holocaust? And how do Israel and Zionism fit into the story of anti-Semitism?

“Holocaust education and the study of anti-Semitism, particularly its contemporary forms, have become – in many contexts and for many purposes – interlinked,” explains Dr. Naama Shik, director of the e-Learning Department at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies. “Effective educational activity about the one involves and requires knowledge regarding the other. In an era when there is a worrying rise in anti-Semitism, there is an increasing need to learn about and understand this phenomenon of hate and recognize how to confront it.”

The six-week course is based on short video lectures presented by 50 leading researchers and public figures from Yad Vashem and from around the world: historians, sociologists, linguists, philosophers and political scientists, as well as policy-makers and religious leaders. Its first half deals with the evolution of anti-Semitism until the Holocaust, while the second half explores anti-Semitism in our world today, focusing on movements and developments such as the alt-right in the United States, far-right parties in Europe, the BDS movement, and alleged anti-Semitism in the British Labour Party.

The topic of anti-Semitism is emotionally — and often politically — charged, particularly when dealing with the contemporary world and with heated topics such as anti-Zionism, criticism of the State of Israel, and what should and should not be defined as “anti-Semitism” or “anti-Semitic.”

One of the main goals of the course is to therefore present a coherent, thematic and balanced overview of the subject, one that can be accessible to a wide variety of audiences, and that will enable its learners to better understand this age-old phenomenon as well as gain the knowledge necessary to identify it.

Join more 10,000 learners from around the globe who have already taken and benefited from this course.

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