The worst attack on Jews in American history shook a Pittsburgh synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath when a gunman fatally shot 11 congregants. The onslaught capped a 57 percent jump in anti-Semitic aggressions last year, according to an Anti-Defamation League audit. The FBI's most recent data shows that while hate crimes facing Muslims has risen 24.5 percent, those against Jews reached a whopping 54.4 percent. Anti-religious bigotry is clearly raging. Why?

Taking sides

The Guardian points to Trump's assertion of equivalency between the torch-bearing white supremacists marching Nazi-style in Charlottesville last year and those protesting the march.

“There was blame on both sides,” he said. “You had people that were very fine people on both sides.” Whatever Trump's part in Jew-hating, it didn't start in the US. It's a European import that laid dormant after WWII and is wide-awake now. Alexandra Schwartz makes the point in the New Yorker magazine this week: “The British Labor Party has been riven by accusations of anti-Semitism among its leadership. French Jews have emigrated to Israel in unprecedented numbers. In Sweden synagogues and Jewish centers have been firebombed.”

Racist Renoir

Jew-hating in Europe also crept into the minds of its best-known artists like Renoir. A National Review report on the French Impressionist's show at the Phillips Collection in D.C.

last year - “Was Renoir a Racist?' - pointed to one of the dozen figures in “Luncheon of the Boating Party” wearing a top hat with his back to the viewer. Long-identified as Charles Ephrussi, art critic for the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, who was Jewish. Curator Sara Tas credited him in the exhibit catalog for making a “substantial difference in the painter's career.” Why, then, was a critic who mattered so much to Renoir's success pictured from his backside?

By way of explanation, Tas says Jews were “seldom trusted.” ” At this point, you may conclude, if you haven't already, that Anti-Semitism makes no sense. Surely Renoir trusted the very man who made him so popular. Bigotry clearly is mindless – even if you factor in the Dreyfus Affair, the French military scandal at the end of the 19th century.

Big divide

As history shows, an artillery officer in the French army, Captain Alfred Dreyfus - the highest ranking soldier of Jewish descent - was wrongly accused of passing military secrets to the German embassy. Tried in a swift court marshall trial closed to the press, he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's Island where he languished for five years before he was vindicated. Artnet News recounted this story in 2016, noting how the trial divided France between supporters of the military and those who thought Dreyfus didn't get a fair trial and petitioned for a new one. Renoir not only refused to sign, but he also denounced the family of Pissarro, who was a Jew, as part of “that Jewish race of tenacious cosmopolitans and draft-dodgers who come to France only to make money.” How he overlooked Dreyfus military service is a puzzle.

As I say, this anti-Jewish state of mind is, well, mindless.

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