Modern Day Anti-Semitism vs Medieval Anti-Semitism

The Origins of Anti-Semitism

The word "anti-Semitism" was first used to describe the anti-Jewish conflicts in central Europe in 1879. The phrase suggests that Arabs and other Semites are subject to discrimination. The phrase is an odd way to describe Arabs' and other Semites' anti-Jewish prejudices, statements, and deeds. Nazis (National Socialists) took anti-Semitism to genocidal lengths by extending it along racial lines. The holocaust deaths initially started with thoughts, words, stereotypes, evil, cartoons, as well as the slow spread of hatred. Religious distinctions, attitudes, and behaviors between Jews and non-Jews are characteristics of medieval anti-Semitism. Conversely, the modern day anti-Semitism gets understood in terms of racism and conspiracy theories that it is grounded on. The essay majorly compares the medieval and the contemporary anti-Semitism with the aim of bringing out issues that differentiate them.

Medieval Anti-Semitism

Medieval anti-Semitism was based on the religious practices and considerations of the Jews.

Religious Practices and Considerations

Firstly, Jews were believed to be imitators of the Catholic faith thus celebrated Eucharist in their doctrines. They got accused of a blood liberal which means they were drinking the blood of Christian children in the name of Christian Eucharist. A child would be kidnapped, tortured, mocked, tried and later condemned to death. He would be crowned with thorns and tied to a wooden cross, and the blood from the wounds would get emptied into bowls and drunk. Later, magic rituals would get performed to the corpse before it gets disposed. This signified the Jewish crucifixion of Jesus and was interpreted to mean that Jews were thirsty of the innocent and pure blood therefore substituted Jesus death with the innocent Christian children. Additionally, Jews got accused of desecrating hosts consecrated in the reenactment of the crucifixion. Such deeds culminated to the death penalty.

The Jewish Rejection of Christianity Conversion

Comparatively, it was believed that the Jewish rejection of Christianity conversion signaled anti-Christ service and the inborn disloyalty to European. Nevertheless, Jews conversion was perceived as insincere as well as for materialistic motives. The perception was the basis of Jews hatred leading to its manifestations concerning riots against the Jews. Residents instigated such riots through authorities' encouragement. They were termed as pogroms and were mostly triggered by rumors of blood liberal. Subsequently, Jews became scapegoats for satanic and blasphemous practices in Europe. For instance, parishioners and clerics preached that Jews caused the Black Death that resulted to the demise of millions of black people in Europe.

Distinctive Jewish Attire

Jews in the medieval period were to wear something that distinguished them from non-Jews. One could either be seen in a Jewish robe, hat or a colored piece of cloth shaped like a star, circle or a square. Further, they were instructed to wear badges to distinguish their social status from the rest. Some of the badges worn were prestigious while others dehumanized Jews as prostitutes and lepers.

Modern Day Anti-Semitism

The group dated from 1688 and comparably was different from medieval anti-Semitism as it majored on racist instead of religious considerations. Despite the enlightenment period that brought about intellectual liberation, anti-Semitism continued thriving. Notably, it was facilitated by nationalistic sentiments against Jews that spoke and practiced culture different from the native populations. The Zion elders' procedures and the anti-Semitic theorist prompted Jews hatred serving as the preamble to Nazi views about them.

Racist Beliefs

Modern-day anti-Semitism has a basis on the idea that comprised of an inferior race. Modernists held that a Jew was a Jew not because it was a character of his or her blood. Enlightenment period worked to the advantage of the Jews as it prevented their persecution by introducing philosophical ideas necessary for harmonious living. Such ideas advocated for the use of human reason via rational thought in solving problems and serving as ethical systems for the living. The discoveries by the philosophers and scientists during this period substantially contradicted and problematized the church rule. Such discrepancies resulted in an attack of superstition and the non-secular control of Europe in addition to Jews religious and mystical beliefs as well as their separatist ways. More so the philosophers accused Jews of national problems.

Nationalistic Sentiments

Enlightenment period led to nationalistic feelings where people got defined according to their nationality. People from the same nation are united and share language, culture, socio-economic activities, geographical boundaries as well as value systems. Together, they pledge loyalty to the nation. On the other hand, Jews did not share anything in common hence were seen as threats to the nationalistic movement, a fact that resulted in them becoming targets of anti-Semitic persecution.

Continued Anti-Semitic Elements

Significantly, Christians continued with strong anti-Semitic elements regardless of the increasing attempts to separate racial anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism. Catholic organizations banned candidates from the Jews race unless it was clear that one's lineage belonged to the Catholic Church. However, conspiracy theorists were against this and redefined anti-Semitism in two ways; either good or bad anti-Semitism. The bad anti-Semitism which prompted Jews hatred by their descent got considered unchristian since it was against the Christian message that intended for all regardless of ethnicity.


Conclusively, medieval anti-Semitism and modern-day anti-Semitism contrast in the ideas they are grounded on. Although all of them involve violence against the Jews, the level of violence differs as the medieval checks on all religious acts that register differences. On the contrary, modern-day anti-Semitism is only based on racism thus rarely results in destruction. The progression from medieval, enlightenment to modern period informs people on the impacts of violence resulting in minimal or no violence at all.


Chazan, Robert. From Anti-Judaism to Anti-Semitism: Ancient and Medieval Christian

Constructions of Jewish History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Cressey, David, and Lori Anne F. (Eds.). Religion and Society in Early Modern England.

London: Routledge, 1996.

Johnson, Hannah R. "Stories People Tell: The Blood Libel and the History of Anti-Semitism."

Law & Literature 28.1 (2016): 11-26.

Trachtenberg, Joshua. The Devil and the Jews: The Medieval Conception of the Jew and Its

Relation to Modern Anti-Semitism. USA: World Publishing co., 1961.

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