I recall a tradition of previous Jewish generations that when one passed a church they would spit. A gesture of animus rooted in a cultural memory or perhaps an experience of hostility in the shadow of the cross.
Benjamin Disraeli said it with bitter eloquence, “The Jews are a nervous people. Nineteen centuries of Christian love have taken its toll”. Though every now and then there was a break from anti-Semitic vitriol, it was typically an unpleasant factor of European life for our ancestors. Crusades. Ghettos. Inquisitions. Assorted humiliations. Forced Baptisms. Expulsions. The Christian Church was not a bastion of enlightenment but a corrupt force of persecution, perverting the name of God. Yes indeed. Christian love has taken its toll. But cross the ocean and our American encounter with Christianity is much different. Yes, there was father Coughlin and Klan cross burnings but American Christianity is a whole lot different than its European counterpart. Though our numbers are significantly, ridiculously smaller we get top billing when referring to the Judeo-Christian faith. We are treated with reverence, equality, respect though barely two percent of the population. There is a Jewish presence sought in virtually every significant religious, educational and political endeavor. Rabbis, Priests, Ministers share the same rank. And so, why, when we extend to our neighbors wishes for a Merry Christmas and wishes for a Happy Easter on our marquee are some of our folks offended and disturbed? Would we be repelled if churches extended Shannah Tova and Good Yuntiff greetings to us publicly on their marquees? Would we reject their public statements of solidarity on Israel? The Holocaust? Anti-Semitism? Would we tell them not to visit Israel? Buy Israeli bonds? Plant trees in the Galil? Conduct Pesach seders?
We cannot just be tolerance takers but we must be tolerance givers as well. Good will goes both ways.