What is prejudice?
The word prejudice means to pre-judge, to make up your mind about someone before you know anything about them. When you first meet someone, what is the first thing you notice? Their hair, the colour of their skin, their clothes and the way they speak? We often make instant judgments about each other, which later prove to be untrue.
Most people feel more comfortable in their own group, gang or tribe. People are often frightened of difference because it feels unfamiliar and can seem threatening. It is easy for us to blame someone else when things go wrong.
Sometimes the anger of the majority group is taken out on another group. Practically every society throughout history has blamed one group or another for what goes wrong in that society. This is known as scapegoating.
What is antisemitism?
Antisemitism is the term used when people are prejudiced against Jews just because they are Jewish. Antisemitism is a modern racial term that was invented in 1879 by a German journalist called Wilhelm Marr. However, anti-Jewish feelings are much older than that.
About 2,000 years ago, Jesus, according to the story in the Gospels, was executed for treason. He was crucified, which was the Roman method of execution. A lot of early Christian teaching did not blame the Romans; it blamed the Jews. As his followers later regarded Jesus as God, so killing him became known as the crime of ‘deicide’ (killing of God). In many cases religious conflict and antisemitism went hand in hand.