A Bilbel is a deliberately false allegation/accusation against a person or a people with the intent to harm the individual or group thus tainted. Some examples are the Dreyfus case, the matzohs baked with blood of Christian children, “Jews murdered Jesus,” Jews are rich and have all the money, etc. The perpetrators of these pronouncements use these tactics to express their anger, their venom, their poison, to feel superior, all knowing and rational, by spreading their diatribe, their hostilities, freely and without restraints. It gives them the proverbial “whipping boy.”
As a people we have suffered from these Bilbels for centuries and as individuals we have been tainted, excluded, and six million of our brethren were annihilated. Nazi Germany and its inhabitants were a primary example of the ultimate actions taken to justify their perpetrations. Children were torn from their parents, adults were sent to concentration camps, and ultimately to gas ovens, Jews were no longer permitted to own anything, spat on, tortured and diminished before they were killed in the most painful and brutal fashion.
Let us examine the final outcome of the Bilbels described. The Jewish people are now, in the twenty-first century, an infinitesimal number of the world’s population. Anti-Semitism has smeared those who are left. Intermarriage is at an all time high; Jews have hidden by becoming agnostics or unbelievers. We have hidden our identities lest we become victims of prejudices, of hatred. We, the chosen peopl,e have chosen to become unknown, to be likened to a foundling or an adopted child who does not know who he or she is and where he came from, who his mother and father were, where his characteristics came from, what he should believe, feel or be! We have even turned against one another and have become the victims. The Bilbel’s prejudices have finally turned one victim against another, believing the falsehoods that have turned into self hatred.
As a Jewish people, what do we do to feel accepted? There are many reactions to our beliefs and experiences and rejections. We hide our origins, become nonpersons and do not admit our Jewishness; we boast and stress our accomplishments, often pleading for attention and acceptance; we work very hard to achieve, to excel; we become “Wunder Kinder.” We have become the physicians (the healers), the attorneys (defenders of humanity and ourselves), the scientists, the philosophers, the thinkers, the doers. We have become the Jonas Salks, the Sabins. the Sigmund Freuds, the Rothschilds, the Yehudi Menuhins, the Isaac Sterns, the Einsteins.
Our accusers are often the dregs of society, the proverbial “riffraff,” the psychopaths, the ignorant, the angry, the criminals. It gives these folks an outlet for their feelings and a rationale for their actions.
The Bilbels that have been perpetrated have visible signs: Intermarriage and synagogue attendance which has become smaller yearly; fewer and fewer Jewish people are knowledgeable about their religion and the beliefs that comprise the Jewish religion. Official membership in our temples has declined considerably and synagogues throughout the country have merged as the result of this. Manufacturers/businesses which develop, sell and create kosher foods have taken a downturn, and so has our visibility as a people become sparse.
As students of history as applied to the present, let us remember that hiding is not the answer to eradicate the Bilbels that have been made and that are always a pathological solution for deviants. Let us enjoy our identity, be proud of our people, our accomplishments, and who we are. Let us never agree with our perpetrators, our enemies, but, like the Israelis, let us be strong and fight for our rights and our existence, and stand together with our “brothers” and our friends, whoever they are!
Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.