It has been called “the world’s longest hatred.” It continues to rear its ugly head across countries and continents. Whether it manifests in the crude bigotry of the lower class or the snide subtleties of the upper crust, anti-Semitism is a fact of life.

Of course, we all wish it would finally go away. We even had reason to hope that after Auschwitz, it really would. Who among us doesn’t want to feel accepted and appreciated? But there is a strong argument to suggest that, in a perverse sort of way, anti-Semitism has been good for the Jews. The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre made that point in his book Anti-Semite & Jew. Without the constant reminders and threats to our existence, we Jews would have been lulled into a peaceful and passive state of national amnesia. Secure in our comfort zones, we might have lost much of our unique identity.

History records that under regimes that persecuted us, we remained steadfastly Jewish; whereas under more enlightened, liberal forms of government, we gradually embraced a welcoming but dominant culture, forfeiting much of our own.

Back in the ’70s, when I was working with Jewish university students, we were struggling to break through a wall of icy indifference towards Judaism. It was so frustrating that my colleagues and I even considered going onto campus in the dead of night to paint a few swastikas on the Student Union building, in the hope that this would jolt them out of their apathy. Of course, we never actually did it, but I confess to having been very tempted.

Towards the end of this week’s Parshah we read of the commandment to remember the unprovoked attack by the nation of Amalek against the Israelites when they left Egypt. The command comes in the form of the word zachor—“Remember”—at the beginning of the section. The final words are lo tishkach—“you shall not forget.” But why the need for both expressions? And what difference is there between “remembering” and “not forgetting”? Surely one is superfluous?

Commentaries suggest that “remember” is a command to the Jewish people, while “do not forget” would seem to be more of a prediction—i.e., they will not let you forget! Should you ever lapse into a false sense of security and forget your Jewishness, the anti-Semites of the world will be there to remind you who you are—“a people that dwells alone” (Numbers 23:9).

Everything has a purpose in creation. There is nothing superfluous in G‑d’s world. So what is the purpose of an anti-Semite? Just that—to remind Jews that they are Jewish!

But why wait for the Amalekites of this world to remind us? Do we want or need their taunting? Rather, let us be proactively Jewish, positively Jewish and Jewishly positive. You can sing the old Yiddish song one of two ways. Either it is Oy, es iz gut tzu zein a yid (“Oh, it is good to be a Jew . . .”) or Oy, es iz shver tzu zein a yid (“Oy, it is hard to be a Jew . . .”). There are a million good reasons, positive reasons, to be proudly Jewish. If seventy years ago being Jewish carried a death sentence, today it is a life sentence, promising a meaningful and blessed life. And when we decide to live proud, committed Jewish lives, we make a fascinating discovery: when we respect ourselves, the world respects us too. And that applies across the board, from the individual Jew to the collective Jewish community.

Judaism is a boon, not a burden. We should be staunch about our heritage. It is a badge of honor to wear with noble pride. If you don’t know why, go and study—but that’s another sermon.