The Origins of Antisemitic Conspiracies

Antisemitism has always been around, but one thing’s for sure: Over the past few years, this centuries-old prejudice has taken on a more violent face in the U.S. This week, we’re unpacking some of the antisemitic ideas we see in America today and trying to identify the conspiracy theories that drive them. Antisemitism isn’t just a right-wing issue. The Left has its own antisemitic agenda as well. After watching the video, use the prompts below to learn more and get your students thinking.

  1. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the infamous forged antisemitic text from 1903 lays out “the Jewish plan for global domination” based on plans to take over which of the following areas of society?
    • Media
    • Financial institutions
    • Politics
    • All of the above
  2.  True or false? The antisemitic trope of Jews controlling the world exists only on the far right of the political spectrum.
  3. What does BDS stand for?
    • Bridge, Develop and Sustain
    • Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
    • Build, Discuss, Share
    • Bully, Demonize, Swear
  4.  What claim did the book “The Talmud and the Jews” make?
    • The Talmud is a book that inspired Jews to kill non-Jews
    • That Jews had studied the Talmud and promoted education for generations
    • That Jews were a foreign people planning to conquer Russia and divide it amongst themselves
    • That the Talmud was an instruction guide for the Jews of how to control the economy
  1. Watch the first minute of this video depicting the now infamous “Jews will not replace us” chant from Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. How do you interpret this chant? After discussing, watch this clip of Bari Weiss on “Real Time With Bill Maher” (beginning at 2:50) in which both Bari Weiss and Bill Maher explain that the chant “Jews will not replace us” is a conspiracy theory that Jews control the world. Does Weiss’s articulation of the chant change the way you think about this chant? Discuss.
  2. The BDS movement pushes a narrative that the Jews are settler colonialists seeking domination of an indigenous population. Alternatively, Rudy Rochman, an Israeli-Jewish rights activist, makes the case that Jews are indigenous to the Land of Israel in this video. Debate these two perspectives and think about the following question: Why do you think the BDS movement is trying to argue that Jews are not native to the Land of Israel? How does that help them achieve their objectives?
  3. Controversial and provocative but influential Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Leibovitz has said that “antisemitism is not a Jewish problem, but a non-Jewish problem.” In what ways is he right and in what ways might he be wrong? Evaluate your own perspective on Leibovitz’s claim.
  4. Read the following article which demonstrates two different ways to spell the term antisemitism. Discuss what you think the proper spelling for antisemitism should be. With or without a hyphen? Why?
  5. Have you ever experienced antisemitism in your own life? What happened and how did it make you feel?
  1. Can your students identify antisemitism? Use Natan Sharansky’s3D test” to help your students recognize modern antisemitism. Note that Sharansky identifies anti-Zionism as antisemitism. Additionally, the United States Holocaust Museum provides resources on teaching about antisemitism.
  2. Watch  Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s videos about antisemitism and about the relationship between antisemitism, anti-Zionism, Judaism and Israel. Engage in a group discussion about the lessons from the videos after watching. Ask your students to create a venn diagram with the terms antisemitism and anti-Zionism. Are they entirely separate, is there overlap or are they one and the same? Is anti-Zionism the same as antisemitism?
  3. Use the following educational resources from Facing History about the roots and impact of antisemitism.
  4. Watch this interview of Bari Weiss and utilize the accompanying educational resources.
  5. Give your students our Kahoot on antisemitism.

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