Michael Douglas Rediscovers Judaism After Son Targeted by Anti-Semites

Michael Douglas (Jim Ruymen / UPI)
Jim Ruymen / UPI

Actor Michael Douglas recently published an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times in which he condemned anti-Semitism and detailed how how he both reconnected with Judaism and found himself defending it through his son, Dylan.

Dylan, 14, had experienced the stinging burn of its wrath while the family was vacationing in Southern Europe this past summer. A man started shouting at him by the pool, bringing him to tears, because he was wearing a Star of David around his neck–a symbol of Judaism that also appears on the flag of Israel.

“Dylan, you just had your first taste of anti-Semitism,” Douglas wrote after explaining how he had approaching the man who verbally attacked his son, in what he described in the op-ed as a very unpleasant discussion.

Douglas is half-Jewish himself, on his father’s side. The European encounter reminded him of his own initial run in with Jew-hatred during high school.

“Now, half a century later, I have to defend my son. Anti-Semitism, I’ve seen, is like a disease that goes dormant, flaring up with the next political trigger,” he wrote.

Douglas outlined three reasons why anti-Semitism has returned to the forefront again with a “renewed vigilance”:

  1. A bad economy: Douglas points out that historically, anytime economic disparity becomes more apparent, Jews are “a convenient scapegoat rather than looking at the real source of their problems.”
  2. Irrational and misplaced hatred of Israel: He posits that far too many people incorrectly see Israel as being an apartheid state and “blame the people of an entire religion for what, in truth, are internal national-policy decisions.”
  3. Simple demographics: Europe alone is home to 30 million Muslims, which is twice the amount of the entire world’s Jewish population. Extremist elements within that Muslim society being spread via the Internet, Douglas posits, are directly fueling “Europe’s new epidemic of anti-Semitism.”

The recent attacks on Jews in a Paris supermarket by Islamic jihadists, an ensuing attack on Jews at a synagogue in Copenhagen, and a slew of anti-Semitic events throughout California (swastikas appearing at UC Davis, anti-Israel movements across college campuses, and general Jew-hatred), culminating with his son’s experience, are all part of what inspired Douglas to state what he wrote next: that it is the responsibility of both our religious leaders as well as regular citizens to take action against antisemitism.

Quoting Pope Francis, Douglas wrote: “It’s a contradiction that a Christian is anti-Semitic. His roots are Jewish. Let anti-Semitism be banished from the heart and life of every man and every woman.”

In sum, Douglas explained that combating anti-Semitism “is our challenge in 2015, and all of us must take it up. Because if we confront anti-Semitism whenever we see it, if we combat it individually and as a society, and use whatever platform we have to denounce it, we can stop the spread of this madness.”

His complete op-ed can be found here.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz