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Skip to 0 minutes and 27 secondsAntisemitism is a word many of us have heard and have come across in our world today. Be it in the news, in academic discourse, or in day-to-day conversation, it is the word we use to describe a hatred of Jews, and the wide range of acts, rhetoric, thoughts, and sentiments that this hatred evokes. Yet for a word which is commonly used, its boundaries and expressions often come into debate, bringing about scholarly, political, and public discussion and disagreement surrounding a range of questions. These begin with the most basic question of what does antisemitism actually mean and entail,

Skip to 1 minute and 4 secondsand continue with others, such as: What are the origins of antisemitism? Has it changed throughout history, and if so, how? What purpose does it serve? Why the Jews? Should all forms of Jew hatred be defined as antisemitism? How can antisemitism appear among diverse cultures and even among opposing ideologies? What is it about this form of hate that enabled it to be the driving force behind one of the worst atrocities of our times - the Holocaust? What happened to antisemitism after the Holocaust? How do Israel and Zionism fit into the story of antisemitism? It is important to understand that these and other questions related to this phenomenon aren’t just theoretical ones.

Skip to 1 minute and 50 secondsThe answers to them, as complex as they sometimes may be, have had, and still have, a major and very real effect not only on the Jews, but on society as a whole. My name is Will Yarokberg, and I will be leading you through this six-week course by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, in which we will explore the winding and long history of antisemitism, from its origins to the present.

Skip to 2 minutes and 17 secondsAs this form of hate can be found among a wide variety of cultures, ideologies, societies, and time periods, we have enlisted the guidance and expertise of fifty leading researchers and public figures from all over the world; historians, sociologists, linguists, philosophers, and political scientists, as well as policy makers, and religious leaders. Together, we will navigate through more than 2000 years to better understand this complex phenomenon and the many worlds and groups from which it has emerged, and continues to do so. In order to portray the development of antisemitism, the course will be structured along chronological lines.

Skip to 2 minutes and 57 secondsThe first three weeks will deal with the evolution of antisemitism until the Holocaust, beginning with the ancient world, and continuing through the Middle Ages and the Modern Age, while the last three will deal with antisemitism in our world today. Since antisemitism has such a wide and layered past and present, we will of course not be able to address all its expressions in six lessons, nor will we be able to touch upon all of the discussions and theories surrounding it. Our focus will be on the phenomenon’s main manifestations, on the societies and belief systems that created them, as well as on the major events and processes that have affected their development.

Skip to 3 minutes and 35 secondsBy the end of our learning process we may find out that not all the questions that we’ll discuss have definitive answers. But we do hope to unravel the complexities that are associated with the phenomenon of antisemitism, as well as show how dangerous and destructive a phenomenon it can be, both in the past and in the present. We will also see that not all forms of criticism or hostility involving Jews should necessarily be defined as antisemitism or antisemitic, and how these terms should be applied with caution. In our times today, violence targeting Jews and Jewish institutions around the world prevails.

Skip to 4 minutes and 15 secondsDenial and distortion of the Holocaust, along with other forms of hatred against Jews, has become widespread, particularly in the sphere of the internet and social media. Antisemitism has become a part of our daily existence, together with other forms of prejudice. The singling out and hatred of the “other” is a disturbing and dangerous tendency, but though it may be deeply rooted in human society, it can be confronted in many ways, and maybe even uprooted. We often hear that knowledge is power. Our hope is that by expanding our knowledge and understanding of antisemitism, its roots, its many forms and the value it holds for its proponents, we may be able to better confront it and other forms of hatred and intolerance.

Skip to 5 minutes and 2 secondsJoin us in this course - Antisemitism: From Its Origins to The Present.

Welcome to the course

Antisemitism is most commonly defined as a hatred of Jews, and the wide range of acts, rhetoric, thoughts and sentiments this hatred evokes. Yet for a word that is so commonly used, its boundaries and expressions often come into scholarly, political and public debate.

Over the next six weeks we will navigate through more than 2,000 years of history, attempting to answer many of the major questions surrounding the evolution and nature of antisemitism, including:

What are the origins of antisemitism? How has it changed throughout history? How has it served a range of cultures, societies and ideologies? How have major historical events affected its development? What is it about antisemitism that enabled it to become the driving force behind one of the worst atrocities of our times – the Holocaust? What happened to antisemitism after the Holocaust? And how do Israel and Zionism fit into the story of antisemitism?

By the end of our learning process we may find out that not all the questions that we’ll discuss have definitive answers. But we do hope to unravel the complexities that are associated with the phenomenon of antisemitism, as well as show how dangerous and destructive a phenomenon it can be, both in the past and in the present. We will also see that not all forms of criticism or hostility involving Jews should necessarily be defined as antisemitism or antisemitic, and how these terms should be applied with caution.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, you’ll be able to…

  • Discuss what antisemitism is and what is unique about it

  • Identify antisemitic language and actions in the past and in the present

  • Explain the historical and ideological roots of antisemitism and how it has developed

  • Identify different types of antisemitism presented in the course and explain the differences, commonalities and dynamics between them

  • Discuss the characteristics of antisemitism today

  • Distinguish between antisemitism and legitimate criticism of the State of Israel

Course team

Yossi Kugler, course project manager and developer, the E-Learning Department at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies - Yossi Kugler completed his graduate studies in History. Follow Yossi on FutureLearn

Dafna Dolinko, course developer, the E-Learning Department at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies - Dafna Dolinko completed her graduate studies in Jewish History. Follow Dafna on FutureLearn

Dima Kolotilenko, course developer, the E-Learning Department at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies - Dmitry Kolotilenko completed his graduate studies in History. Follow Dima on FutureLearn

For a full list of the scholars participating in this week please see “downloads” below.

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Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present

Yad Vashem

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