This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The 2012 presidential election is an interesting one for us Jews. Do we pressure the candidate who belongs to a faith that seemingly enjoys baptizing our dead Mitt Romney? Or do we lobby President Obama to again address his ethnic group, which harbors a dislike for Jews that exceeds any other American group?
Posthumous baptisms by the LDS Church have stained Jewish-Mormon relations since the early 1990s when it was discovered that more than 600,000 Holocaust victims had been posthumously baptized in a Mormon temple. According to church doctrine, that makes them eligible to embrace Mormonism in the afterlife.
The Jewish victims include iconic Holocaust figure Anne Frank. Measures taken by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have reduced the problem, but it hasn't been fixed completely. Recently discovered baptisms include slain Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl and members of Simon Wiesenthal's family. Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel's name was found on a pre-baptism list.
But the negative "Jewish points" accrued by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on account of posthumous baptisms are outweighed by the religion's obvious respect for, and support of, the Jewish people. A 2010 report from the Anti-Defamation League said Utah, which is 60 percent Mormon, had zero incidents of anti-Semitism.
Many respected Mormon leaders such as Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, are so pro-Jewish that it's almost awkward. Hatch wears a mezuzah (Jewish prayer scroll usually affixed to door frames) around his neck and is quoted as saying: "Anything I can do for the Jewish people, I will do. … I feel sorry I'm not Jewish sometimes."
Even Mormon religious texts are favorable to Jews: "Ye need not any longer hiss, nor spurn, nor make game of the Jews, nor any of the remnant of the house of Israel." (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 29:8)
None of this pardons the recent unsolicited baptisms. Wiesel was absolutely right to say of them: "I think it's scandalous. Not only objectionable, it's scandalous."
But such Mormon offenses can be seen in the broader light of LDS respect and appreciation for the Jewish people.
Wiesel, however, proceeded to criticize Mormon presidential candidate Mitt Romney for not doing more to stop posthumous baptisms. This makes the subject political, and as soon as that starts happening, political writers feel honor-bound to make partisan comparisons.
And in this "good for the Jews?" comparison, Romney's religion fares well when assessed next to President Obama's ethnic group. Mormon guilt can be characterized as a surfeit of enthusiasm for Jewish people, mostly pertaining to deceased Jews.
Dislike and disrespect for Jews among the African-American community, however, is fairly widespread and is aimed at living Jews. A 2002 study by the Anti-Defamation League found that "35 percent of African-Americans … [hold] … strongly anti-Semitic beliefs."
Studies in 2009 and 2011 put these numbers at 28 percent and 29 percent. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, Leonard Jeffries, Tony Martin and other leading Jewish detractors have risen from this culture of anti-Semitism.
Such animus must be assessed in light of the FBI's recent reports on religious hate crimes that show 71.9 percent of religiously-motivated hate crimes are anti-Semitic in origin nine times higher than the second-largest category (anti-Islam, 8.4 percent).
Anti-Semitism in the United States has grave consequences.
Accordingly, if I had to prompt one presidential candidate to address Jewish issues with his respective groups, I would ask the president to make remarks similar to those he made to a black audience in a 2008 speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church ("the scourge of anti-Semitism has … revealed itself in our community").
Mormons may inappropriately baptize our dead, but a large percentage of African-Americans hold deeply antagonistic opinions of Jews, and that, to me, is far more problematic.
Stephen Richer is a Salt Lake native and a director at a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.