Michael Douglas Describes His Son's Brush With Anti-Semitism

PHOTO: Michael Douglas attends the Phoenix House Public Service Award Dinner at Cipriani 42nd Street, Jan. 29, 2015, in New York.Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images
Michael Douglas attends the Phoenix House Public Service Award Dinner at Cipriani 42nd Street, Jan. 29, 2015, in New York.

Recently, when Michael Douglas's teenage son, Dylan, began going to Hebrew school and studying for his bar mitzvah, the actor was able to reconnect with Judaism.

Around the same time, Douglas, whose father is Jewish, was also forced to revisit his experiences with anti-Semitism, when Dylan was harassed at a swimming pool in Southern Europe for wearing a Star of David necklace last summer.

"My son is strong. He is fortunate to live in a country where anti-Semitism is rare. But now he too has learned of the dangers that he as a Jew must face," Douglas wrote in an L.A. Times op-ed. "It's a lesson that I wish I didn't have to teach him, a lesson I hope he will never have to teach his children."

Douglas, 70, explained that like Dylan, whose mother is Catherine Zeta-Jones, he was raised by a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. His first brush with anti-Semitism came in high school, when a friend remarked to him, "All Jews cheat in business."

"With little knowledge of what it meant to be a Jew, I found myself passionately defending the Jewish people," he recalled. "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."

In the op-ed, Douglas examined recent examples of anti-Semitism in Europe, which he attributes to troubled financial times, "an irrational and misplaced hatred of Israel," and demographics. He also credited tolerant religious leaders, including Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, who encourage peace among various religious groups, and called upon readers to fight anti-Semitism in their communities.

"So that is our challenge in 2015, and all of us must take it up," he concluded. "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."