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Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Old anti-Semitism and current anti-Semitism

Dara Horn, who has a book and podcast about how people think and talk about dead Jews, argues in The Atlantic that focusing on Holocaust education makes current anti-Semitism worse. The piece is long, but here is a money quotation:

One problem with using the Holocaust as a morality play is exactly its appeal: It flatters everyone. We can all congratulate ourselves for not committing mass murder. This approach excuses current anti-Semitism by defining anti-Semitism as genocide in the past. When anti-Semitism is reduced to the Holocaust, anything short of murdering 6 million Jews—like, say, ramming somebody with a shopping cart, or taunting kids at school, or shooting up a Jewish nonprofit, or hounding Jews out of entire countries—seems minor by comparison.

And she closes thus:

I want to mandate this for every student in this fractured and siloed America, even if it makes them much, much more uncomfortable than seeing piles of dead Jews does. There is no empathy without curiosity, no respect without knowledge, no other way to learn what Jews first taught the world: love your neighbor. Until then, we will remain trapped in our sealed virtual boxcars, following unseen tracks into the future.

I serve on a Temple committee working on anti-Semitism programming. In choosing (for this year) to do a program for Yom Hashoah, we had a form of this conversation. Modern U.S. anti-Semitism, however much on the rise and however bad, is unlikely to lead to a repeat of the Holocaust. How we speak, educate, and push back against modern U.S. anti-Semitism should reflect that.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 4, 2023 at 07:59 PM in Culture, Howard Wasserman, Religion | Permalink


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