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Mar 7 2012

Let’s Not Be Hamans

By at 4:31 pm

unorthodox deborah feldmanOn Monday, I taught my weekly Jewish Thought and Culture class to adults at the 92nd Street Y. My subject was, predictably, Purim. We explored the historical context, the story, the celebration. But mostly, I used the Purim story as an example of Jewish oppression over the ages. How a personal antipathy (in this case, Haman’s towards Mordechai) can generalize to become public policy towards an entire group (the massacre of the  Jewish population of the Persian Empire.)

We have many examples of how antipathy towards one or a small group of Jews takes on a life of its own resulting in prejudice, intolerance, and violence. Mordechai and Dreyfus, Jewish radicals and Communists, and the “Jewish liberal media,” all had profound effects on the entire Jewish population. We were lucky if we just got bad PR and didn’t get killed.

I was thinking about this a lot when one of my students asked me about the recent memoir by Deborah Feldman, Unorthodox. Read the rest of this entry →

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