Teaching the Holocaust (Jewish Difference)

First day teaching Shoah: Responding to the Holocaust. The last time I taught this class was in 2018. This year, a very diverse group of students., not just Jewish, not just White. The students were unclear about wanted to talk about Jewishness and modern Judaism. I tried to square [1] the dominant and very European discursive paradigms (gentile and Jewish) about Jews and Jewishness in the 19th and early 20th C. with  [2] more contemporary understandings of intra Jewish difference and pluralism across points of racial/ethnic difference (global Judaism). All of this in relation to Jews and gentiles in Europe, and Jews and Arabs before and after the Holocaust and before and after the establishment of the State of Israel. Bottom line: Jews are not a “race” but they once were (i.e. non-Jews AND Jews thought they were). That the idea and images of Jewish racial difference are a historical construct means that looks are misleading, which is not to say that there is no such thing or object as a stereotypical “Jewish look,” sort of, not “really.”

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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2 Responses to Teaching the Holocaust (Jewish Difference)

  1. dmf says:

    in some ways teaching introductions to any subject of relative complexity is to teach things that one knows are wrong but I think the problem of misplaced-concreteness is especially heightened in Religious studies because theology is all about the metaphysics of Presence, as long as a God figure is seen as the grounding/glue that supposedly holds ideas/actions/peoples together then there is a tension between the necessary heterogeneity/contingencies of anthropology (writ large) and the sorts of subject one finds in a world religions class.

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