Literature of the Holocaust Unit Introduction Who Are the Jews???
Who are the Jews? Jewish people believe in one God. The religion has existed for over 2,000 years. They believe that Jesus Christ lived, but they do not believe he was the Messiah as Christians do.
Some Basics • Today there are about 14 million Jews in the world • Some of them are “secular” • This means that they may do some Jewish traditions but that they may not believe in God or actively practice their faith • Still they are considered to be Jews by some people for many reasons
Who is a Jew? • Jewish people believe that a Jew is any person whose mother was a Jew or any person who has gone through the formal process of conversion to Judaism.
To clarify the issue... • A person born to a Jewish mother who is an atheist and never practices the Jewish religion is still a Jew. • A person who follows all Jewish religious laws and traditions but who has not formally converted is not a Jew. • In this sense, Judaism is more like a nationality than like other religions and being Jewish is like a citizenship
Judaism - Race or Religion? • Judaism is a religion • People can choose to become a Jew • We cannot choose to become a Caucasian or a black person or an Asian • However, many Jews have similar ethnic backgrounds and come from similar areas of the world - this has caused many people to consider the religion to be a race
Different Types of Jews • Jews can be divided in to several groups. • One main way of looking at the differences among Jews is where they are from. • There are two major divisions based on where Jews developed “culturally” -- Europe and the Middle East/Africa
Sephardic or Ashkenazic? • Ashkenazic Jews are the Jews of France, Germany, and Eastern Europe. The word "Ashkenazic" is derived from the Hebrew word for Germany. • Sephardic Jews are the Jews of Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East. The word "Sephardic" is derived from the Hebrew word for Spain.
Other Groups of Jews • There are some Jews who do not fit into this Ashkenazic/Sephardic distinction. • Yemenite Jews, Ethiopian Jews, and Oriental Jews also have some distinct customs and traditions. • These groups, however, are relatively small and virtually unknown in America.
Fitting in Locally... • Historically, Sephardic Jews have been more integrated into the local non-Jewish culture than Ashkenazic Jews. • In the Christian lands where Ashkenazic Judaism flourished, the tension between Christians and Jews was great, and Jews tended to be isolated from their non-Jewish neighbors, either voluntarily or involuntarily.
Fitting in continued... • In the Islamic lands where Sephardic Judaism developed, no such segregation existed. • Sephardic Jewish thought and culture was strongly influenced by Arabic and Greek philosophy and science.
Same Religion but Very Different • Ashkenazic Jews developed their own language known as Yiddish, a combination of German and Hebrew • Sephardic Jews have their own international language: Ladino, which was based on Spanish and Hebrew • Their foods, traditions, and religious celebrations are very different from each other
Jews in the World Today • Most of the world's Jews are concentrated in three countries: • United States (6 million) • Israel (3.7 million) • Soviet Union (2.5 million) • Other nations with significant Jewish populations are France (650,000), Great Britain (400,000), Canada (300,000), Argentina (300,000), and Brazil (150,000).
Orthodox - Traditionalists who observe most of the traditional dietary and ceremonial laws of Judaism Reform - The liberal wing of Judaism, which believes in adapting to change Conservative -They fall somewhere between Orthodox and Reform Hasidic - Traditionalists who emphasize the importance of mysticism rather than learning. They give particularly high reverence to the leaders of their sects. Major Branches of Jews in the U.S.
More on Hasidic Jews • Hasidism began in Poland in the 18th Century. Hasidic Jews were almost completely wiped out in Europe in the Holocaust. • [Note: "Hasidic" is often spelled "Chasidic", and it's worth using both versions, and a double "s" as well when doing online searches.]
What Do Jews Believe In? • This is a very difficult question to answer • Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, one of the greatest medieval Jewish scholars who was also known as Maimonides, came up with a list of thirteen basic principles of faith. • He thought that these were the minimum requirements of Jewish belief
God exists God is one and unique God is eternal Prayer is to be directed to God alone and to no other Moses’ prophesies are true, and Moses was the greatest of the prophets Some of the 13 Principles of Jewish Faith
The the Written Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) and Oral Torah (teachings now contained in the Torah and other writings) were given to Moses God knows the thoughts and deeds of men God will reward the good and punish the wicked The Messiah will come The dead will be resurrected Some of the 13 Principles continuned
Judaism is a Way of Life • Judaism is not just a set of beliefs about God, man and the universe. Judaism is a comprehensive way of life, filled with rules and practices that affect every aspect of life: what a person can eat, what a persom can wear, how to groom oneself, how to conduct business, who a person can marry, how to observe the holidays; and how to treat God, people, and animals.
Halahkah = Rules and Practices According to Orthodox Judaism, these rules and practices (actions) include 613 commandments given by God in the Torah as well as laws instituted by the rabbis and Jewish scholars and long-standing customs
Not to stand by idly when a human life is in danger Not to wrong any one in speech Not to carry tales Not to cherish hatred in one's heart Not to take revenge Not to bear a grudge Not to leave a beast, that has fallen down beneath its burden, unaided To give charity according to one's means To love the stranger A Sampling of the 613 Commandments
To honor father and mother Not to do wrong in buying or selling Not to demand from a poor man repayment of his debt, when the creditor knows that he cannot pay, nor press him Not to delay payment of a hired man's wages That a man should fulfill whatever he has uttered Not to favor a great man when trying a case More of the 613 commandments
And Other Important Beliefs • Judaism maintains that the righteous of all nations have a place in the world. • Judaism generally recognizes that Christians and Muslims worship the same God that Jews do • They respect people of other religions • Jews feel mutually responsible for each other
AND NOW A LITTLE... Jewish History
Jewish History • The Old Testament books of the Bible describe numerous struggles of the Jewish people. After their triumphant Exodus from Egyptian captivity following Moses, they wandered around in the desert for forty years before entering the Promised Land.
More Jewish History • They had many conflicts with neighboring societies, yet for several centuries were able to maintain a unified state centered in Jerusalem.
Jewish History continued • This occupation of the Promised Land was not to last, however. • In 722 BC, the northern part of the Hebrew state fell to Assyrian raiders. • By 586 BC, Jerusalem was conquered by Babylonians. • The land of Israel was successively ruled by Persians, Macedonians, Greeks, Syrians, and Romans in the time that followed.
More Jewish History • As a result of a Syrian King’s attempt to suppress the Jewish religion, a rebellion led by Judas Maccabaeus in 167 BC resulted in the independence of the Jewish nation. • This is celebrated today by the festival Hanukkah.
More Jewish History • Many years later in a little town called Bethlehem a boy named Jesus was born to Jewish parents named Mary and Joseph • He became a scholar and religious leader • He was persecuted and killed • A new religion, following his teachings, was created and became known as Christianity
More Jewish History • In 70 AD, the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem, and the Jews were forced out of the area and settled in Mediterranean countries and in other areas in southwest Asia. • This migration of the Jewish population is known as Diaspora.
Diaspora and Rise of Christianity • While the Jews were leaving the Middle East as a part of the Diaspora, Christianity as a religion was growing. • In time many Jews settled in Europe where they were persecuted by Christians and other people who had strong “nationalistic” feelings. • Ghettos and slums became their homes and massacres were common because they rarely converted and maintained their traditions.
Judaism versus Christianity • Once basically the same religion, the Judaism and Christianity conflicted and problems started.
Jewish life in the Middle Ages was for the most part a story of social and economic isolation, persecution and massacres. Jews were isolated both physically and socially. However, they filled an important niche in the predominantly Christian world. Jews fill an “unpopular” niche
Jewish Moneylenders • Christianity outlawed usury, the lending of money. Jews were permitted to fill this vacuum by acting as moneylenders and financiers.
Jews isolate themselves • At first, Jews in the Diaspora segregated voluntarily. This was partly for self-protection, but it was perhaps more the result of the requirements of the Jewish religion: to be close to a synagogue and other religious institutions.
Jewish Ghettos • The isolation of Jews in ghettos had the effect of ending assimilation with the host communities and preserved and enhanced the survival of the Jewish culture
The Jews of Western Europe • Generally, Jews who settled in Western Europe (France, Holland, Germany, Austria, and Italy, for example) were more assimilated than their "eastern" counterparts of the Soviet Union, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Rumania, and Hungary.
Jews of Western Europe cont’d • They were more likely to speak the language of their host nation, less likely to be religiously observant, more likely to intermarry, more likely to be urban settlers, and more likely to be middle-class.
Jews of Western Europe cont’d • Western European Jews were more likely to be accepted by their host countries as full citizens. • For many Jews in Western Europe, they were Jewish by religion, but identified with their host country. • For the most part, they were able to live side by side with their non-Jewish neighbors, free from the threat of physical attacks and anti-Semitism. • Eastern European Jews did not feel safe from pogroms.
Isolation of Jews sets up problems for them later • Jews of both Western and Eastern Europe created a culture of religious practice, arts and music, language (principally Yiddish), and education. Poster: Call for financial support for Yiddish secular education Poland, 1927
A group set a part. . . • Thus it was easy to identify Jews in most places • They were different • They did not fit in • They were convenient scapegoats
These differences . . . • These differences and the situation in Germany after WW I set the stage for the Holocaust • Add in some personal vendettas and there is a recipe for trouble. . .
How Did We Get to the Holocaust ? • We have a group of religious people who pretty much stay to themselves and treat others as they wish to be treated . . . So how do we get to . . . GENOCIDE ? ? ?
Anti-Semitism • Is the hatred of Jews • People who are anti-Semitic believe that Jews are inferior - physically, morally, and intellectually • Modern Anti-Semitism is a Nazi invention which regards Jews as an inferior race
How did Anti-Semitism evolve? • The differences Jews had with their non-Jewish neighbors led to separate social and religious lives. • Intolerance and suspicion of these differences led to fear and hatred.
Anti-Semitism is the basis of the Holocaust • In order for the Holocaust to have occurred, it required the perpetrators to have developed and spread the most virulent strain of anti-Semitism, whose roots can be traced back to ancient times.
For most of recorded history, the Jewish people had been the subjects of conquerors, such as the Persians, Greeks, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Romans. Most Jews refused to convert to the religion of their hosts and instead maintained their own religion, rituals and customs, often at great personal sacrifice. Jews get conquered but stick to their religion and customs
That Really Ticked Off People • Who do they think they are? • Are they better than we are? • We conquered them! • They better do what we say! • They’re different!!!
Classical Anti-Semitism • We hate them for being different and not conforming to us. . . • The Jewish religion forbids Jews to bow down to any person or god other than the Creator • This conflict between observing the Jewish religion and being sensitive to local customs was the basis for much of the anti-Semitism the Jewish people endured.