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Voices of Kesher with M. Lindsay Kaplan: The Racialization of Jews in Medieval Christianity Lay the Foundation for the Racist Devaluation of Black Lives Today.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020 15 Av 5780

8:00 PM - 9:00 PMZoom

While the experience of Jews in America today diverges significantly from that of Blacks, a consideration of the history of racism shows that a set of shared ideas has been used to degrade both groups in order to justify bigotry against them.  Medieval claims about the Jews’ role in the crucifixion, and myths of continuing Jewish violence against contemporary Christians, created a view of Jews as inherent criminals, permanent and eternal enemies of Christianity.  This idea undermined neighborly relations between the two faith groups, eroded sympathy for Jews, produced discriminatory laws, and licensed state, church and popular hostility against them.  As my recent work on the history of racism has demonstrated, the ideas that were used to degrade Jews were repurposed to justify the racialization of Blacks. The stereotype of inherent Black criminality was employed during the period of slavery to delegitimize the Black struggle for freedom.  Although Blacks were the victims, like the Jews, of violence from the dominant culture, they were presented as perpetrators. Today, the threat implied by alleged Black criminality serves as the rationale that drives not only white supremacist hatred but also the use of excessive police force against Blacks.  This stereotype serves to normalize brutality against Blacks and renders them ‘deserving’ of violence and death, ultimately leading to the further devaluing of Black life and suspending compassion for Black suffering. An understanding of this shared history might offer common ground upon which Jews and Blacks could cooperate in the ongoing struggle against all forms of racism.

M. Lindsay Kaplan first began attending services at Kesher Israel 28 years ago!  She and her husband Norman Eisen celebrated their wedding in the community, and their daughter Tamar has been a member since birth. Lindsay is Professor of English at Georgetown University.  She has published books and essays on Shakespeare and the intersection of race and religion in early modern English literature.  Her most recent books include Figuring Racism in Medieval Christianity (Oxford UP, 2019) and Merchant of Venice: State of Play (Arden Shakespeare/Bloomsbury, 2020).

Via ZOOM  (click the link or dial 646-558-8656; Meeting ID: 378 157 5306)

Part of the Voices of Kesher Israel series. 

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