Sunday, March 31, 2013

Can't we all just get along - Easter Sunday Edition

היום חמשה ימים בעמר

Today is five days of the omer
הוד שבחסד
A day of humility in a week of loving kindness

I've started reading A Convenient Hatred: The History of Antisemitism, published by Facing History and Ourselves, an educational organization founded in the 1970s that is dedicated to "linking the past to the moral and ethical questions of our time through a rigorous examination of the root causes of antisemitism, racism, and other hatred." Facing History believes that "education is the key to combating bigotry and nurturing democracy." They have amazing resources for the classroom and work with educators to bring important discussions and teachings to their students.

Last fall I was part of one of their workshops, "Holocaust and Human Behavior." The history, structure, and insights I gained from this curriculum has been invaluable in developing the Shoah class I teach to middle-schoolers at Peninsula Temple Beth El in San Mateo. Too many of my students have no relationship to the Holocaust at all, no idea why it is important to them--as Jews or even as citizens of the world. With the help of Facing History and their resources, I am able to place them in that time, both as Jews and as German citizens. I can bring to them an understanding of the grand scale of this tragedy and what it means to us as Jews today. It also makes a space to talk about what we can do to combat the discrimination that goes on today--in ways both small and large.

I also teach about antisemitism in my classes, and am always looking for different ways to reach my students. This book, and the week-long online workshop I participated in last week will help me do that. As I read, there are times the phrase, "the more things change, the more they remain the same" pops into my head.

One example, especially apropos on Easter Sunday, concerns the beginnings of Christianity. We are reminded that Jesus was Jew. In describing Jewish life in Jesus's time, we learn that "Jews at that time were deeply divided over issues of faith and practice." Sound familiar? Instead of Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Orthodox, Renewal, etc, they had the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes. After Jesus's death, the book tells us, ". . . small groups of Jews met regularly to pray together and discuss his teachings. Among them were James and Peter, two of Jesus's disciples, or followers. They tried to share their understanding of their messiah with fellow Jews in synagogues and other gathering places." This brought a wry smile on my face as I could just imagine how well that was received.

I can accept that the belief that Jesus was the Messiah, the son of God, was never going to be accepted by the majority of Jews of any sect, making the break off of what was to become Christianity from Judaism was inevitable. But perhaps, in keeping with the sephirot we honor today, if both sides had more humility to see the good of each factions' teachings--those that include peace, love, honesty, compassion--there would be more loving-kindess between us all today.

No comments: