Racism Vs The Chosen People
Group Size: 5-30
Estimated Time: 90 minutes
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This is the place!
Aleph: To show that racism is wrong. To learn about the unfairness of stereotyping.
Bet: To learn about racism from a Jewish perspective To understand the idea of a chosen people
“Have you heard the one about the black, paki, and yok” (school yards across the country)
“I think that all foreigners that have come in the last 10 years should go back to where they came from” (spoken by elderly Jewish lady at the bus stop)
“Typical Yoks all they do is booze, booze, booze!” (spoken at Shabbat tables across the country)
Perhaps what is most surprising to us is that these comments are made by Jews. The Jewish people who have suffered for centuries at the hand of aggressors and have been persecuted for what they are and what they believe in, have themselves turned into racists without realizing it. We all know people who talk like this, some are religious, some are not. In a time where fascism is rearing its ugly head again, we must define the Jewish attitude to non-Jews
Definitions of racism
1 The belief that human races have distinctive characteristics which determine their respective cultures, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule or dominate others.
2 Offensive or aggressive behaviour to members of another race stemming from such a belief.
3 A policy or system of government and society based upon it.
Racial discrimination happens when someone is treated less fairly than someone else in a similar situation, because of their race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin. Racial discrimination can also happen when a policy or rule treats everyone in the same way, but has an unfair effect on more people of a particular race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin than others.
Direct racial discrimination happens when someone is treated less fairly than someone else in a similar situation, because of their race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin. For example, if a school will not hire a staff member just because of his or her race or ethnicity. Indirect racial discrimination can happen when a policy or rule treats everyone in the same way, but has an unfair effect on more people of a particular race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin than others.
Racist behaviour may include:
· Physical assault and harassment
· Verbal abuse, threats, derogatory language, ridicule, stereotyped comments
· Racist propaganda eg symbols, signs, graffiti
· Incitement of others to behave in a racist manner
· Refusal to cooperate with other people because of their colour, ethnicity, religion or language
· Institutional racism which often unintentionally disadvantages or marginalises less dominate ethnic and cultural groups eg biased policies, rules or curriculum.
Racism is a terrible scourge because it relegates people to a certain status based on their physical genetics. Judaism says, by contrast, that the true value of a person is his/her spiritual level.
That is why any non-Jew can become a Jew by converting. Whether a black, an oriental, a pygmy, Eskimo, etc. Once he converts, he then becomes a Jew in every regard and his relationship with God is the same level as that of every other Jew.
So you see, Judaism is the opposite of racism.
Many people think a little racism can be a good thing. Some whites think blacks are subhuman, and some blacks think the same about whites. Others say that Orientals are coming to take the jobs away, that they are too smart. Some say The Japanese are buying America. All such remarks are evidence of an initial bigotry and racism that does still exist in this country in spite of all efforts to eliminate it. There seems to be no end to the number of ways one group can discriminate against another, and it seems to be the nature of the beast for us to do it. One of the best examples I can think of to illustrate this is from a Star Trek episode where the Enterprise rescued an alien who was black and white. He had a line in the middle of his face (and presumably his entire body as well) and he was white on one side and black on the other. One of his basic problems was that he hated his brother --- because he was black on the other side! I believe there is no stronger basis for hate in reality than there was in that fantasy.
Throughout history, there have always been people who have expressed dislikes for those different from themselves. Some will say, “It isn’t anything personal…” Others say, “You’re OK, You are not like the others”, while thinking, “There are too many of them; the country would do better off without them”. Sometimes people have an over-generalized distorted perspective.
This is called a STEREOTYPE. Some stereotypes may seem fairly harmless- we often make a joke of them. But how harmless are they? And why is it alright for a Jew to tell a joke about Jews but not for a non-Jew? Or is it OK?
Stereotypes feed on over-simplifications, half-truths, ignorance and downright lies. Therefore we should try to avoid them. They enable us to place a all people of a certain group into a convenient (and usually unflattering) pigeonhole. Then we can keep them all at arms length- because we ‘know’ in advance what they are going to be like. Stereotypes are an excuse for not thinking about, and not getting to know other people. To stereotype is to pre-judge- to pass a verdict before the facts are known- or to ignore the facts.
Stereotyping leads to prejudice. Stereotypes turn human beings into cardboard caricatures. And who cares about caricatures?!
The torah tells us how a goat might be used to symbolize a community’s atonement for its sins; the goat would be sent away, just as the community members wished their misdeeds to be banished. Today, scapegoating means something altogether more sinister. It happens when individuals or groups are ‘blamed’ for all sorts of problems which are other people’s responsibility. Often this scapegoating feeds on fear, ignorance and stereotypes. It can also help to form or spread stereotypes. Anybody can be prejudiced if they aren’t careful.
History and experience show that:
· We can all be influenced by stereotypes
· We can all feel the need for scapegoats
Nazi theory of racial purity and superiority, which resulted in the murder of 6 million Jews, also led to genocide against the Gypsies, and murderous persecution of other minority groups, such as the disabled etc. Indeed, many clever and talented people have been capable of prejudice, ignorance or pure blind hatred- as Jews know, only too well. And as Jews, we also have to admit that we too can be guilty of prejudice, ignorance and racism.
* If someone tells a Jewish/ Irish/ Asian joke- do you laugh?*
The Chosen People
The Jews' belief that they are the Chosen People has often provoked antagonism from non-Jews. In the 1930s, as the Nazis were tightening the noose around the necks of German Jews, George Bernard Shaw remarked that if the Nazis would only realize how Jewish their notion of Aryan superiority was, they would drop it immediately. In 1973, in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, Yakov Malik, the Soviet ambassador to the United Nations, said: "The Zionists have come forward with the theory of the Chosen People, an absurd ideology. That is religious racism."
If Judaism is a Chosen Religion then this sets it apart from all others. The fact is that every religion is a sort of club that has its own criteria for entry. Every country has its nationalization rules that have to be gone through if someone wants to become a citizen. You can only level the charge of racism if a group excludes another group on the basis of race. Race is something a person can never change. But Judaism allows anyone from any race to convert. The conversion process is a form of application for citizenship. It is true that anyone born of a Jewish mother is automatically a Jew, but there is absolutely no racial condition or limitation whatsoever attached to conversion, only that the convert should be genuine. Indeed, throughout our history we have considered ourselves privileged to have been party to a covenant with God that enables us, in theory, to have a special relationship with Him. But it certainly does not make a Jew a better person automatically and anyone who thinks that it does would be guilty both of misunderstanding the concept and of thinking in a way that goes against the whole spirit of Jewish teaching on humanity and God.
Concentrate on how it’s wrong to generalize and be racist:
- Stereotype acting game: split up into groups have to act a skit in the style of…(Ali G, Golders Green/ Broughton park ghettoers, male hairdressers etc.)
- Discuss personal experiences of Racism, what we’ve said thought, or overheard (make sure they don’t get carried away and defeat the purpose though!)
- Brainstorm the chanichim for definitions of racism. Give out Definitions of racism and compare definitions.
- Taboo- You all know the game!- This time round, use races (i.e. Asian), or countries (French). The participant has to describe the word, without using certain ‘taboo’ definitions. See what definitions they use to describe the words!