Monday, November 03, 2008

Hit a Jew Day

I recently learned of a new Jewish holiday about which I knew absolutely nothing. It’s called “Hit a Jew Day.”

According to USA TODAY (October 24, 2008) a few students at a suburban St. Louis middle school created “Hit a Jew Day” the purpose of which was to show their superiority to and disdain for Jews, by hitting any Jews they could find.

I have mixed feelings about Hit a Jew Day. On the up side I am pleased there are Jews in St. Louis that one might hit. On the down side, I am saddened that students would actually want to hit them. On the up side again, I am pleased that American middle schoolers are creative enough to invent new holidays. On the down side, though, I am saddened to discover that Hallmark has not yet released a series of greeting cards for Hit a Jew Day.

On reflection, however, Hit a Jew Day isn’t all that new. It has it most ancient roots in the authentically Jewish holiday of Purim. According to the Book of Esther, Haman, the evil genius behind the Persian version of Hit a Jew Day, convinced his king to declare the 14th of the month of Adar as Kill a Jew Day when all good Persians could murder Jews without concern. Haman was thwarted by the brave Esther, who was a Jewess married to the king, but since Kill a Jew Day was already on everyone’s calendars the king felt he couldn’t disappoint his people by canceling it. So he created yet another holiday to be held on the same day. This holiday, which we might call Kill the Anti-Semites Day, allowed Jews to defend themselves on Kill a Jew Day. As if often the case in these kinds of biblical stories the Jews kill tens of thousands of their enemies.

I imagine the solid people of St. Louis, both Jews and Gentiles, are horrified by the anti-Semitism of these middle school Nazis, but I fear they will take things too far. Should these students should be arrested? Should they be expelled from school? Should they be waterboarded to see if they are part of a radical sleeper cell? Should they be forced to eat matzoh rather than bread for the week of Passover?

Given the historical precedent of Purim, let me suggest an alternative to this responses. The best way to handle Hit a Jew Day is to proclaim Hit Back on the Anti-Semites Day, allowing Jews to come arm themselves at school and to defend themselves against their Hit a Jew Day attackers. Celebrated correctly, Hit Back on the Anti-Semites Day would insure that Hit a Jew Day will fail to catch on. At least in St. Louis.


JudyOlson said...

I would like to propose "Hug a Jew Day".

I am a new reader, Rabbi Rami. I like what you say and how you say it!

AaronHerschel said...

Hmm. Can Jews celebrate Hit a Jew Day? Perhaps I'll give it a shot and bang my own head against my desk for an hour or two.

Oddly, enough, the students of St. Louis who invented this holiday may have tapped a much more apt historical precedent than the Purim story. St. Louis, as you may know, is named for king Louis IX of France, who, according to the historical scholars at Wikipedia, was not especially pro-Jew himself. Check it out:

"Louis IX took very seriously his mission as "lieutenant of God on Earth," with which he had been invested when he was crowned in Rheims. Thus, in order to fulfill his duty, he conducted two crusades, and even though they were unsuccessful, they contributed to his prestige. Contemporaries would not have understood if the king of France did not lead a crusade to the Holy Land. In order to finance his first crusade Louis ordered the expulsion of all Jews engaged in usury and the confiscation of their property, for use in his crusade. However, he did not cancel the debts owed by Christians. One-third of the debts was forgiven, but the other two-thirds was to be remitted to the royal treasury. Louis also ordered, at the urging of Pope Gregory IX, the burning in Paris in 1243 of some 12,000 manuscript copies of the Talmud and other Jewish books. Such legislation against the Talmud, not uncommon in the history of Christendom, was due to medieval courts' concerns that its production and circulation might weaken the faith of Christian individuals and threaten the Christian basis of society, the protection of which was the duty of any Christian monarch.[5]"

Many critics have lamented the intellectual impoverishment of the American educational system. Frederick Jameson has even argued that the loss of historical awareness is a prime signal of the final collapse of culture in the West. But now it seems that, if nothing else, we can celebrate the revival of historical consciousness in the students of whatever school this is. Take that, Freddy!

Rabbi Rami said...

Welcome, Judy. This column can get rough sometimes, and I welcome challenging comments as well as kudos.

Rabbi Rami said...

Dear Aaron Herschel,

Very funny opening, and thanks for the historical material.