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Reciprocity of Jewish-Christian Religious Hostilities

jan peczkis|Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Reciprocity of Jewish-Christian Religious
HostilitiesUsually, all we hear is that Christians thought of Jews as responsible for deicide. Throughout this book, Horowitz makes it clear that Jews had just as much religiously-motivated animosity against Christians as Christians did against Jews. Horowitz paints the former as a defensive reaction of Jews against Christian persecution. Yet it becomes obvious from reading his book that such acts were more or less across-the-board. They occurred in places and times when Jews were not undergoing persecution, and moreover these acts were often very overt and provocative in nature.

The Pronounced Reciprocity of Jewish-Christian Religious Hostilities

The portrayal of Christianity as Haman was very common during Purim celebrations. For instance, Horowitz writes: "In the Jewish communities of Poland and Ukraine, it was common, in the early eighteenth century, to hire a Christian to play the role of Haman in the annual Purimshpiel." (p. 86). Obviously, there was another side to Polish anti-Semitism, and Horowitz has touched upon this seldom-mentioned side.

Horowitz examines the attacks on sacred Christian objects by Jews: "...we are in a better position to take Christian reports of Jewish cross-desecration seriously rather than dismissing them as anti-Semitic inventions." (p. 156). "To both Jews and Christians of their time (unlike some historians of recent generations) it was not difficult to imagine a Jew, whether naturally born or converted, urinating on a cross if given the opportunity to do so. Unlike ritual murder or host-desecration this form of hostile conduct, it may be added, was not reported exclusively by Christian sources." (p. 169). What about attacks on Holy Communion? Horowitz says the following about host-profanation: "Yet in recent decades Jewish historians have been more open to the possibility that such acts of desecration, not necessarily always premeditated, could indeed have taken place from time to time." (p. 173).

Horowitz discusses Jewish violence against Christians. For instance, Jews who converted to Christianity were sometimes attacked by other Jews (pp. 202-203). A large-scale instance of Jewish violence against Christians occurred during the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614. The local Jews killed 90,000 Christians, though some other estimates accept a death toll of 30,000 (p. 241). Horowitz does not mention the fact that the numbers of Jews killed during the later Crusades has also been exaggerated, and is comparable to the number of Christians killed earlier by Jews during the events of 614. [For more on the large-scale Jewish massacre of Christians in Jerusalem in 614--a fact supported by multiple Christian and Jewish sources and authors--see: Horowitz, Elliott. 1998. "The Vengeance of the Jews was Stronger than their Avarice": Modern Historians and the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614. JEWISH SOCIAL STUDIES, NEW SERIES 4(2)1-39].

The author believes that the blood libel had originated as a tale told by Jewish converts to Christianity (p. 219, 226). Interestingly, some modern Muslim leaders accept the blood libel as fact (p. 9).

The avoidance of discussion of Jewish violence stems from the tendency to consider Jews as victims and not victimizers. Horowitz comments: "Evenhanded assessments of the reciprocal role of violence in Jewish-Christian relations were to become increasingly rare in post-Holocaust Jewish historiography, both in the land of Israel and in the Diaspora." (p. 235).

During the Carmelite convent controversy at Auschwitz and its aftermath, the media paid attention only to those Jews who found offense in the cross, or at least felt that it was a painful reminder of past Christian persecutions of Jews. Horowitz provides a different perspective as he comments: "Yet in the heat of the fierce debates about the Auschwitz crosses, it was somehow forgotten that since the late nineteenth century such prominent Jewish artists in Europe and the United States as Samuel Hirschenberg, Joseph Budko, Marc Chagall, and Barnett Newman had appropriated both the cross and the crucifixion as symbols of Jewish suffering...Not only did Jewish artists develop an attraction to the use of the cross, so did such early twentieth century Jewish writers as Sholem Asch, Lamed Shapiro, and Uri Greenberg..." (pp. 182-183).
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