Sunday, December 23, 2018

Do Jews uphold white supremacy or are we targeted by it?

In today's New York Times article on antisemitism in the Women's March, Tamika Mallory is quoted as saying: 
“Since that conversation, we’ve all learned a lot about how while white Jews, as white people, uphold white supremacy, ALL Jews are targeted by it,” Ms. Mallory said in a statement to The New York Times.
["That conversation" took place during the first meeting of the Women's March organizers, when Mallory and Perez confronted Vanessa Wruble about her Jewish identity and said that Jews have to confront "their role" in racism].

Mallory here is trying (as many others have) to squeeze the situation of Jews in the United States into the historical black/white binary that has existed since the beginning of British colonization in the area that became the United States. 

After the Civil War, and through the early early 20th century this meant that Jews were defined by some white Christians as being of African descent and thus deserved the same miserable treatment that other African people received in this country. 

Jews also tried to figure out what their racial status was - were Jews Caucasians? Or did Jews belong to their own race? Perhaps one that was part of the Caucasian race? (I'm using the term Caucasian because it was then the regnant term). As Jews began to be negatively racialized by non-Jews (sometimes associating Jews with Africans, or seeing Jews as enemies of the Aryan race), some Jews wanted to abandon the idea that they were a separate race and insisted upon being regarded solely as a religion. 

By the end of the Second World War, when Jews, like Italians or eastern Europeans, were being accepted as belonging to the American white population, the notion that Jews were a separate race was losing its attraction (especially since Nazis had condemned Jews to genocide because of their supposed race). (This paragraph and the preceding two are largely based on The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity, published in 2006 by Eric Goldstein).

The widespread success that Jews have had in American society since WWII means that we are now generally considered to be white (see, for example, the success that Jews have had in being elected to the House and Senate, the acceptance of Jews into all areas of American industry, sometimes at the very top, the high median income of Jews, etc.).

But along with the acceptance of Jews into American society, there has been persistent antisemitism, some of it still motivated by religious motives (for example, the accusation that "the Jews" killed Jesus), some of it based in racial antisemitism (like that of the Nazis, and disseminated by David Duke and other antisemites of the radical right), some of it appearing on the left as antisemitism thinly veiled as anti-Zionism. The antisemitism that is part of white nationalism has been very much energized since 2015, first by Trump's presidential campaign and now by his presidency. 

Eric Ward argues in Skin in the Game: How Antisemitism Animates White Nationalism that "American White nationalism, which emerged in the wake of the 1960s civil rights struggle and descends from White supremacism, is a revolutionary social movement committed to building a Whites-only nation, and antisemitism forms its theoretical core." For a graphic example of the close connection between racism and antisemitism in the white nationalist right, see the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, VA, on August 12-13 - at the the torch-lit procession on the campus of the University of Virginia, supposedly held to protect a statue of Robert E. Lee, the marchers chanted "Jews will not replace us."

Ward also writes, "Within social and economic justice movements committed to equality, we have not yet collectively come to terms with the centrality of antisemitism to White nationalist ideology, and until we do we will fail to understand this virulent form of racism rapidly growing in the U.S. today." 

The leaders of the Women's March have failed in just this way, not understanding the centrality of antisemitism to white nationalism. In their case, it means that they believe(d) that antisemitism really isn't that big a danger in the US, considering how economically successful Jews are (as a group - by no means are all individual Jews well-off). 

Do Mallory (and the other Women's March leaders?) now truly acknowledge that "all Jews" are targeted by white supremacy? Does they accept a definition of white supremacy that includes Jews as its victims, instead of believing that white supremacy only targeted Black people and/or other people of color?

If so, there's a logical fallacy in Mallory's statement - if all Jews, including white Jews, are targeted by white supremacy, then how can Jews be said to "uphold" it? Light-skinned Jews can and do benefit from white privilege - but certainly not from the ideology and murderous practice of white nationalism. 

The New York Times writes that, "Now Women’s March activists are grappling with how they treat Jews — and whether they should be counted as privileged white Americans or 'marginalized' minorities, especially in the aftermath of the October mass shooting in Pittsburgh, when 11 people were gunned down at their synagogue."

If this is an accurate statement of the corner the Women's March leaders have put themselves into, it shows that their thinking is both incredibly rigid (and lacking in the intersectionality that they boast of), and still very ignorant of the history of the discrimination against and persecution of Jews in the US and other countries. Jews can both be privileged (in the economic sense) and marginalized (as the targets of murderous antisemites). Antisemitic victimization and violent attacks upon relatively economically privileged Jews (in addition to those on poor Jews) have been a feature of European societies since the 11th century. 

Intersectionality theory should be able to grapple with this paradox, since it insists that oppression is not binary. If a poor white person can simultaneously benefit from being white and be oppressed as a poor person, then why couldn't white Jews simultaneously benefit from white privilege yet also be marginalized as Jews? And in this case, have their white privilege wiped away by antisemites who don't even consider Jews to be white and believe that all Jews should be killed?

The whole thing leaves me with a very bad taste in my mouth.

New York Times article on antisemitism in the Women's March

The New York Times finally published an article about the accusations of antisemitism of several of the leaders of the Women's March - Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, Bob Bland, and Carmen Perez. Much of the information in the article was already published by Tablet on December 10, 2018, but there is some original reporting. 

At the first meeting of the organizers,Vanessa Wruble (who is Jewish, and was one of the early leaders, later pushed out) says that this happened:
Vanessa Wruble, a Brooklyn-based activist, said she told the group that her Jewish heritage inspired her to try to help repair the world. But she said the conversation took a turn when Tamika Mallory, a black gun control activist, and Carmen Perez, a Latina criminal justice reform activist, replied that Jews needed to confront their own role in racism.
Perez and Mallory:
Ms. Mallory and Ms. Perez say they categorically condemn anti-Semitism, and that when they asked Ms. Wruble to leave the group, it had nothing to do with her being Jewish. But they acknowledged that the role of Jewish women was discussed in that first meeting.
“Since that conversation, we’ve all learned a lot about how while white Jews, as white people, uphold white supremacy, ALL Jews are targeted by it,” Ms. Mallory said in a statement to The New York Times.
The Times:
The allegations of anti-Semitism are particularly painful because Women’s March organizers made a commitment from the beginning to work across racial and religious lines, and to be led by what they considered the most “marginalized” women. 
Now Women’s March activists are grappling with how they treat Jews — and whether they should be counted as privileged white Americans or “marginalized” minorities, especially in the aftermath of the October mass shooting in Pittsburgh, when 11 people were gunned down at their synagogue.
Ms. Wruble, a central organizer of the march, says she agrees that white women, including Jews, should grapple with their racial privilege. She put out a call for women of color to join the planning team and was connected with Ms. Mallory and Ms. Perez. At that first meeting, Ms. Wruble said, they seemed to want to educate her about a dark side of Jewish history, and told her that Jewish people played a large role in the slave trade and the prison industry. 
“I was taken aback,” said Ms. Wruble in her first extensive interview about her experience organizing the Women’s March. “I thought, ‘Maybe there are things I don’t know about my own people.’” 
She said she went home that night and searched Google to read about the Jewish role in the slave trade. Up popped a review of “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and the Jews,” a 1991 book by Mr. Farrakhan, which asserts that Jews were especially culpable. Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Harvard professor, has called the book the “bible of the new anti-Semitism.” 
Ms. Wruble said she did not dwell on the issue because she wanted to work together on the march, which was only two months away. Ms. Mallory and Ms. Perez brought a friend on board, Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist. The three women — and another woman named Bob Bland, a white fashion designer who created one of the first Facebook pages about the march — became the event’s official leaders. They were widely featured in the press as the public face of the movement. 
Behind the scenes, Ms. Wruble said she felt cast aside. 
She said she was told by one of the march leaders that “we really couldn’t center Jewish women in this or we might turn off groups like Black Lives Matter.” While Black Lives Matter is a diffuse movement, some activists have issued statements expressing solidarity with Palestinians under Israeli occupation. 
At one point, Ms. Wruble said she asked about security for the march and was told by the leaders that the Nation of Islam would be providing it
“I said, ‘You are going to open up the march to intense criticism,’” Ms. Wruble said, warning that it would be a red flag for Jews. She said they dismissed her concerns in a heated email exchange and accused her of unfairly maligning the Nation of Islam.
The "Unity Principles"
As the march grew closer, Ms. Perez gathered a diverse group of activists who created a set of “unity principles” that would tie all marchers together and highlight those viewed as the most vulnerable at the time. 
“We must create a society in which all women — including Black women, Indigenous women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian, queer and trans women — are free,” it read.
Of course (my comment) - Jewish women were not mentioned.

On NOI being used for security:
Ms. Mallory said the Nation of Islam was not hired for security. An internal document obtained by The Times said that the Women’s March group does not ask the religious affiliation of contractors, but said that because private security firms employ a large number of Nation of Islam members, “it is likely” that some members of the sect have provided security for Women’s March events.
After the march, antisemitic remarks by Mallory and Perez:
At a meeting days after the march, an argument broke out between Ms. Wruble and the other leaders.
Ms. Mallory and Ms. Perez began berating Ms. Wruble, according to Evvie Harmon, a white woman who helped organize the march, and who attended the meeting at Ms. Mallory’s apartment complex.

“They were talking about, ‘You people this,’ and ‘You people that’ and the kicker was, ‘You people hold all the wealth.’ I was like, ‘Oh my God, they are talking about her being Jewish,’” said Ms. Harmon, whose account was first published by Tablet. “The greatest regret of my life was not standing up and saying ‘This is wrong.’”
How Wruble was kicked out:
Ms. Mallory denied that she disparaged Ms. Wruble’s Jewish heritage in that meeting, but acknowledged telling white women there that she did not trust them.

“They are not trustworthy,” she said, adding that Ms. Wruble gossiped behind the backs of the other march leaders instead of confronting them when she had an issue. “Every single one of us has heard things that offended us. We still do the work.”

Shortly after that meeting, Ms. Mallory, Ms. Perez and Ms. Sarsour decided they did not want to work with Ms. Wruble anymore.

On her way out, Ms. Wruble texted a senior adviser to the organization with a warning: “The one thing I would suggest you discuss with them is the anti-Semitic piece of this,” she wrote. “Their rhetoric around this stuff will hurt the movement.”

Friday, December 21, 2018

Alice Walker's antisemitic post on the Talmud: A Commentary

Alice Walker's antisemitism has come to wider public notice because of the New York Times' interview with her, which revealed that one of the books on her nightstand is “And the Truth Shall Set You Free,” by David Icke, the blatant British antisemite who believes that the world is being ruled by reptilian alien invaders (really!). 

Her antisemitism is fed by other sources as well, including classic slurs about the Talmud. She published a "poem" on her blog in 2017 titled It Is Our (Frightful) Duty To Study The Talmud

It is frighteningly malevolent in its hatred for Jews and Judaism. This part of the writing is specifically about the Talmud:
For the study of Israel, of Gaza, of Palestine,
Of the bombed out cities of the Middle East,
Of the creeping Palestination
Of our police, streets, and prisons
In America,
Of war in general,
It is our duty, I believe, to study The Talmud.
It is within this book that,
I believe, we will find answers
To some of the questions
That most perplex us.
Now, why would studying the Talmud help with understanding present-day Gaza, Palestine, and Israel, police violence in America, and war in general? The Talmud is a work from late antiquity from a completely different political context than the one we live in now.
Where to start?

You will find some information,
Slanted, unfortunately,
By Googling. For a more in depth study
I recommend starting with YouTube. Simply follow the trail of “The
Talmud” as its poison belatedly winds its way
Into our collective consciousness. 
Apparently it didn't occur to her to pick up one of several books that offer good introductions to the Talmud, but instead to apply to Google University. Google was too biased for her, apparently because the first articles are from reputable academic or media sources. I just googled the word "Talmud," and the first hits are: a definition of the word, the Wikipedia article on the Talmud, a My Jewish Learning article on the Talmud, several more introduction articles of the same type, and then a series of news articles about the Talmud, including one from the BBC, Why has the Talmud become so popular? (from 2013) and an article from the New Yorker on why the Talmud has become a best-seller in South Korea (from 2015). None of them are from antisemitic sources - except for Alice Walker's antisemitic poem, which is the 31st hit on the first page of Google results.

The second page of results starts with a short Youtube video by Rabbi Yehiel Eckstein about the Talmud. It includes a few more antisemitic sites, including another link to Walker's "poem," the Come and Hear website, run by an antisemite, which has published all of the Soncino translation of the Talmud into English, and The Talmud Unmasked: THE SECRET RABBINICAL TEACHINGS CONCERNING CHRISTIANS, first published in St. Petersburg in 1892, and in English translation in 1939 (Google for the link).

From John-Paul Pagano, more on the anti-Talmud literature:
Its modern source is the Talmud anti-Semitism of the 17th Century Christian Hebraist, Johann Eisenmenger. An Orientalist, Eisenmenger purported to expose the misanthropic teachings of the Talmud by cherry-picking scraps and publishing them as Entdecktes Judenthum, or Judaism Unmasked. These excerpts, shorn of context and cranked through a grinder of jaundiced interpretation, struck Gentiles as scary. Next was August Rohling, a German theologian and professional anti-Semite who rehashed Eisenmenger's work in Der Talmudjude, or The Talmud Jew, and retailed himself as an expert witness. In an adumbration of the Holocaust-denier David Irving's disgrace by the scholar Deborah Lipstadt, Rohling was eventually embarrassed on the stand, himself exposed as a fraud who -- unlike his muse, Eisenmenger -- was almost entirely ignorant of Judaism.
The situation is much worse on Youtube. The first two hits are "Religious Jews are asked about the Talmud," by Corey Gil-Shuster, and the second one is "What is the difference between Torah and Talmud," by Jihadi Jew. Both are fine. The third hit is "Ugly Truths about the Talmud," then an audiobook of the Rodkinson translation of the Talmud, and then some more antisemitic videos: "Marching to Zion. Talmud Exposed! Any One Race as 'God's Chosen People' Exposed," "The Talmud Unmasked" (audio version of the book mentioned above," "The Israel you don't know: The Talmud and the Jew," by "Rise Up Goyim," "Talmud teaches an EVIL jewish tradition," by "External Evil," and "Talmud Judaism is Satanism - Alex Jones," in which he says that the Talmud is basically Satanic. He also raves about Hillary Clinton being responsible for female genital mutilation.

Youtube is a cesspool of antisemitism, apparently untouched by any efforts to change the algorithm so that antisemitic videos don't appear as the first search items. (And it's owned by Google, so Walker's comments about Google really make no sense at all).
Some of what you find will sound
Too crazy to be true. Unfortunately those bits are likely
To be true. Some of the more evasive studies
Will exhibit unbelievable attempts
At sugar coating extremely disagreeable pills.
But hang in there, checking
And double checking, listening to everybody,
Even the teachers with the twisted pasts
That scare you the most,
And the taped rants of outraged citizens that sound
Like madcap characters on Car Talk
Except they are not laughing
But are righteously outraged.

Study hard, with an open
If deeply offended mind,
Until you can sift the false
From the true.
On Youtube, it's obviously possible to find any form of antisemitic fantasy one seeks, and Walker found the videos that matched her prejudices.
Is Jesus boiling eternally in hot excrement,
For his “crime” of throwing the bankers
Out of the Temple? For loving, standing with,
And defending
The poor? Was his mother, Mary,
A whore?
Are Goyim (us) meant to be slaves of Jews, and not only
That, but to enjoy it?
Are three year old (and a day) girls eligible for marriage and intercourse?
Are young boys fair game for rape?
Must even the best of the Goyim (us, again) be killed?
Pause a moment and think what this could mean
Or already has meant
In our own lifetime.
This part of the "poem" focuses on anti-Christian passages in the Talmud, presenting them as the main part of the teachings of the Talmud (which they are not). The passages include the unpleasant fate of Jesus in the afterlife, the bad reputation of Mary as the supposed mistress of a Roman soldier (also appearing in the Toldot Yeshu literature), and supposed passages that non-Jews are fated to be slaves of Jews or that the best of the Gentiles should be killed (I haven't seen these passages and don't know if they actually appear in the Talmud). Walker also misquotes the New Testament - Jesus didn't throw the "bankers" out of the Temple, but the money changers, who were there to change the money that pilgrims intended to offer to the Temple to the sacred Temple currency. She's obviously conflating the centuries-long stereotype of Jews as evil bankers with the New Testament account.

This next section gets into more conspiratorial thinking.
You may find that as the cattle
We have begun to feel we are
We have an ancient history of oppression
Of which most of us have not been even vaguely
Aware. You will find that we, Goyim, sub-humans, animals
-The Palestinians of Gaza
The most obvious representatives of us
At the present time – are a cruel example of what may be done
With impunity, and without conscience,
By a Chosen people,
To the vast majority of the people
On the planet
Who were not Chosen.
Not chosen to receive the same dubious
“Blessing” of
Supremacy over the Earth,
Humans, and Beasts of this realm. As is
Stated plainly in the first chapter
Of the Bible we all read.
The Unchosen who, until now,
Were too scared of being
Called names
To demand to know why.
According to Walker, non-Jews in general "have an ancient history of oppression" as victims of the "chosen people" (clearly using this term in an antisemitic way). When she says that Jewish oppression of the Gentiles goes back thousands of years Walker hearkens back to the Christian trope that ancient Jews persecuted Christians (see the Gospel of John and later Christian literature), but she is also probably retrojecting modern "theories" that Jews control the world (as found in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Mein Kampf) into the first century CE.
It is a “Blessing” Jesus did not want.
One that, risking crucifixion, he refused.
One reason he is loved
By those who recognize a good
And righteous person
When they encounter one.
Seen in this light he wasn’t even
A spiritual progressive, but a committed
Revolutionary: a Che Guevara
Of the ancient past.
In this paragraph, Walker tries to dissociate Jesus from Judaism - the Jews supposedly believe that God has given them dominion over the whole earth (this is a misreading of Genesis 1, which gives all of humanity dominion over the earth). Jesus died because he didn't accept the Jewish plot to control the world. This is a strikingly Nazi way of understanding the crucifixion, even though walker doesn't use Nazi racial terminology or concepts. I don't know if this was something that Hitler said, but it certainly fits into the Nazi claim that Jesus was an Aryan, not a Jew.
A past as scary, if not scarier, than
Our own time: A past that,
Unfortunately, is not even past (quoting

We discover this
To our enlightened grief
As we study
The Talmud,
Our own ignorance,
And the devastating impact of both
On our abandoned world.
Everything is blamed on the Talmud - all of the evils of our contemporary world. I have read a lot of antisemitic literature, including Mein Kampf, and this composition by Walker matches the worst of earlier classical antisemitic texts.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Hugo Odeberg and Nazi Germany (additional update)

Hugo Odeberg, professor of theology at the University of Lund in Sweden from 1933-1964, is of interest to those who study early Jewish mysticism because in 1928 he published the first edition and translation into English of a Hekhalot text. This is a text known in several of the manuscripts as Sefer Hekhalot, but which he called 3 Enoch, as if it proceeded in a linear fashion from 1 Enoch and 2 Enoch. His publication of Sefer Hekhalot brought the knowledge of this work into the scholarly world, and it continues to be influential up until today in the study of the Hekhalot literature. (Philip Alexander published another English translation of the work in James Charlesworth's Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, volume 1, published in 1983. He used Odeberg's critical edition as the basis for his translation). 

Notwithstanding Odeberg's importance for the history of modern scholarship of the Hekhalot literature, I think we need to take another aspect of his career into consideration when we continue to use his work.

In the 1930s Odeberg became a sympathizer with the Nazis, and he worked together with antisemitic German theologians in the later 1930s and 1940s. This aspect of his career is finally being revealed by current research on the involvement of Swedish scholars and theologians in the Nazi movement. Should this influence our use of Odeberg's work in contemporary research on the Hekhalot literature? I think that at the very least it should be mentioned when we cite his research. Odeberg also wrote on the Gospel of John, and his scholarship is still used also by some researchers.

An article by Andreas Åkerlund provides some information on Odeberg’s Nazi sympathies.[1] The article is about another Swedish scholar, Åke Ohlmarks, who founded an institute on the science of religions at the University of Greifswald in 1944. Åkerlund mentions Odeberg because he helped Ohlmarks find a position at the University of Greifswald in Germany.

In 1937, the “Swedish-Germany Society” was founded by “academics who wanted to support the new Germany. Chairman was the professor of theology in Lund, Hugo Odeberg, an expert on Jewish mysticism and, according to himself, a ‘competent antisemite.’”[2] Odeberg had many contacts in Germany, especially with German Christian theologians (who wanted to found Christianity on Nazi racist principles). “Ohlmarks also belonged to a research group on Old Norse religion called ‘Odal’ founded by Odeberg.” Odeberg was also an active member of the “Institut zur Erforschung und Beseitigung des jüdischen Einflusses auf das deutsche kirchliche Leben” (Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life”) in Eisenach.[3] Odeberg had also invited another member of the institute to give lectures in Lund in 1941, Wolf Meyer-Erlach, who was a professor of theology in Jena. Odeberg and Meyer-Erlach helped Ohlmarks get a position at Greifswald in 1941.[4]

The article asks the interesting question of “why German theologians aiming to free Christianity from the ‘Jewish impact’ support a scholar specialized in Old Norse religion?”[5] The German Christians “did not see Christianity and National Socialism as opposing forces.” These German Christian theologians used the term “Religionswissenschaft” for their own work, in part to protect theological faculties at universities from plans by the Ministry of Education of the Third Reich to remove them,[6] and also because it “justified an expansion of the theological work field to include pre-Christian, Indo-Aryan, or Germanic religions as well. The academic program of such a voelkish and Christian science of religion was to free Aryan Christianity from all oriental-Jewish influences. In 1938 German Christians were discussing the set-up of an academic institute to carry out this work. The debate led to the ‘Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life” in Eisenach, which opened on May 6, 1939.”[7]

According to Susannah Heschel in, “When Jesus was an Aryan: The Protestant Church and Antisemitism,” the Institute “built an alliance with faculty and students in Scandinavia, led by Hugo Odeberg, a distinguished scholar of Judaica at the University of Lund.”[8] In 1941, the academic director of the Institute, Walter Grundmann, and Meyer-Erlach, “formed a working group Germanentum und Christentum, which brought Scandinavian theologians and writers to participate in two annual conferences in Germany. Odeberg took the initiative among the Scandinavians, inviting thirty academics, students, and writers from Sweden, Norway, and Denmark to lecture at the conferences, which were held in Weissenfels and in Eisenach. Impressed by the high quality of scholarship practiced by Institute members, Odeberg sent seven Scandinavian students to Jena to write doctoral dissertations under Grundmann.”[9] Heschel also writes about the membership of the Institute that “It is worth noting that precisely those scholars who trained in early Judaism during the 1920s became active members in the Institute: Paul Fiebig, Hugo Odeberg, Georg Bertram, and Georg Beer, among others.”[10]

In another article, Heschel reports on a paper presented by Odeberg at one of the Institute’s conferences, in 1942. The topic was whether Jesus’ mother tongue was really a Semitic language.[11]

Sverker Oredsson’s book, Lunds universitet under andra världskriget (Lund University during World War II) also reported on Odeberg’s activities. A notice of the book, published in the “Lund University Reports, No. 6, 1996,” written by Solveig Ståhl, reports of Odeberg in this way: “Hugo Odeberg, however, was Nazi-friendly and never left that position. In 1937, he spoke of the Jewish question in the National Students Club and showed great understanding of the ethnic cleansing that started in Germany. “A nation should not find themselves in an unauthorized Jewish influence.” (This article was accessed on November 8, and the URL is Translation from Swedish provided by Google Translate).

Jesper Svartik presented a paper at the SBL in 2006 on "Hugo Odeberg's Pharisaism and Dejudaized Christianity Anno 1943." An abstract of the presentation can be found on the SBL website. Unfortunately, I only found out about the talk after it had already been given.
Hugo Odeberg's Pharisaism and Dejudaized Christianity Anno 1943  
Program Unit: Bible and Cultural Studies 
Jesper Svartvik, Lund University 
Dr. Hugo Odeberg, Professor of Biblical Studies at Lund University in Sweden 1933-64, wrote in 1943 the notoriously influential book Pharisaism and Christianity. The purpose of the book, which has been translated into Danish, Norwegian, Finnish and English, was to describe the essential difference between two religious types. His book has influenced Jewish-Christian relations in Scandinavia during the last century more than any other theological work. Odeberg has gone down to posterity as a foremost connoisseur of Semitic languages, Jewish texts and Jewish mysticism. Therefore, this book has often been thought of as an objective presentation of the factual difference between “Pharisaism” and Christianity — wie es eigentlich gewesen. However, at the time of his writing this book during the Second World War, Odeberg was the President of a pro-Nazi Swedish-German Society. This paper examines its theology in the light of a number of lectures which Odeberg held at conferences in the Third Reich, published in the series of the Institute zur Erforschung und Beseitigung des jüdischen Einflusses auf das deutsche kirchliche Leben. The paper seeks to demonstrate that Odeberg during the early 1940’s was so heavily engaged in a pro-Nazi construal of a dejudaized Christianity that it must affect our understanding of the book Pharisaism and Christianity. Whereas his political affiliation has been known for some time — although its extent has not been recognized hitherto —, this paper will also expose that Odeberg actually plagiarized a German anthology published in the 1920’s with ancient and modern Jewish sources translated from Aramaic and Hebrew into German. This embarrassing piece of information explains some of the inconsistencies in the book. A critical examination of Pharisaism and Christianity helps us understand the impediments which the study of Judaism and Jewish-Christian relations in Scandinavia are still facing.

This is the relevant portion on Odeberg:
The “forgotten” sympathisants – Odeberg and Stadener 
The case of Hugo Odeberg, who had been a priest in the south of Sweden before he took over the chair of exegetics in Lund after Erling Eidem in 1933, is a good example of how recent research has changed the official picture of a person. Odeberg was an internationally renowned expert on Jewish mysticism and one of the first Swedish theologians to point out the importance of Jewish sources for the understanding of Early Christianity.  
Odeberg showed strong sympathies for the “new Germany” in the late 1930s and early 40s. In 1941 he took over as chairman of the Swedish-German Association, which had been founded in 1937.[12] The association had the outspoken aim to “promote understanding for the new Germany” in Sweden. Odeberg was also founder of a Research Group on Old Norse Religion in Lund called “Odal”, which collaborated with the German “Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life" in Eisenach.[13] A member of this institute, the professor of theology in Jena, Wolf Meyer-Erlach, had held lectures at the University of Lund in 1941, invited by Odeberg.  
Odeberg participated in a number of conferences in Nazi Germany during the years 1941-1943 arranged by the institute and also sent some of his doctoral students to study for Meyer-Erlach in Jena. Odeberg also kept in contact with the Pro-Nazi theologian Gerhard Kittel, from “Forschungsabteilung Judenfrage” in Munich which Odeberg also visited.  
Recent investigations have also drawn attention to the strong anti-Semitic bias of Odeberg’s book “Pharisaism and Christianity”, first published in Swedish in 1943 and course literature on the priest seminars of the Swedish Church until the 1970s. The article on Odeberg in the Swedish Biographical Lexica, written by Tryggve Kronholm, professor in Semitic languages at the University of Uppsala, in the early 1990s however, does not mention any of the facts I just mentioned. What it does say is that Odeberg was accused of being a Pro-Nazi Anti-Semite during the war, but that his friendship with a number of Jews “speaks another language”.[14] A conclusion which is not only weak, but obviously a lie considering the facts mentioned above. This is a rhetoric figure with the one and only aim to excuse Odeberg’s Anti-Semitism as well as his work for the Swedish-German Association during the war.
Odeberg is mentioned by Johan Östling in Sweden after Nazism: Politics and Culture in the Wake of the Second World War (New York: Berghahn, 2016), p. 147, as belonging to a group of Lund University scholars who had shown sympathy to the Third Reich "even during the Second World War," but who had been able to retain their academic positions, albeit in a condition of "partial stigmatisation." He was permitted to continue teaching and doing research without being investigated.

Image of Odeberg was found at In December 2016, the History Department at Uppsala University in  Sweden held a symposium on "A Treason of the Intellectuals? International Scientific and Intellectual Relations with Germany during the Nazi Era."

Note: This post is cited by Pieter G. R.  de Villiers, "Apocalypses and Mystical Texts: Investigating Prolegomena and the State of Affairs," pp. 7-60 in Apocalypticism and Mysticism in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity, edited by John J. Collins, Pieter G. R. Villiers, Adela Yarbro Collins (Berlin/Boston: de Gruyter, 2018), p. 33, note 96.

Selected publications by Odeberg:

3 Enoch, or The Hebrew Book of Enoch. New York: Ktav, 1973 (reprint of the 1928 edition together with a prolegomenon by Jonas B. Greenfield).

The Fourth Gospel: Interpreted in its Relation to Contemporaneous Religious Currents in Palestine and the Hellenistic-Oriental world. Uppsala, 1929.

"Hellenismus und Judentum. Verjudung und Entjudung der antiken Welt," in Die völkische Gestalt des Glaubens, ed. by Walter Grundmann. Liepzig: Georg Wigand, 1943. This was one of the publications of the “Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life."

"Die Muttersprache Jesu als wissenschaftliche Aufgabe,” in Walter Grundmann, ed., Germanentum, Christentum, und Judentum: Studien zur Erforschung ihres gegenseitigen Verhältnisses: Sitzungsberichte der dritten Arbeitstagung des Instituts zur Erforschung des jüdischen Einflusses auf das deutsche kirchliche Leben vom 9. bis 11. Juni 1942 in Nürnberg. 3 volumes; Liepzig: Georg Wigand, 1943. Vol. 3, pp. 69-82.

Pharisaism and Christianity. St Louis: Concordia, 1943 (translated from Swedish).

[1] "Åke Ohlmarks in the Third Reich: A Scientific Career Between Adaptation, Cooperation, and Ignorance," pages 553-575 in Horst Junginger, The Study of Religion Under the Impact of Fascism (Leiden: Brill, 2008).
[2] Ibid., 560. Another article, however, says that Odeberg became head of the society only in 1941: Håkan Bengtsson, "Hugo Odeberg, Kännare av Judendom och Nazist?", p. 2.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid., 560-61.
[5] Ibid., 562.
[6] Ibid., 566.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Omer Bartov and Phyllis Mack, eds., In God’s Name: Genocide and Religion in the Twentieth Century (Berghbahn Books, 2001), 84 (79-105).
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid., 80.
[11] Susannah Heschel, “Reading Jesus as a Nazi,” p. 30 (27-41), in Tod Linafelt, ed., A Shadow of Glory: Reading the New Testament After the Holocaust (Routledge, 2013).
[12] Oredsson, Sverker, Lunds universitet under andra världskriget. Motsättningar, debatter och hjälpinsatser, Lund 1996, pp. 113.
[13] Heschel, Susannah, “Theologen für Hitler”, in Leonore Siegele-Wenschkewitz (ed.), Christlicher Antijudaismus und Antisemitismus, Frankfurt am Main 1994, pp. 125-170.
[14] Kronholm, Tryggve, ”Odeberg, Hugo” in: Svenskt biografiskt Lexikon 28, Stockholm 1992-1994, pp. 1-5, p. 2.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Kindergarten and the Holocaust

Another excellent post by Ben Goosen in Anabaptist Historians about Mennonites and the Holocaust.
National Socialists murdered 1.2 million Jews in occupied Ukraine, including tens of thousands in the Dnipropetrovsk and Mykolaiv regions. Propagandists avoided reporting explicitly on the Holocaust. Journalists instead portrayed Jews as aggressors who must be stopped. Jews’ alleged victims were Mennonites and other “ethnic Germans.” The very real deprivations and terrors of Soviet rule were thus ascribed to “Jewish-Bolshevik tyranny.”[16] Occupiers seized Jewish property and redistributed it, claiming to redress past wrongs. Jubilant reports of one aid action in Kronau mentioned only that the 32,000 clothing and household items were “for the most part used.”[17] 
The same agencies that liquidated Jews provided aid to Mennonites.[18] Their backdrop was total war. Thousands starved across Ukraine, and the land was pocked with barely-covered mass graves. But Nazi administrators wanted “ethnic Germans” to live happy and whole. “Blossom-white are the dresses and the head coverings of the women and the girls,” remarked one visitor of a Sunday in Chortitza.[19] Another crowed: “The simple church is no longer a movie theater as in Bolshevik times.”[20] Both Chortitza and Halbstadt played host to triumphal delegations of the Third Reich’s leading Nazis, including enormous rallies for Reich Minister Alfred Rosenberg.[21]
[16]: “Der Ruf des Reiches an die Volksdeutschen am Schwarzmeer,” Deutsche Ukraine-Zeitung, June 16, 1943.[17]: “Kleider für 13000 Volksdeutsche,” Deutsche Bug-Zeitung, June 30, 1943, 3; “Kleidungsstücke für 13000 Volksdeutsche,” Deutsche Ukraine-Zeitung, July 6, 1943; “Die Hilfsaktion wird fortgesetzt,” Ukraine Post, July 20, 1943, 8.[18]: Rudolf Rümer, “Volksdeutsche sind unserer Hilfe sicher,” Deutsche Ukraine-Zeitung, August 22, 1942, 3.[19]: “Urlaub nach Chortitza,” Deutsche Ukraine-Zeitung, September 11, 1943, 3.[20]: “Nach deutschem Vorbild,” Deutsche Ukraine-Zeitung, December 2, 1942, 3; “Deutsche Art dringt durch,” Ukraine Post, April 17, 1943, 5. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Good Evening, Mr. Waldheim

I just came across this Lou Reed song, from a Facebook discussion on songs about UN Secretary Generals on Facebook. It features Kurt Waldheim, the Pope (probably John Paul II), Jesse Jackson and the PLO, and Louis Farrakhan, and the underlying theme is antisemitism from the right (Waldheim) and left (Jackson). It's from his New York album, released in January, 1989.

Jackson had made a speech on "common ground" at the Democratic convention the previous summer, which Reed is reacting to in part in the song.

Anthony DeCurtis, the Rolling Stone review, writes, "Reed chides Jackson with the question 'Jesse you say Common Ground/Does that include the PLO?”' He goes on to ask, hammering a rhyme worthy of a rapper, 'If I ran for President and once was a member of the Klan/Wouldn’t you call me on it/The way I call you on Farrakhan?' The song doesn’t end hopefully; in the last lines, Reed snaps, 'Oh is it true/There’s no Ground Common enough for me and you?'”

Good evening Mr.Waldheim
and Pontiff how are you?
You have so much in common
in the things you do

And here comes Jesse Jackson
he talks of Common Ground
does that Common Ground include me
or is it just a sound

A sound that shakes
oh Jesse, you must watch the sounds you make

A sound that quakes
there are fears that still reverberate

Jesse you say Common Ground
does that include the PLO?
what about people right here right now
who fought for you not so long ago?

The words that flow so freely
falling dancing from your lips
I hope that you don't cheapen them
with a racist slip

Oh Common Ground
is Common Ground a word or just a sound
Common Ground
remember those civil rights workers buried in the ground

If I ran for President
and once was a member of the Klan
wouldn't you call me on it
the way I call you on Farrakhan

And Pontiff, pretty Pontiff
can anyone shake your hand ?
or is it just that you like uniforms
and someone kissing your hand

Or is it true
the Common Ground for me includes you too

Oh, oh, is it true
the Common Ground for me includes you too

Good evening Mr.Waldheim
pontiff how are you
as you both stroll through the woods at night
I'm thinking thoughts of you

And Jesse you're inside my thoughts
as the rhythmic words subside
my Common Ground invites you in
or do you prefer to wait outside

Or is it true
the Common Ground for me is without you

Or is it true
the Common Ground for me is without you

Oh is it true
there's no Ground Common enough for me and you

Sunday, November 11, 2018

80th anniversary of Kristallnacht

@ElishevaAvital posted some very disturbing photographs from an album that her grandfather had acquired somehow during WWII - photos of the events of Kristallnacht, which Germans now call Reichspogromnacht - Reich Pogrom Night, on the night of November 9-10, 1938. They depict Jewish homes being ransacked and show people in their pajamas, some bleeding, Nazis stealing Jewish books, the destruction of a Jewish-owned business, and the desecration and burning down of the main synagogue of Fürth, which is right next to Nuremberg. The scenes are very sad and frightening.

I wonder if it's possible to identify the terrified Jews in their robes and pajamas. There are several groups, including a man and woman in one of the rooms of their house.

You can click on the link above to see the whole thread.

Here's what she writes about the photos:

Below the jump are all of the photos she posted to Twitter.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Exit polls from the New York governor's race.

Just taking a look at the exit polls (all available at the CNN website).

Some results from the NY governor's race, Cuomo (D) vs. Molinaro (R)

Gender breakdown:

Cuomo won both men and women, but the percentage of women voting for him was much higher, 66% vs. 48%.

Age: Cuomo won all age categories from 18-65+. Most popular among the youngest voters.


Molinari won with white voters, 51% to 45%.
Cuomo won both Black and Latinx voters by overwhelming margins. If the state had been more white, Molinari would have been elected.

Race by gender:

Molinari won pretty overwhelmingly with white men, but lost with white women, I'm happy to say.

Whites by education and gender:

Education seems to be a key marker among white female voters. White college women voted by 2-1 for Cuomo, while white women without a college degree went for Molinari (by a smaller margin). White college men were almost evenly split between the two candidates, while white men without a college degree went overwhelmingly for Molinari. And all voters who were people of color went overwhelmingly for Cuomo. The most important factor is obviously race of the voter, but it's mediated by gender and education.

The other obvious marker was party membership.
87% of Democrats voted for Cuomo. (50% of those who answered the poll were Democrats)
89% of Republicans voted for Molinari. (24% were Republicans)
Independents (26%) were split: 44% Cuomo, 49% Molinari.

The sample size wasn't large enough to show religious differences, except between Protestants and Catholics. 48% of Protestants went for Molinaro, 47% for Cuomo. 51% of Catholics voted for Cuomo, 47% for Molinaro.

Urban, suburban, and rural

Cuomo won in the cities, and Molinaro in the suburbs. I wish the sample size had been big enough to show the breakdown among rural voters.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

GOP campaign ads with antisemitic imagery

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Antisemitic attack on a woman in Cambridge, Mass (my hometown)

A friend of a friend mentioned today on Facebook that a woman was recently attacked in Cambridge, Mass, by a man shouting antisemitic epithets at her. I hadn't heard about this before.
Massachusetts man faces hate crimes charges for assaulting Jewish woman, 66
JTA — A Cambridge, Massachusetts, man faces hate crime charges after he allegedly attacked a senior citizen woman while shouting anti-Semitic statements.
Jarrett Harris, 62, was arrested on Thursday and charged with assault and battery on someone age 60 or older, and assault and battery with intent to intimidate, a hate crimes charge.

The victim, 66, told police that she and another man spoke with Harris for a few moments about a nearby property and then he followed them down the street saying “Shut the [expletive] up [Jewish expletive],” The Boston Globe reported.

He also allegedly pushed the victim and began shouting, “You [expletive] Jewish [expletive],” and put his fist on her throat, she told police, adding that the attack was “unprovoked.”

Harris was arraigned in Cambridge District Court on Thursday and released on his own recognizance and a promise to stay away from the victim. 
The incident comes days after graffiti that included multiple swastikas and the words “Kill Kykes” next to a drawing of Hitler was discovered in Salem, Massachusetts, The Salem-based Jewish Journal reported Thursday. Several swastikas were found at Reading Memorial High School in the town of Reading, Massachusetts. Other racist graffiti were found in Reading last month. Officials declined to say what the graffiti in Reading said while police investigate the incidents, the Boston Globe reported Thursday.

See also:

Boston Globe article: