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Jews, Race, and Racism: Thinking Through Jews and Otherness

Sun, December 16, 12:30 to 2:00pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Harborview 1 Ballroom

Session Submission Type: Panel Session

Abstract

By looking at various ways race and otherness has operated, and continues to operate, in the lived experiences of Jewish individuals, this panel serves as a jumping-off point for other critical discussions about Jews, Judaism, and Otherness. The first paper on the panel, “Religion, Race, and Science in Freud’s THE FUTURE OF AN ILLUSION” argues that instead of critiquing religion as an unfounded belief in a God, Freud is really centering his argument on critiquing the “logic” of anti-Semitism. Freud’s discussion of anti-Semitism here demonstrates how his personal subjectivity as a Jew in a time where he was considered non-White, affects his theorization of race, science, and religion. The second paper on the panel, “Is the God of Israel a White Racist? Race and the Essence of Judaism” critically reviews claims that Jewish “chosenness” is ideological similar to racist ideologies and proposes that a clear antiracist theological statement needs to be formulated. Specifically, the paper looks at a 2016 document authored by the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative/Masorti movement of Judaism which clarifies and cements the Conservative/Masorti movement’s commitment to the inherent worth and dignity of non-Jews. The paper thinks through language that claims that there is something inherently racist to Judaism itself; the paper argues that it is necessary to think through these anti-Semitic claims of Jewish difference alongside Jewish descriptions of Jewish/Gentile difference. The final paper on the panel, “The Memory of Abraham Joshua Heschel at Selma: The Whiteness and/or Non-Whiteness of Ashkenazi Jews in America” looks at the way memory of both past anti-Semitism and Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement in the 1960s work in contemporary discussions of the "Whiteness" or "Non-Whiteness" of Ashkenazi American Jews. Specifically, the paper looks at the children’s book AS GOOD AS ANYBODY, which memorializes Abraham Joshua Heschel’s involvement in the historic march in Selma organized by Martin Luther King. By placing these papers together, we will be able to think through anti-Semitism, Otherness, and the racialization of Jews over time and space.

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