In brief: ‘Roots of Antisemitism’ at Bnai Keshet
Professor Mark Leuchter will deliver a presentation titled “The Enemy of Heaven and Earth: The Ancient Mythology Behind Anti-Semitism" this Saturday, Feb. 15, 10:30 a.m., at Bnai Keshet’s Kaplan Minyan. The Kaplan Minyan meets in the Red Gables historic house across the parking lot from the synagogue’s main building. The presentation is free and open to all.
Leuchter will address the roots and evolution of antisemitism, “often called ‘the oldest hatred’, for good reason,” he says in a release. “Since the foundational days of Christianity, anti-Jewish ideas have been used to mobilize communities against Jewish religious traditions and identity.”
“Most scholars have distinguished between this old anti-Judaism and actual Anti-Semitism, drawing attention to the ethnic bigotry inherent in the latter and absent from the former,” he says. “But the origins of genuine Antisemitism, and the mythologies that have persistently characterized it over the last several centuries, indeed possess very ancient roots… it is the political myth defining imperial identity and boundaries that stands behind the shape of Antisemitic ideology, one that bifurcates all the forces of the universe into those that align with Heaven and Earth and those that herald foreign chaos and destruction.
“The mythological categories that characterize Jews as foreign, alien, monstrous, and possessing dangerous, cosmic power long predate Martin Luther, the medieval Church or even the early Christian patristic writers,” says Leuchter, who researches cultural memory and myth in Persian period Judaism, (538-332 BCE). “The foundations of this mythology derive, ironically, from the one period in antiquity that Jewish tradition views as a period of glorious restoration -- that of the Persian Empire.”
Leuchter is professor of ancient Judaism and the Hebrew Bible in the department of Religion at Temple University in Philadelphia. His current research project deals with the ancient mythology behind contemporary antisemitic ideology. His book “The Levites and the Boundaries of Israelite Identity” was published by Oxford University Press in 2017.
For more information, call 973-746-4889 or visit bnaikeshet.org/event/kaplanminyans.