The opening session was a two-hour panel discussion about the relevance of the Holocaust in the 21st century. I didn’t feel that I was really learning anything, so I left about two-thirds of the way through. Luckily, the smaller workshops were far more interesting and valuable.
I started off with Rafael Medoff’s talk on teaching the Holocaust through editorial cartoons from the period.
The cartoon Medoff is using in this slide is from a Jewish paper in
He’s working on a new book, using mostly American and British cartoons (including a striking one from Dr. Seuss), and it got me thinking how this might be an interesting way to get more class discussion. I could open each class with an editorial cartoon related to the subject of that day (including some Nazi cartoons), and use it to get the students to engage more with the material.
I spoke to Medoff at the lunch break about inviting him to
He was followed by Tali Nates from
The second pedagogical session I went to was divided into thirds, but it was only the middle third that interested me. This was given by Dr. Navas Jaat Aafreedi, an assistant professor in the Department of History and Civilization at
I’m not sure what to make of his talk because a lot of what he said was rather shocking and highly political, and he was speaking so fast, I was basically just scribbling notes as quickly as I could. When I get back, I need to check with some of my colleagues who do India Studies to verify his claims.
He began by stating that neither Jewish history nor the Holocaust are recognized as academic disciplines in
1) Most Indians are unaware of either the Holocaust or Jews
2) Hitler is becoming an increasingly popular and admired figure in
3) These two facts will have a detrimental effect on Indian perceptions of Jews and
4) All of the above is conducive to the spread of anti-Semitism in
He should the results of several surveys he’s conducted of students in his college. In response to the question, what does the word “holocaust” mean, most students were able to answer correctly that it concerned the genocide of the Jews, but this was only true, he claimed, because of his efforts over the last two-three years. A discernable fraction thought it meant “heat,” while others suggested “homeopathic medicine,” and “a chemical compound for killing.”
When asked who Jews are, only slightly less than half said they were a separate religious community. About a quarter of the students thought they were Christians, while about a fifth thought they were Zoroastrians, and a slightly smaller number thought they were Muslims.
He then discussed a scandal involving how until 2002, the “standard X history textbook” in
From there he segued into how Hitler’s popularity is growing in
1) Growing sales of Mein Kampf
2) More and more young Indians are putting Hitler or swastikas on their Facebook pages
3) The appearance of film and tv characters named after Hitler
4) The use of the term “Aryan” in Hindu society and culture
5) Open admiration of Hitler by Hindu hardliners
6) The attempt to open a Nazi-themed restaurant in Mumbai in 2006 (called Hitler’s Cross)
7) The sale of a brand of bed linens called “Nazis.”
8) Some Hindu hardliners have been quoted as saying “Hitler did the right thing with the wrong people.”
Some Indians, he claimed, look on Hitler has having aided Indian independence by weakening British rule.
He then very briefly reviewed how he has infiltrated Holocaust education and Jewish history into the curriculum, by never openly listing it on the syllabus, but by using vague code phrases.
Who opposes Holocaust education? According to Aafreedi, it’s a combination of Hindu rightwingers and Muslim anti-Semites. When he held the first Holocaust-related film festival in
All this was a lot to take in, and as I wrote above, I want to verify these claims with my colleagues who do
The final talk I went to this afternoon was on bi-national meetings of young people as a pedagogical method. This talk was given in Polish with a translator. What they’ve been doing is bringing over a hundred high school students from
After that I went back to Jaffa Road/Ben Yehuda and did some shopping and had a kafe hafukh before heading back to the hotel. I went back to the Grand Café one last time and ordered their mix mushroom open lasagna one more time. It’s very good:
When I left the restaurant it was cool and breezy. It was the nicest weather I’ve had in
I thought at first it was maybe some sort of missionary work by Habad or the Breslovers, but instead it was a big ceremony to welcome a new torah scroll to the synagogue.
According to one of the electronic signs, the new scroll was named in honor of a certain person “of blessed memory.” I can only assume the family commissioned the torah in his honor.
As I came up, I could hear someone on a loud speaker saying “first, we will say the ‘Shma,’ then blow the shofar, and then sing ‘Mizmor l’David’ as we bring in the new torah into the synagogue.”
Based on the shape of the torah containers, this is a mizrahi community (they also had a mizrahi accent in their Hebrew and melodies. After they blew the shofar, they started the procession of the Torahs into the synagogue.
One man was throwing candies at the torahs, the way I’ve seen family members do to the bar mitzvah boy at a mizrahi bar mitzvah.
So tomorrow is my last full day in