It was not only the foot but Jewish physique generally that made Jews unapt for military service. It was a compendium of the diseases of civilisation. Some physical features Jews shared with blacks. The very way they walk indicates atavism, animality, disease. The spread of syphilis was routinely attributed to Jews, as Hitler remembered in Mein Kampf , and it was linked, implausibly, to the practice of circumcision. Other plagues were called Jewish in origin: gambling, prostitution, and now Aids. Jack the Ripper, despite his own disclaimers, must have been a Whitechapel Jew, a shochet or ritual butcher.
English anti-semitism, which had a millennial history and an ample supply of stereotypes, now turned on the new immigrants from Eastern Europe. In their turn, Western Jewish scientists, we learn, joined in the game and passed on these myths of degeneracy to the Jews of the East, almost as if subscribing to the old notion that you could get rid of a venereal disease by passing it on to somebody else. Gilman is of course interested in the element of self-abasing Jewish behaviour caused by centuries of oppression; circumcision is still a Jewish problem in the USA, even though it seems all boy babies get circumcised unless the parents forbid it.
Absurdities about their smell, their colour originally black , their sexuality persist. Even their creative abilities can be connected with their diseases. That is where we have to look for the tokens of the plague.
But as to its aetiology, as to explanations of how this devastating ailment took hold and how it persists, one is hardly the wiser. Perhaps it is an updated notion of wickedness that is really called for. Shylock is a representation of the Jew as he appeared in the historical context of the English s, but he also became an important part of other and later representations — a household word, a synonym, in the language of many who might never have seen or read The Merchant of Venice , for the usurious Jew.
We need not expect from Marx, for all his literary interests, much enlightenment on the Shylock question, or, by implication, on any other. In search of such enlightenment Gross trawls exhaustively through the text of the play, through its history on the stage and through its critical fortunes.
In the popular imagination and on the stage, they were bloodyminded usurers with an inveterate hatred of Christians. Shylock certainly hates Christians, demands the Law in the Old Testament manner and defies Mercy, supposed to be the property of the New, and though he wants to murder Antonio, he is very unlike the boisterous and extrovert Barabas, whom people can hardly refrain from admiring for his outrageousness. Despite the folktale plotting — Pound of Flesh, Caskets, Rings — and the element of stereotype in Shylock, The Merchant is an up-to-date play.
By the s London was a major commercial and financial centre, dependent on credit, though this did not prevent pious repetition of all the old rules against usury. Within prescribed limits as to the level of interest, it had been legal since the time of Henry VIII, but it was a sin, and best left to the inhabitants of the ghetto, though they too were forbidden by their religion to practise it, except Deuteronomy That Shakespeare wants the audience to be thinking about these matters is proved by the unusual discussion between Shylock and Antonio, as they negotiate the loan.
It concerns the interpretation of the passage in Genesis 31 about Jacob getting the better of Laban. This was a stock instance in arguments about two ways of making money: venture and usury. Antonio was not a usurer but a venturer; it was possible for all his ships to be lost, and later there is a false report that they have been.
Shylock, on the other hand, thinks that in lending money at interest it is he who is justified by Jacob. Sheep breed, money breeds, he can see no difference. On the whole, though, the point seems simple: we are to think Antonio good because of his generosity and his love for his friend, his firm distinction between profit and humanity, and Shylock very bad because he cannot grieve for his daughter without lamenting his ducats. So much for the scheme. But it is also true that we are discouraged from making Shylock simply a two-dimensional emblem of usury by being told things about him that seem superfluous to the scheme and to the stereotype.
He keeps an orderly if rather gloomy household, and he is religious, observing dietary rules and going to the synagogue. And above all he says things that induce audiences to feel for him what, in a simple morality play, would be an irrelevant sympathy, even conceding that he has a right to his bond. Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions, etc? In other words, the resemblances only emphasise a gross dissimilarity, which is more important than they are.
In the same way, those who demand justice and deny mercy must, on the Christian programme, lose everything, as Portia remarks: so we need not feel sorry for Shylock at the end of the trial scene. But this simple formulation is contested by the experience of too many readers.
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The words are manifestly saying something, promoting an attitude, but in the course of doing so they are also, less obviously, subverting the manifest message they are promoting. There are subtexts which may become clearer with time, and especially when powerful actors and directors dig for them. Much of this book consists of an account of such efforts, especially the gradual elevation of Shylock into a tragic hero. The critic George Sampson rather acutely recommended that we distinguish between the plot and the play.
Others saw as clearly that the elevation of Shylock to a figure of moral authority or tragic grandeur was at odds with the stereotypical element in the character, and the usury theme. Yet others protested against the sentimental overvaluation of Shylock. As president of the WJC, Amb.
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Death and Special Issues of the Body
Antisemitism There has been an alarming rise in antisemitism across the globe in recent years, on both the far-right and the far-left. The growth of extreme far-right parties in Europe and a proliferation of anti-Zionist sentiment has contributed to an atmosphere in which many Jews are afraid to openly identify as such.
More than one-third of all respondents said they had considered emigrating in the five years preceding the survey because they did not feel safe as Jews in the country where they live. Holocaust Legacy As the survivors of the Shoah sadly fade from the scene, the WJC will continue to ensure that the memory of the Shoah will remain at the forefront of the consciousness of the Jewish people and the international community.
The WJC understands that it is up to the post-Holocaust generations to transmit the memories of the survivors, together with their moral legacies, into the future. At the same time, while the WJC will never allow the Holocaust to be universalized so as to diminish its Jewish essence, the WJC is also committed to fight all forms of racism, bigotry and xenophobia directed against other national, religious, ethnic, or racial groups.
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