In the historical narrative in the world’s cultures and societies, Jewish people have often been typecast or set on the outer fringes of people. Shakespeare had his Jewish shylock in the Merchants of Venice.
While I have just glimpsed the surface of literature, notably of the European variety, I am compelled to share one of major lesson I learned while taking a course titled “a history of anti-Semitism”. It is a canard, a browbeating that has remained for centuries between Jews and Christians, the charge of deicide.
The most basic definition of deicide in a dictionary is “killing a god”. Certainly this has been a prevailing charge against Jewish people that has been the source of all forms of explanation for why Jewish people have been persecuted down through time. I’m not writing this to perpetuate victimhood or a “good versus evil”. In fact, I believe people of faith need to reconcile what they have done to one another in the name of the religion or “faith” that has contributed to the suffering of others.
In 1965 the Catholic Church took a huge step to improve relations between Christians and Jews with a document known as the Nostra Aetate, Latin for "In Our Time," “a document that revolutionized the Catholic Church's approach to Jews and Judaism after nearly 2000 years of pain and sorrow.” In section four of the Nostra Aetate, the Church repudiates the centuries-old "deicide" charge against all Jews. And they took it a step further by recognizing the spiritual link between the parent faith Judaism and its child Christianity. This was a truly historical step in the right direction because so much of our knowledge of the “other” is taught by people who look, think and believe just like us. It’s always better to have the one who is having charges leveled against them to have a chance to speak for themselves.
I had a wonderful time over the Passover/Easter season this year. Had the honor of going to a meeting of the Wimberley Wordsmiths, a poetry group that meets once a month at the Wimberley Public Library. The prompt and discussion for the meeting was Easter. I wrote a short poem about my step daughter and her experience with matzos and when we all shared what we’d written, a wonderful discussion ensued about the experiences Christians in the group have had with Jews. For example, one couple attended a church that had an actual Passover Seder during Easter.
Our poetry brought us together and facilitated a discussion among people of faith, it was a healing experience and instructive. And gives me a window into the small hope that maybe we can learn to just let one another “be” in places we don’t understand and live well together where we do get it.