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June 3, 2022 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Friday, July 1
The Noon Study Group will NOT meet on 7/1.
We will resume meeting on 7/8.
We began last Friday’s session by reviewing some of the motivations Dara Horn ascribed to those who rescued Jews in chapter 8 of People Love Dead Jews: 1) they were possibly adrenaline junkies who saw the whole rescue process as an adventure worth taking a risk for; 2) their actions may have been instinctive, motivated by an altruistic gene; 3) it was the morally right thing to do; 4) they wanted to feel important (or, in Fry’s case, to “hang-out” with important people); 5) they may have been somehow deranged, bi-polar, unhinged. We concluded that such motivations are multiply determined and impossible to pin down, even if the rescuers themselves try to account for them. We also discussed reasons that those who were rescued may not have displayed their gratitude–“survivor guilt” that they were saved while others perished, they were humiliated by their dependence upon another for their survival, or they just wanted to put the whole unpleasant experience behind them. We concluded our discussion of this long and ambiguous chapter by considering Horn’s point that, in addition to, or far from being inspirational, these stories “make painfully clear everything that might have been” because so many others were not rescued.
Our group then turned its attention to Chapter 9, about a digital mapping program that permits viewers to visit lost Jewish Communities (https://diarna.org/). We all seemed to agree that Horn was far more straightforward, positive–and less snarky–in her portrait of an organization dedicated to using technology in “preserving places that apathy and malevolence have almost erased from the world.” Horn’s interest in Diarna ties in with her preoccupation with the irretrievability of the past and with how Jewish and other traditions intend to protect their culture from oblivion, and, in the case of Diarna, to demonstrate that past cultures existed in a world that was far more heterogeneous than the world we observe today.
Following our discussion of Chapter 9, our group once again considered some of the potential ways of interpreting the provocative title of Horn’s essay collection. People like dead Jews
because they hate us/literally people like Jews dead
because they are fascinated/obsessed with antiquity and wish to preserve our memory–or to exploit, by profiting from, our memory
because they see Jews as metaphors/symbols of endurance, faith, freedom and/or they see our persecution as a sign of the depths to which civilization can sink
because they can somehow objectify us and our experience in order to teach a powerful lesson.
When we resume meeting on July 8, we will look at Chapters 10 and 11, which deal with an exhibition on Auschwitz at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage
and on the figure of Shakespeare’s Shylock.
Now in its 23rd year, our informal discussion group meets in person from 12-1 in CBI’s small chapel (with an option on Zoom for those who cannot attend in person). All are welcome to attend regardless of their level of expertise. Copies of Horn’s collection should be available in local bookstores and through the internet. If you have questions, please contact Jay Jacoby at email@example.com.