This educational module aims to help students think more deeply about what it means to be an outsider. Using material from the Museum’s Voices on Antisemitism, the module:
- Illustrates the existence and broad impact of contemporary antisemitism;
- Demonstrates the ongoing relevance of the Holocaust to law, faith, the arts, and other areas;
- Introduces, punctuates, or ends sections of study; as homework or in-class listening.
- Episodes from the Museum’s Voices on Antisemitism series relevant to being an outsider;
- Rationale, which explains why this theme is important today;
- History section, which connects the Holocaust to the theme;
- Questions for Discussion or Writing;
- Activities for students; and
- Resources for further information and material.
Imam Mohamed Magid
Imam Mohamed Magid takes a strong stand against antisemitism and Holocaust denial and believes it's important for other Muslim leaders to do so as well. Learn more
Eboo Patel insists that it is not enough for young people to unlearn the hatreds of previous generations. In bringing them together to serve their communities, Patel hopes that they will become the architects of greater religious understanding. Learn more
Father John Pawlikowski
For more than forty years, Father John Pawlikowski has urged Catholics and others to confront the long history of Christian antisemitism. Learn more
Rabbi Gila Ruskin
At the age of 50, Rabbi Gila Ruskin left her pulpit position to teach Jewish studies at an urban-Baltimore Catholic school with a historically African American student body. The experience led Ruskin to appreciate the many ways that Jews and African Americans can come together through a shared history of oppression and, she says, a commitment to prophetic ideals. Learn more
Col. Edward B. Westermann
Colonel Edward Westermann believes it's important to prepare his cadets to confront morally complicated situations. In a seminar he taught on the Holocaust, Westermann called upon his students to consider carefully the responsibilities of their post. Learn more
Religious tension exists today around the world. Some people identify very strongly with their religion and at times, this makes it difficult for them to accept the other religious identities surrounding them. This has the potential to lead to serious misunderstandings and even violence. The Voices on Antisemitism podcast series is designed to bring together a variety of people of different backgrounds to comment on why antisemitism matters today. The individuals represented here come from a wide range of backgrounds and religious affiliation. Specific examples of podcasts on this topic include Imam Mohamed Magid, who stands up against antisemitism and Holocaust denial; Father John Pawlikowski, who encourages Catholics and others to confront the long history of Christian antisemitism; Rabbi Gila Ruskin, who appreciates the many ways that Jews and Africa Americans have a shared history; and Colonel Edward Westermann, who prepares his cadets to confront morally complicated situations.
On numerous occasions in religious history, the language of religious tradition has been used as a weapon of prejudice or violence. The Holocaust raises particular challenges for Christianity because of the centuries of anti-Jewish rhetoric, prejudice, and violence throughout Europe grounded, in part, in Christian understandings of their tradition and teachings. Jesus and his disciples were observant Jews, and Jesus was executed by the Roman government because officials viewed him as a political threat to their rule. Yet as the early Christian church emerged and became aligned with political power, the Jewish population became the target of theologically framed prejudices and stereotypes. Jews were blamed for the crucifixion of Christ; the destruction of the Temple by the Romans and the scattering of the Jewish people was interpreted as punishment both for past transgressions and for continued failure to abandon their faith and accept Christianity.
Seeking to retain their beliefs and culture, refusing to convert to Christianity, Jews were members of a minority religion on the Christian continent of Europe. There were periods in some countries during which Jews were welcomed but, at a time in which faith was perceived as the principal form of self-identity and intensely influenced both public and private life, Jews found themselves increasingly isolated as outsiders, the objects of violence and discrimination.
The racial antisemitism of the National Socialists (Nazis) was a new development that took hatred of Jews to a genocidal extreme, yet it emerged on a continent where antisemitism has become deeply embedded in the history and the culture. The Holocaust began with words and ideas: stereotypes, sinister cartoons, and the gradual spread of hatred over hundreds of years.
- Father John Pawlikowski speaks about the history of Christian antisemitism. How did historical Christian antisemitism lay the foundation for the widespread popular support for National Socialism in Germany?
- Imam Mohamed Magid discusses the importance of interfaith connections.
- What parallels does he see between Christians, Jews, and Muslims?
- What roles do these religions play in fighting antisemitism and Holocaust denial?
- Many of Rabbi Gila Ruskin’s students struggled to speak up when they saw wrong-doing. Similarly, Colonel Edward Westermann prepared his cadets to act responsibly in morally complicated situations.
- Discuss the question that Eboo Patel presents in his interview: “Are there religious forces that divide, versus religious forces that unite, and which is stronger?”
- How can you become an “architect of greater religious understanding”?
- Is religious identity shaped internally, externally, or both?
- Some people display external markers of religious identity. Discuss the hijab, Roman collar, kippah, and other symbols of religious identity.
- Create your own podcast interview: Students discuss how they identify with religion and how they can strengthen interfaith understanding around them.
- Group Activity: Break the class into small groups and have each group listen and respond to an individual podcast. Afterwards, divide students into new groups such that each has a representative of each podcast. Have each student discuss the viewpoint of their individual. As a group, have them find points of intersection between the individual perspectives.
- Photo Activity: Using quotations from the podcast series, students portray their thoughts and feelings about that quotation through photographs selected from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Photo Archive database.
- Committee on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust (This Museum committee serves as a resource for individuals and groups grappling with the ethical and philosophical issues raised by the Holocaust and contemporary manifestations of antisemitism.)
- How to Tackle Antisemitism and Anti-Americanism in the Muslim World (A conversation with Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University.)
- The Interfaith Story behind Nostra Aetate (In 1965, the Second Vatican Council ratified Nostra Aetate, the Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions. In its explicit repudiation of the centuries-old “deicide” charge that held Jews responsible for the death of Jesus, its condemnation of antisemitism, and its acknowledgement of the enduring validity of Judaism, Nostra Aetate opened a new era in interfaith dialogue.)
- Kovno Ghetto (The “Hidden History of the Kovno Ghetto” online exhibit details the religious life of those held there.)
- Kristallnacht: How did Religious Leaders in the United States Respond? (A collection of resources including reports, video, and photos on how the religious leaders of the United States responded to Kristallnacht.)
- Past Revisited: Reflections on the Study of the Holocaust and Contemporary Antisemitism (Steven Zipperstein’s study of antisemitism and the Holocaust within the context of modern Jewish history.)
Holocaust Encyclopedia articles:
- Antisemitism in History: From the Early Church to 1400
- Antisemitism in History: The Early Modern Era, 1300–1800
- Antisemitism in History: The Era of Nationalism, 1800–1918
- German Churches and the Nazi State
- Making a Leader
- Nazi Propaganda
- Spiritual Resistance in the Ghettos
Additional Online Resources Related to Religion and Identity
- Anti-Defamation League (Fights antisemitism and all forms of bigotry in the US)
- Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies (Works to disarm religious hatred and establish models of interfaith understanding.)
- International Council of Christians and Jews (Insights and issues in the ongoing Jewish-Christian dialogue.)