Anti-Semitism: Anti-Semitism is prejudice and/or discrimination against Jews. Anti- Semitism can be based on hatred against Jews because of their religious beliefs, their group membership (ethnicity) and sometimes the erroneous belief that Jews are a race.
Prejudice (a feeling): Prejudice is prejudging or making a decision about a group of people without sufficient knowledge. Prejudicial thinking is frequently based on stereotypes.
Stereotype (an idea): A stereotype is an oversimplified generalization about a person or a group of people without regard for individual differences. Even seemingly positive stereotypes that link a person or group to a specific positive trait can have negative consequences.
Anti-Semitism, often called ￼ the longest hatred, ￼ is both an age-old problem and a current challenge. For centuries Jews have been accused of treacherous acts, including the murder of Jesus, poisoning wells, the ritual murder of Christian children, the Bubonic plague and controlling the media and the banks. Many of these falsities have roots in historical circumstances, and longstanding fear and misunderstanding. Tragically, these lies continue to be launched against Jews. Recently, Jews have been blamed for everything from the attacks on September 11 and the Iraq War to the tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia. The continual demonizing and scapegoating of the Jew as ￼ other ￼ highlights the need to analyze and discuss the depiction of Jews in literature. Without an examination of both historic and contemporary anti-Semitism, students may be left with stereotypical and negative conceptions of Jews and Judaism.
Certainly one of the most characteristic and troubling aspects of The Merchant of Venice is that the depiction of Shylock reinforces the stereotype of Jews as money- hungry and greedy. This stereotype has been around for centuries, and continues to be perpetuated today. Having students learn about some of the historical roots and causes of...
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