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STEP 2: A BRIEF HISTORY OF JUDAISM

God made a promise to Abraham that He would make a great nation of Abrahams descendants. This nation, Israel, would be Gods chosen people. Abrahams grandson, Jacob, had twelve sons. These sons later became the twelve tribes of Israel. One of the sons, Joseph, was sold into captivity in Egypt by his brothers. While Joseph was captive in Egypt, God looked out for him and caused him to prosper. Eventually Joseph became second-in-command of Egypt. His responsibility was to prepare the country for a coming famine. To protect his family during the famine, Joseph provided for them in Egypt. Over the years, the descendants of Joseph and his brothers remained in Egypt. But the attitude of the Egyptians began to change toward the Israelites. In time, the Egyptians made slaves of Gods chosen people. God called Moses to lead the IsraelThe Which Way to God? curriculum begins ites out of slavery in Egypt. When Pharaoh, the leader of Egypt, refused to let with a teaching unit on Judaism. After the Israelites go, God sent ten plagues unscrambling words which relate to Judaon the Egyptian people. The tenth ism (including Abraham, Sabbath and plague the one that finally convinced Pharaoh to let the Israelites go was the Nazi - see next page) the leader is encourdeath of the firstborn son of every fami- aged to share with students this Brief Hisly in Egypt. The only people who estory of Judaism. While the history does a caped this plague were the Israelites who painted their doorposts with lambs somewhat faithful job of explaining the Heblood. Their houses were passed over brew scripture narrative, its jump from Old by this plague of death. Jewish people Testament to Jewish worship today fails today still celebrate the Passover, comto provide an adequate explanation of what memorating this event. Judaism looks like today. This could easily From Egypt, God led the Israelites through the wilderness to the promised lead students to think that the Judaism they land, or Israel. There is a continuing will encounter is the same as or very similar movement, unknown as Zionism, to establish in Israel a homeland for all Jewish to the religion of the Israelites who painted their door posts with lambs blood. people. The Old Testament of the Christian Bible is the primary book of the Jewish faith. Jewish people would not call it an Old Testament, for the Hebrew Scriptures are their total Bible. Jewish people consider the first five books of their Scriptures the Torah to be especially important. These are the books that contain Gods laws, including the Ten Commandments. Gods laws concerning the Sabbath provide guidelines for Jewish worship today.

The Tangled Web of Words activity features images of bearded men in robes intended to represent Jewish men looking perplexed at a heap of scrambled letters. The activity, which is intended to help students identify certain terms, requires the unscrambling of these words in order to understand which definitions they correspond to. While the curriculum is aimed at teaching middle school Christians (who presumably have little knowledge about Judaism, and therefore need the course) by featuring puzzled looking Jewish men, the image seems to suggest that it these Jews who dont understand the words and their meanings. Implicit, then, in the image, is the often-made supersessionist claim that Jews dont understand their own tradition(s) and/or scriptures.

Perhaps most problematic, the Brief History of Judaism is followed by a handout explaining Conspiracy Theories about Jesus resurrection. The handout is meant to be reproduced and distributed to group members and outlines three possible objections to the story of Jesus resurrection:
THEORY #1: JESUS DIDNT REALLY DIE. On the cross, Jesus fainted from exhaustion and pain, but didnt die. In the coolness of the tomb, He regained consciousness and made His escape. Important issues to investigate: - What kind of physical condition was Jesus in after the crucifixion? - What obstacles would He have had to overcome in escaping from the tomb? THEORY #2: THE DISCIPLES STOLE JESUS BODY FROM THE TOMB. Jesus disciples somehow overpowered the Roman guards posted by Jesus tomb. They then rolled away the stone from in front of the tomb, removed Jesus dead body, and hid. Afterward, none of them ever told anyone what theyd done. Important issues to investigate: - What kind of attitude did the disciples have during Jesus crucifixion? Did any of them run away? Did any of them stick around? - What obstacles would they have had to overcome to steal Jesus body? THEORY #3: THE JEWISH OFFICIALS SECRETLY REMOVED JESUS BODY FROM THE TOMB. To prevent the disciples from stealing Jesus body and claiming that Hed risen from the dead, the Jewish officials (with the help of the Roman guards) secretly removed Jesus body and hid it. Important issue to investigate: - When rumors of Jesus resurrection started circulating, what could the Jewish officials have done to disprove them?

By placing this handout in the section intended to teach students about Judaism, it makes Jews into conspirators against the Christian story, and also suggests that these are arguments Jewish people make against Christianity/the story of Jesus resurrection. Because the curriculum emphasizes the importance of knowing about a persons religion in order to know about the person, this could lead students to make dangerous assumptions about Jewish views of Jesus, Christianity, the resurrection, etc. At minimum, it suggests that all Jews are in some way concerned about the resurrection and have to look for ways (conspiracies) to reject it. This is clearly not a primary (or even periphery) concern of most Jews or the tradition today. Theory #3 borders on the absurd. By allying the Jewish officals with the roman guards, it perpetuates the assumption that Jews were responsible (or here shared responsibility with the Romans) for Jesus death. Because it doesnt define who, exactly, Jewish officials are, it creates the impression that all Jewish people in Jesus context were against Jesus teachings. Additionally, because it doesnt contextualize the situation in first century Jerusalem, the audience is encouraged to think of the Jewish officials of Jesus time as analogous with the Jewish leaders of our time. Thus the Jews become the bad guys who reject Jesus, then and now.

Problematic Images
The images Christians use to depict Jews (and Semitic people more generally) in this curriculum borderline on the offensive. The timeline handout explaining the development of world religions uses grotesque imagery to depict Greek mythology and Hinduism, and depicts Judaism with a bearded man standing over a fluffy bleating sheep. Not only is this image meant to extend the images of ritual sacrifice of Mosaic Judaism to the present (the image represents all of Judaism) but the altar/lamb imagery plays on the common stereotype of Judaism as antiquated, and brutal. Like the description of Passover, it suggests to the audience that Jews still sacrifice lambs on altars. Another problem with images is visible in the handout offering responses to People of Other Religions. Here, the Muslim, Buddhist, and Jew look own on the happy, smiling Christian youth. All three representatives of the other religions have disinterested or closed postures, and the Muslim and Jew are given exaggerated noses. Lips stuck out and noses turned upwards, instead of engaging in dialogue, the three are portrayed as dismissive of the young, open Christian.

The curriculum closes with an evaluation for students where they are asked what they might be willing to commit to. None of the options appear to foster real dialogue with other traditions, but instead ask students to share their own tradition with the other. See for yourself whether you think these are helpful ways of getting students to think about and engage with people of other traditions.