Activity: Examining Loyalties

The aim of this activity is to examine the complex of feelings surrounding modern Jewish identity and to continue to explore the students’ feelings towards the wider Jewish world.

• Explain briefly to the students the background to the debate over Jewish emancipation in the National Assembly. Emphasize the following points:

    • The Jews had always defined themselves as a people or nation.
    • They had seen their primary loyalties to Jews all over the world.
    • They had never felt a real part of the peoples among whom they dwelt.
    • As Jews, they labored under much discriminatory legislation.
    • France was in the process of reorganizing. The legal barriers that had formerly kept the different sub-groups in French society apart had been removed, except in the case of the Jews.
    • The Jews wanted to stay in France and to be accepted. They wanted an end to the legislation that discriminated against them.
    • The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen had recently been passed.

• Introducing the group to Clermont Tonnere and his ideas, divide the class up into subgroups and give each one a copy of the quote from his speech offered above. They need to try to understand how a supporter of the Jews’ integration into French society could issue such a statement. What concerns do his words reveal? Let each group formulate a response to his statement.

• Bring the class together and, on the basis of their responses, develop a discussion on the question of dual identity. Do they see Jewish identity as religious or national? Are the Jews a religion, a nation, or perhaps something else? For those who see the Jews as anything other than a nation, how do they relate to the fact that, until very recently, Jews have always seen themselves in national (or international) terms?

• Now introduce the issue of Napoleon’s questions. Divide the group up and ask them the same three questions about identity that Napoleon asked the Jews. The students must reply candidly in relation to the countries in which they themselves live today.

1. In the eyes of the members of the group, are _____ people considered brothers or strangers?

2. What conduct does their law prescribe towards _____ people not of their religion?

3. Do the Jews born in _____ and treated by the law as_____ citizens consider _____  their country? Are they bound to defend it?

• Bring the class back together and discuss the groups’ answers.

• Each individual student should now write a response to a question that Napoleon could have asked but did not.

• How do you view your connection with Jews in other countries? In what way, if any, do you see yourself as part of the same group? If you were asked to help or defend them, what would your instinctive reaction be?

• Bring the class back together and discuss the students’ individual answers.


 

 

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10 Dec 2006 / 19 Kislev 5767 0