JEWISH-AMERICAN HALL OF FAME • JEWISH MUSEUM IN CYBERSPACE
ANTI-SEMITIC BIGOTRY AS CHRONICLED BY HISTORICAL MEDALS


 

From this evidence one can reach the same conclusions that countless others have established through the ages. Namely, that while religion serves as a source and inspiration for the most unselfish acts and noble deeds, by distorting and subverting the basic tenets of their religious doctrine, and by providing the excuse for political and military aggression, religious zealotry has been responsible for some of the most heinous crimes, massacres and injustices ever promulgated against Jewish humanity.

Not only is anti-Semitism manifested in some of our religious heritage but it is expressed in our secular politics, literature and the arts as well, and its prevalence serves to perpetuate negative stereotypes of Jews. Prominent among those artists and other figures who have evidenced anti-Semitism in their works are celebrated composers, authors and playwrights, such as Richard Wagner, considered by many to be the greatest operatic composer of all time, Charles Dickens, generally regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian period, known for his portrayal of 19th century life in England, and William Shakespeare, clearly the preeminent poet and playwright of the English language, to mention but a few. Wagner’s portrayals of Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Klingsor in Parsifal are widely considered to be reprehensible persons he put into his operas to express his well-known anti-Semitic feelings (Parsifal, of course, can easily be put into the religious category as the plot involves the mysteries and miracles of the Christian Holy Grail, with Klingsor playing the protagonist to the Christian hero Parsifal.), and the notorious figure of Shylock in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice is unambiguously portrayed as a Jew.

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