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


 

A further point may also be made. In addressing the issue of holding current peoples responsible for the actions of their ancestors, we must ask this question: Should we blame yesterday=s injustices on today’s innocents? Should we persecute or vilify today’s Catholics for the persecution of Protestants following the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, or for their massacre of the Huguenots in 17th century France? Or conversely should we hold grudges and exact punishment on today’s Protestants for their subjugation of Catholics in 16th century England? Should we hold today’s polytheists responsible for the persecution of Jews and early Christians during the Roman Empire, or today’s Christians for the acts of the crusaders for their murder of Muslims and Jews during the Middle Ages, or today’s Muslims for the slaughter of 8th century Christians, or today’s Roman citizens and their descendants for the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth more than two millennia ago, etc. etc.?

Finally, at the risk of sounding trite, it should be emphasized that although there still are pockets of enduring bigots, some of whom have an unwarranted impact on society, the vast, VAST majority of the world’s population is tolerant and supportive of all minority groups. The point of all this is not to cast aspersions on religious teachings as a whole but to suggest that certain passages in religious literature have been used to cause major and even catastrophic events in society.

CONCLUSION

In reviewing the history of intolerance against the Jewish people, as reflected in historical and commemorative medals, and the role medals have played in recording and even promoting such religious bigotry, we find that a wide variety of anti-Semitic medals were produced as early as the 16th century and continue into present times. These medals were engraved by highly regarded medallists, using historically recognizable iconographies and often employing religious passages taken directly from both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible as supportive evidence for the slander the medals portray.

The answer to the question of how anti-Semitic feelings have been perpetuated for centuries, having been passed down through generations and generations of individuals throughout the world, is multifaceted. Partly, it appears to be through the informal indoctrination of children through the telling and re-telling of anti-Semitic tales in the homes, and through formal religious literature of society. This is evident mainly in the New Testament of the Bible, revered by Christians, but also, to a lesser extent, in the Qur’an, the central religious text of Islam. Such feelings have also been maintained through classical literature and art produced in Western culture by some of our most esteemed practitioners of the humanities. In addition, it has been advanced through less formal writings, such as comic-book style literature that can be found in the homes of deeply devout individuals. And finally, it has been spread, and continues to be spread, as a form of propaganda, by way of historical and commemorative medals, the main subject of this work.

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