Jews: A Funny Teaching Story

I’ve been taught by experience that I can’t expect my students from rural areas to know who the Jews are. So before I proceed to tell them about the three cultures of Medieval Spain, I now ask, “Do you guys know who the Jews are?”

Today, there was a longish pause as the students wrinkled their brows in deep thought.

Finally, a student exclaimed, “Oh! Are these by any chance those folks who are always like doctors and lawyers?”

Well, it isn’t the worst stereotype to have of the Jewish people, I guess. 🙂

9 thoughts on “Jews: A Funny Teaching Story

  1. Sadly, no doubt after a few months on campus they will come to know that Jews are the world wide representatives of the evil Apartheid imperialist State of Israel…


    1. I’m glad I’m catching some of them first, at least. Today, we even learned the word “Hebrew” in class. 🙂

      These kids are not very worldly. It’s a really great deal that we push them into Study Abroad and try to open their minds to new things.


  2. Hey, you could do the High Holy Days in Ladino for the class. They could learn a little more about the transition from Latin to Mozárabe and Romance to Ladino, Castillano, Aragonés, Galego, Portugués, etc. as well as learn the relations between Jews, Muslims, Christians, Mozárabes, Muladís, Mudéjars, Moriscos Conversos, etc. in the peninsula. ;–) Notice how long my nose is on that one. One thing I always like is explaining that Abd ar Rahman III had red hair and blue eyes. That always gets them thinking. Oh, let’s not forget the Basques. They get really mad when they are ignored. Look what they did to Charlemagne at Roncevalles.

    BTW, Clarissa, did you know that there was still a quota on the number of Jews that could be accepted to medical schools and law schools in the US until about 1960. I grew up learning that, as a Jew, you had to be twice as good as the goyim. At the University of Virginia there were two Jewish fraternities. None of the other 30 fraternities were denominated Christian, but none of them accepted Jews either. I don’t think the fraternities had to deal with Muslims. I don’t remember any Muslims in the University at that time. I adopted the Groucho Marx line: “I don’t want to be a member of any club that would accept me as a member”. I realize the FSU was a lot worse than here, but we weren’t treated equally here either.


    1. I have an older colleague who is Jewish and teaches the history of the Holocaust, and she tells me these things about the anti-Semitism in the US.

      Thank you for reminding me about the Basques! I do have a tendency to skip over them because they just complicate things too much. 🙂 🙂 And then the students are confused when I suddenly bring the Basques up at the end of the XXth century.

      The students’ general background in history and geography is so weak that I have to waste a lot of time explaining really basic things. So of course the more interesting stuff gets lost in the background. Today, for example, I had a beautiful lecture prepared about the poetic dialogue between Princess Wallada and poet Ibn Zaydun. But then I got stuck explaining what the Inquisition was and when the Black Death took place and what it was all about. So we skipped Wallada and Ibn Zaydun. 😦


      1. The state of general knowledge in this country is appalling and it is not just limited to the young. This weekend I was talking with an educated 60 year old friend who was reading Richard Rubenstein’s “When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity in the Last Days of Rome”. I was really surprised and pleased that she was interested in the topic and suggested several more titles to the fill out the story after she is finished. In the course of the conversation I mentioned the migration of the Germanic tribes and she had no idea what I was talking about. She didn’t even know that the term “vandalize” had to do with the Vandal sack of Rome, or that the term “goth” originated with the Goths.

        The Basques are really interesting. They keep popping up at unexpected moments. I suppose that is was Charlemagne said about Roncevalles. My tag for remembering them is that my oldest grandson is named Xavier.


  3. It reminds me the question coming from a Jewish Spanish major who wanted to become a rabbi in my Medieval Spain seminar: What is Castille?

    Ivy-League educated.


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