What would Noah do?

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Leap of Faith

What would Noah do?

A stimulating new series where our progressive rabbis consider how biblical figures might act when faced with 21st century issues

The Torah says many people descended from Noah’s offspring
The Torah says many people descended from Noah’s offspring

After the flood, Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives left the Ark, traumatised by the catastrophe befalling humankind. But they also felt hope: it was time to start over, to inhabit the earth, to build a new humanity with branches springing forth from them. The Torah says many types of people came out of the children of Noah and Na’amah (his wife, according to Rashi), a diverse humanity with a common ancestry. One may wonder what they would think about the way human beings consider their differences today.

The recent media storm triggered by actress Whoopi Goldberg’s comments on the Holocaust is symptomatic of a world of mega communication, where so many are ready to share an opinion that is not necessarily based on facts.

During a talk show on a US TV channel last week, Whoopi Goldberg was discussing the decision made by a Missouri school to ban Art Spiegelman’s Maus, because it made some parents ‘uncomfortable’. It wasn’t the Shoah itself that was the issue, but some scenes of nudity or bad language. The conversation went on discussing the Holocaust, which she defined as being not about race, but about man’s inhumanity to man. This is a perfect example of an opinion that is not based on facts. She may want to believe that, because for her racism is something else, but the historical reality is that Nazism was based on a hierarchy of races, and a conception of humanity as a group of races.

The fact that racialist theories are pseudo-sciences is irrelevant. They were real enough for the Nazis to initiate the destruction of the Jewish people and other groups. This begs the question: is Ms Goldberg ignorant, or is there something else going on here? She and her hosts mentioned the adjective
‘white’ on several occasions. One of the guests claimed that the Holocaust was the expression of white supremacism.

Ms Goldberg herself said that gypsies and Jews were white people, and that the Holocaust was what white people did to white people. She implies that antisemitism and the Holocaust cannot be racial because Jews are white – what would the Jews of Kaifeng, Cochin or Ethiopia think about that?

This proves, if necessary, that the category of race is inoperant. The hosts on this US talk show applied their categories of thinking to an event of the past, read the past in the light of the present, and transformed history to fit their own worldview.

By doing that, not only did they distort the past, but they also sullied the memories of the victims of Nazi’s racial theories.

Noah, Na’amah and their children would be appalled to see that people have forgotten their common roots and their unique essence, which form part of God’s plan for humankind.

by Rabbi René Pfertzel, Kingston Liberal Synagogue

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