Jewish History in 30 Seconds

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Yesterday Jeremy posted a link to the quiz of the top 52 cities in the world in terms of Jewish population in 1939. I put the link in my gchat status and asked my friends to take the quiz and see if they could beat my abysmal score of 24 (in my defense, I got a few more than that but wasn’t spelling them correctly). All day my friends have been responding with their own scores, and their general amazement at how poorly they’ve done. It got me talking with a friend about how much we know about the Holocaust, and the creation of the State of Israel, and how little we know about the rest of Jewish History. I went to Jewish day school for 13 years, but if you ask me to give you a brief summary of Jewish History, here are the bullet points that spring to mind
Giving of the Torah at Sinai
The Temple in Jerusalem
Shulkhan Arukh
Six Day War
Yom Kippur War
Intifada I
Intifada II

I did all of that without looking anything up, but it’s clear that there are some huge gaps in my basic knowledge of Jewish history. Here’s the same list with the dates added, so you can see where I’m failing:

Giving of the Torah at Sinai (Biblical time)
The Temple in Jerusalem (destroyed 70CE)
Mishnah (~200 CE)
Talmud (~200-500CE)
Rashi (1040-1105)
Rambam (1135-1204)
Shulkhan Arukh (1500s)
Pogroms (late 19th-early 20th century)
Holocaust (1939-1945)
Israel (1948)
Six Day War (1967)
Yom Kippur War (1973)
Infitadeh A
Infitadeh B

So yeah, there’s a good 400 year gap in my knowledge where I can’t tell you a single thing that happened then. This is after I’ve had hundreds of thousands of dollars of Jewish education invested in me. I can tell you a _lot_ about the Holocaust and the State of Israel, though. Isn’t it ironic that the thing we say about the Holocaust is Never Forget, and yet there’s a presumably huge and rich chunk of Jewish history that no one ever told about to begin with. We won’t forget that, either, I guess, since we never knew it.

Posted on January 7, 2011

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2 thoughts on “Jewish History in 30 Seconds

  1. jk

    Are you sure no one ever mentioned the Spanish Inquisition, The Dreyfus Affair. How about Moses Mendelssohn or Spinoza, the enlightenment and haskala?

  2. treyfe

    Yeah I think the Haskalah is the big missing one. This is similar to the misunderstandings of Reconstruction in the US, we don’t seem to do well with optimistic historical periods that end poorly, but I really think we have to learn from things in their own terms. This also raises the question of what the next chapter of Jewish history will be. I sense the paradigms around Israel and the Holocaust are breaking down, but it’s not yet clear what replaces it.

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