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A Very Jewish Christmas: Toledot Yeshu, A Jewish Anti-Gospel

Hosted By: YIVO

While the “December Dilemma” is a familiar challenge to Jews today, it has its origins in antiquity. Jews in the early days of Christianity encountered Christian traditions and sought to distinguish themselves and their beliefs. One result of this interreligious encounter is the ancient book, Toledot Yeshu, a satirical, carnivalesque anti-gospel telling the story of a magical but not divine Jesus. It was, in some Jewish communities, a tradition to read this story dramatically on Christmas Eve similar to the way that the Megiles-Ester is read on Purim. The text, shrouded in mystery, is extant in a variety of versions, and is believed to contain narrative traditions that are over 1500 years old. Renditions exist in Hebrew, Aramaic, Judeo Arabic, Judeo Persian, Ladino, and, of course, Yiddish. Rare versions were saved by the Paper Brigade from Nazi destruction and recently digitized as a part of the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Online Collections Project.

Join YIVO for a very Jewish Christmas celebration featuring a talk on the history and receptions of Toledot Yeshu by Azzan Yadin-Israel. Following Yadin-Israel’s presentation, Shane Baker and Eleanor Reissa will perform a bilingual reading, in Yiddish and English, of a version of the story.

Taking place in person and live on Zoom. For those attending this event in person, the event will be followed by a kosher Chinese food feast following the presentation. Proof of full COVID-19 vaccination with matching ID is required in order to enter the Center for Jewish History. Click here to see our Visitor Safety Requirements.

The event listed here is hosted by a third party. My Jewish Learning/70 Faces Media is not responsible for its content or for errors in the listing.

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