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The Jews and Japan: Inherited Discourses and Creative Adaptation in the Japanese Imagination

Hosted By: Valley Beit Midrash

Although the Jewish history in Japan is relatively recent and there have never been significant numbers settled in the country, Jews loom large in the Japanese imagination, and popular books that peddle everything from fascination to fear are perennial best sellers. An avid student of Western culture and technology since the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912), much of this Japanese interest stems from European propaganda regarding the Jews; however, not steeped in millennia of European antisemitism, the Japanese reaction, on the whole, was one more of fascination and awe. Although allies with Nazi Germany during World War II, Japan refused to turn over its Jews to the Nazis, and even entertained the idea of bringing Jews to Japan in the hopes of bringing about a national flourishing. This talk will examine the historical factors that have contributed to this multifaceted and unique perspective toward Jews and their culture.

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