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YiChen Luo

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

HIST 198 An Introduction to a History of Antisemitism

Dr. Arpaia

1. What does Dr. Arpaia mean by history and what interests him (and historians in


In the podcast, SA01 Intro to a History of Antisemitism Dr. Arpaia indicates that history is Commented [G1]: Inserted: ,

a type of study that focuses on change and persistence over time. He adds that history is

an analytical method of analyzing reality, besides being an interpretive conversation

about findings of historical studies or what is commonly known as discourse. Dr. Arpaia

states that like other historians in general, he is inquisitive of what changes or remains the

same over time, why and how human activities and the environment change or remain the

same over time, as well as the impact (or not) that human activities and the environment

have on each other.

2. What does it mean to be a cultural historian?

As he mentioned earlier, history studies change and persistence over time and while there Commented [G2]: Inserted: ie
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are many types of historians, he is a cultural historian because his study involves making

basics assumptions or postulates which are a type of hypotheses where the scholar does

not necessarily have to provide evidence to the audience since the claim’s validity is

considered to be self-evident. Scholarly definitions, for example, are one form of


postulates. For example the in his definition of culture by postulating that culture “ both Commented [G3]: Inserted: ,

every day practices by which humans live their lives and anything resulting from the use

of the human mind.” and that "Culture is embedded in socio-economic politics and in the

larger cultural context" Dr. Arpaia is making postulations without providing evidence Commented [G6]: Deleted:s

since these assumptions are regarded as self-evident. Through this process, Dr. Arpaia

means that being a cultural historian means analyzing cultural traditions and discourse Commented [G4]: Inserted: i
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over time. As such cultural historians analyze the history of culture.

3. What is the common meaning of anti-Semitism in the USA today? Why are we not

going to use it in this course and how can we apply the scientific method to create an

analytical model for doing a history of anti-Semitism?

In the USA today, anti-Semitism commonly refers to a strong dislike for Jews or any

prejudice against them. However, this term is vague and therefore not a precise analytical

tool required to do history. He, therefore, says that there is a need to come up with a Commented [G8]: Inserted: ,
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scientific definition or model of antisemitism which would ensure that all activities
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conform to the scientific method. Unlike in pure sciences where hypotheses, analytical

tools, and theories can be verified through experimentation this is impossible in history

discipline. Commented [G11]: Inserted: ,

As such we must rely on the test of logic, verifiability, and objectivity as a scientific

method. Objectivity can be achieved through scholarly verification by peers in the same Commented [G12]: Inserted: ,
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field of history whereas the work must follow the rules of logic. Similarly, analytical
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tools, hypotheses, and theories must be verifiable for a historian's work must be Commented [G15]: Inserted: '
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verifiable. Therefore since the common meaning of anti-Semitism, as an analytical is
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vague and indistinct, it is unusable in the scientific model required to study history. Commented [G19]: Deleted:o
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4. How does Dr. Arpaia conceive of a scientific model of anti-Semitism?

Drawing from mathematical set theory, Dr. Arpaia conceives of a scientific model for

antisemitism as cultural concepts being two sets of elements where one set containing the

core elements which give the cultural term its discrete meaning thereby giving that term

consistency. On the other hand, the secondary elements of a cultural term/concept give

nuance or subtle differences without eroding its discreet meaning and consistency. Commented [G20]: Inserted: ,
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5. How is a cultural concept, like antisemitism, theoretically structured according to

Dr. Arpaia’s model?

According to Dr. Arpaia, cultural concepts like antisemitism are theoretically structured

in levels which he exemplifies with a nesting Russian matryoshka doll, suggesting that

they can be highly complex with many levels. At the primary level in Dr. Arpaia’s Commented [G27]: Deleted:s

theoretical model lies the core elements which give cultural terms their discreet meaning

and consistency. At the primary also lie secondary elements which give a cultural concept

nuance or subtle differences that do not affect the concepts consistency. However, Dr.

Arpaia does not dwell on the secondary elements since they do not an essential part of the Commented [G22]: Inserted: ,

definition in his model. At the primary level can have a single or multiple core elements Commented [G23]: Inserted: an

In the podcast, he depicts three core elements as an example. At the secondary level, the

core elements of a cultural term are composed of analogous pairs of subsets of core Commented [G24]: Inserted: ,

elements and secondary elements. At the secondary level, this model holds that core Commented [G25]: Inserted: are
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elements of a term can be defined by a different number of subset elements. The model
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does not require additional complexity for elements of each level.

6. What are the core elements of antisemitism?


Dr. Arpaia indicates that to effectively understand the core elements of antisemitism, it is

important to understand an essential cultural tool of analysis- Weltanschauung a German

term whose literal meaning is a "world view" or a "perception of reality". However, he

indicates that the literal meaning does not express precisely what the term means.

Therefore he proposes the scientific meaning in which the term represents a three-fold Commented [G29]: Inserted: ,
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simultaneous process of how groups and individuals perceive themselves, a changing and

fluid external reality and how they perceive the logic that governs their world view. With

this in mind, the core elements of antisemitism include a Weltanschauung where all Jews Commented [G30]: Inserted: c

and Jewishness are at the core of the issue. The second core element of antisemitism is

that there exist separate and very different stereotypes that depict Jews as inherently Commented [G33]: Deleted:s

different from non-Jews. The third element of antisemitism is the dehumanization of

Jews where their humanity is denied. The fourth element of antisemitism is mythopoeia Commented [G31]: Inserted: i

which involves telling and retelling narratives or myths repeatedly in an attempt of

asserting the truth about all Jews.

7. Why does antisemitism matter to us, today?

In an increasingly multicultural society, it is important to understand sociocultural

realities such as antisemitism and their origins which can help promote religious, racial

and cultural harmony. As such by studying the elements and origins of Semitism we can

real truth about Jews and Jewishness by anti-Semitic stereotypes that emanate from

mythopoeia. As Dr. Arpaia indicates, the United States is considered a Judeo-Christian Commented [G34]: Inserted: i

society where Christians and Jews are grouped together due to some of their shared

values. By understanding the adoption and adaptation of Judaism by Christians and a

shared Abrahamic covenant and the proclamation of each group as the proclamation of

each group as the god of Abraham's chosen people, we can easily discern the complex Commented [G35]: Inserted: of Abraham
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origins and purposes of antisemitism. Christians and muslim societies emerged after

telling and retelling of tales of Jesus Christ and Mohammed respectively and both derive

from Judaism they all have some differences in beliefs.

8. From where do these shared truths derive?

The truths derive from the Hebrew Bible especially in the book of, in particular from a

myth about named Abram who later changed his name to Abraham. Judaism, Islam, and

Christianity as well as modern societies that emerged from claim descent from Abraham.

According to the myth, Abraham was asked by the god of Abraham to believe and follow

his wishes for which he would be rewarded with many descendants. Abraham agreed to

settle elsewhere. Abraham lay with his servant Hagar after his wife asked her to do so, Commented [G37]: Inserted: of Abraham
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convinced that she could not bear a child. This caused a spite between Hagar and
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Abraham’s wife Sarah forcing Hagar to flee only to return soon after claiming to have Commented [G42]: Deleted:r

been instructed by an angel who also said that she should name the child Ishmael. The

god later told Abraham that he would have a child (Isaac), with his wife Sarah which they

later did. The god also promised Abraham many descendants and never to abandon him

should he believed in him and lived in his ways. As a sign of accepting the covenant, the

god asked Abraham to circumcise himself and members of his house and his descendants. Commented [G40]: Inserted: s
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After qu8arrels between Sarah and Hagar Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael to Egypt. The
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god promised that since both Isaac and Ishmael were both Abraham’s, they would also Commented [G41]: Inserted: S
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have many descendants. They claim

9. How do Jews, Christians, and Muslims each claim to be heirs of the covenant and to Commented [G46]: Inserted: ,

the title of chosen people?

Jew, Christians, and Muslims each claim to be heirs to the covenant and title of the Commented [G47]: Inserted: ,
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chosen people. Jews claim biological descent from Abraham through Isaac (Abraham’s
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son) who had a son Jacob, who later came to be known as Israel. Christians, on the other

hand, have a theological claim to descent. The refuted biological descent after the coming

of Jesus offered a new covenant based on the faith of Abraham they also claimed that

Jesus was the god of Abraham in a way beyond human comprehension. According to

Christians, Jesus offered a new superseding covenant to the Jews and non-Jews if they Commented [G49]: Inserted: the
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believed that Jesus was both human and divine and followed his teachings. Muslims have
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both biological and theological claim to the covenant and the title of the chosen people. Commented [G52]: Inserted: ,
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They claim that the god of Abraham revealed to Muhammed that the Jews were wrong in
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that that Ismael was they figure and not Isaac thus his descendants (Arabs) were the Commented [G60]: Deleted:j
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chosen people and heirs of the covenant. Muslim claimed that the god of Abraham Commented [G62]: Deleted:n
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revealed to Muhammed that Jesus was only a great prophet.
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10. What truths do Hebrew myths convey about the god of Abraham?
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The Hebrew myths convey the truths that the god of Abraham was an immaterial god Commented [G58]: Inserted: at
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meaning that he had no substance. This truth is demonstrated by their lack of representing

him in material form. As such there was only one Temple for their god which was located

near today's Jerusalem and it did not bear any representation of the god. Furthermore, Commented [G66]: Inserted: r
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according to the Jews, the god of Abraham is the Holy of holies such that no one is
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allowed to mention its name, and only the High priest was allowed to enter the Temple to Commented [G67]: Inserted: ,

invoke their god's name on the day of the atonement. Due to their god's immaterial Commented [G68]: Inserted: their
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nature, their sacrifices differed from other societies in that they were meant to publicly

recognize that their god was the provider rather than satiating their immaterial god who

did not need material nourishment. They also forbade trying to manipulate the god of Commented [G69]: Inserted: ,
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Abraham through sacrifice as the covenant was based on their obedience to their god and

its love for them. While Hebrews participates in sacrificial practices under their god's

command these activities were not the most important. In addition, Jews and Hebrews did

not see human failure and suffering as tests from their god thus did not renounce their

religion during strife. Commented [G71]: Inserted: r thei

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