GCSE antisemitism: the hidden question
By Simon Rocker
June 1, 2012
There has been a sharp divergence of opinion among Jewish educators about the wisdom of the question set in a GCSE religious studies exam this year, “Explain, briefly, why some people are prejudiced against Jews”.
Some believe it was an open invitation for children to express antisemitic views. Others point out that there was little risk of this since the question appeared in a Judaism paper and reflected a prescribed topic about stereotyping and scapegoating that those sitting the paper would have studied. The exam board says that so far responses to the question in exam papers show that students correctly understood its intention.
Many of the 1,000 pupils who sat the paper would have been pupils at King David Manchester and JFS.
But there is a broader question to be answered. Why should antisemitism be a topic for religious studies, rather than, say, history?
I suppose Haman in the Book of Esther might be studied as a prototype of antipathy towards Jews but I doubt that is what the examiners had in mind.
It is also hard to grapple with the legacy of antisemitism without knowing something about the classic Christian teaching of contempt and the accusations of deicide against Jews. But then it would be wrong if in the course of their GCSE religious studies, pupils encountered Christianity only in that light.
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