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5 Reasons Race Still Matters in Religion

jews in the slave tradeRace Matters in Judaism

Like other religions, Judaism is not free of racist ideologies.  The Jewish concept of divine “chosenness” predates the one found in Islam, and may have influenced it. This idea is first found in the Torah (the first five books of the Tanakh, which are also included in the Christian Bible) and is elaborated on in later books of the Hebrew Bible and in rabbinic literature.

Rabbi Moses Maimonides, considered by Jews to be the greatest in regards to religious Jewish philosophy, espoused the inferiority of Black people in his work Guide for the Perplexed, book III, chapter 51, stating that:

“Their nature is similar to mute animals, and in my opinion, they do not reach the level of human beings; amongst existing things, they are inferior to the man but superior to the monkey because they possess in bigger measure than the monkey the image and resemblance of the man.”

As stated before, the racism behind the Curse of Ham is rooted in the interpretations first put forth in early Jewish literature. In his dissertation, The Ebb and Flow of Conflict: A History of Black-Jewish Relations Through 1900, Harold David Brackman, Ph.D., of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, writes.

“There is no denying that the Babylonian Talmud was the first source to read a Negrophobic content into the episode by stressing Canaan’s fraternal connections with Cush … The Talmudic glosses of the episode added the stigma of blackness to the fate of enslavement that Noah predicted for Ham’s progeny.”

Brackman explains the Jewish version of the myth in the paper, writing:

“Ham is told by his outraged father that, because you have abused me in the darkness of the night, your children shall be born black and ugly; because you have twisted your head to cause me embarrassment, they shall have kinky hair and red eyes; because your lips jested at my expense, theirs shall swell; and because you neglected my nakedness, they shall go naked.” 

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