How Long, O Lord, How Long?
The Early Church Fathers
or almost a century, the early believers in Yeshua the Messiah were culturally and ethnically the same as, and worshipped alongside, mainstream Judaism. The first 'believers in Messiah Yeshua were Jews. The Torah was of great importance to them and they kept its laws, keeping the Sabbath and performing circumcision. They did not follow 'another religion', but remained within the framework of Judaism. This Messianic movement spread largely among Jews to begin with, and for some time it remained as a sect within Judaism, mostly known as the sect of the Nazarenes. Thousands of Gentile 'converts' and 'God Fearers' joined themselves to the Nazarene sect. It is important to say something about the Nazarenes, as documentation of their existence and beliefs gives us much insight on how the early believers in Messiah thought and lived. The fourth century 'Church Father', Jerome, described the Nazarenes as "those who accept Messiah in such a way that they do not cease to observe the Old Law" (Jerome; On. Is. 8:14). Yet another fourth century Church Father, Epiphanius, gave a more detailed description of them:
We shall now especially consider heretics who.. call themselves Nazarenes; they are mainly Jews and nothing else. They make use not only of the New Testament, but they also use in a way the Old Testament of the Jews; for they do not forbid the books of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings... so that they are approved of by the Jews, from whom the Nazarenes do not differ in anything, and they profess all the dogmas pertaining to the prescriptions of the Law and to the customs of the Jews, except they believe in Messiah... They preach that there is but one God, and his son Yeshua the Messiah. But they are very learned in the Hebrew language; for they, like the Jews, read the whole Law, then the Prophets...They differ from the Jews because they believe in Messiah, and from the Christians in that they are to this day bound to the Jewish rites, such as circumcision, the Sabbath, and other ceremonies. They have the Good news according to Matthew in its entirety in Hebrew. For it is clear that they still preserve this, in the Hebrew alphabet, as it was originally written. (Epiphanius; Panarion 29; translated from the Greek)
There is evidence that the Nazarene Sect continued to exist until at least the 13th century. The Catholic writings of Bonacursus entitled 'Against the Heretics', refers to the Nazarenes, who were also called 'Pasagini'. Bonacursus says:
Let those who are not yet acquainted with them, please note how perverse their belief and doctrine are. First, they teach that we should obey the Law of Moses according to the letter - the Sabbath, and circumcision, and the legal precepts still being in force. Furthermore, to increase their error, they condemn and reject all the Church Fathers, and the whole Roman Church.
Gregorius of Bergamo, about 1250 CE, also wrote concerning the Nazarenes (Pasagini):
There still remains the sect of the Pasagini. They teach...that the Old Testament festivals are to be observed circumcision, distinction of foods, and in nearly all other matters, save the sacrifices. The Old Testament is to be observed as literally as the New; circumcision is to be kept according to the letter.
Early in the second century, the Nazarenes Jews became subjected to a number of religious and political events. In 117 CE, The Roman Emperor Hadrian built a temple to Jupiter in Jerusalem and renamed the city Aelia Capitolina, turning Jerusalem into a Roman City.
Demoralized after such a loss of Jewish national and religious life, which had begun with the destruction of the second Temple in 70 CE, the Jewish people looked for a Messiah to save them from the oppression of Rome. In 132 C.E., Simon Bar Kochba was endorsed by the leading Jewish intellectual of the time, Rabbi Akiva, to be the promised Messiah and in CE 135, Bar Kochba led a revolt against Rome. The Nazarene Jews, however, refused to join in the revolt as they believed this would go against their belief in Yeshua as the Messiah. Although they had fought in the initial revolt against Rome, when Bar Kochba was declared the Messiah, they refused to fight under his banner. This resulted in bloodshed between Jews on both sides. By the end of the second century CE, a wedge was driven between the Nazarene movement and mainstream Judaism.
However, the Bar Kochba revolt was not the only reason for this separation. As more and more Gentiles joined the new Jewish movement, the actual Jewish presence became progressively less important. Although Christianity didn't officially take a stance against Judaism until early in the fourth century, divisions and differences of opinion began in the first century CE. As a result of the Apostle Paul's mission to the Gentiles, the ethnic composition of the Nazarene movement began to rapidly change from a Jewish majority to a Gentile majority. For some time, Gentiles remained within the Nazarene movement. However, by the end of first century, non-Jewish influences affected the structure and beliefs of the now Gentile-dominated movement.
In the second century CE, many of the 'Early Church Fathers' or ' Apostolic Fathers', began to make statements which further separated gentiles from everything Jewish. Non-Jewish doctrines began to be developed which became the foundational beliefs of Christianity. Although Gentile Christians were not particularly opposed to the Jews and many still converted to Judaism, the formal position of the Church was decisively set against the Synagogue. The Church sought to conquer the Synagogue which in their view continued to cling stubbornly to its ancestral faith. Frustrated and embittered, the Church Fathers set out to prove that Judaism was a legalistic, dead and superseded religion. 2
By reversing the Biblical image of the Jews, the Church claimed to be the "New Israel", the "Jacob", whereas the Jews were Esau and Cain, the murderers of their brother. Israel was portrayed as blind and divorced by God. This theology of replacement, which evolved into a theology of displacement, stated that the Jews had forfeited what God had given them and now Christianity was the new "heir" to the promises and blessings of God. The Jews, however, could keep the curses. In the Epistle of Barnabas, written around 135 CE, this 'replacement theology' is clearly stated. Referring to the Mosaic Covenant, Barnabas writes:
Indeed it is ours; for Moses had hardly received it when they (the Jews) forfeited it forever.3
The Church, however, did not claim the Biblical commandments in a literal sense, but rather spiritualized them. They perceived the literal as being only a shadow of what was to come, being that Jesus completed and abolished law. To continue observing the literal Sabbath, literal circumcision, literal dietary laws etc., was foolishness and nonsense. The Church Father, Tertullian, wrote concerning the Sabbath and circumcision:
It follows, accordingly, that, in so far as the abolition of carnal circumcision and of the old law is demonstrated as having been consummated at its specific times, so also the observance of the Sabbath is demonstrated to have been temporary.4
In a letter to Diognetus, possibly written by Justin Martyr in the second century, similar statements are made concerning Jewish practices:
As for their scrupoulness about meats, and their superstitions about the sabbath, and their much vaunted circumcision, and their pretentious festivals and new moon observances - all of them too nonsensical to be worth discussing...5
The Apostolic Fathers continued issuing statements which clearly divorced Christianity from anything Jewish. The Mosaic Law, including the Festivals and the Sabbath, circumcision and Israel's election by God, were all brushed away as things of the past. Also, in order to gain the acceptance of Rome, the now Gentile dominated 'Church' made it loud and clear that it had nothing in common with Judaism. In the Epistle of Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, to the Magnesians in 115 CE, Christians were warned of the error of looking to Judaism:
To profess Jesus Christ while continuing to follow Jewish customs is an absurdity. The Christian faith does not look to Judaism, but Judaism looks to Christianity...6
The teaching of the Church Fathers managed to invalidate Judaism in the eyes of the Gentile world. Although up until now the Jewish/Christian debate was not much more than a debate, the real turning point for the Jews in the Roman Christian world was the Council of Nicea, held in 325 CE. At this Council, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman State and the concepts and claims of the theologians were put into practice and the separation between Christianity and Judaism became official. Constantine, Emperor of Rome and leader of the Church declared:
You should consider not only that the number of churches in these provinces make a majority, but also that it is right to demand what our reason approves, and that we should have nothing in common with the Jews. 7
As the Church developed into the fourth century and became an international political power, it was confronted with the terrible fact that the Jews, merely by continuing to be Jews threatened the very legitimacy of the Church. They concluded that if Judaism remained valid, Christianity would then be invalid. Christianity's idea of redemption was so manifestly in opposition to that of the Jews, that it rendered their mutual coexistence inconceivable. The Church Fathers had to deal with this Jewish challenge and they did so in a most logical manner:
Judaism was declared an apostate and superseded religion and the Jews had now lost their right to exist. However, the Jews did exist and so the Church needed a reason for their continued existence. If their failure to recognize the Christ resulted in their dispersion and if Christianity had superceded Judaism in being a "light to the gentiles", then why were the Jews around at all? The Church concluded that the reason Jews survived was to prove the truth of Christianity. They were to be around always, to be persecuted, vulnerable, wanderers on the earth without a home, as proof of God's wrath upon them. The condition of the Jews was to be a negative witness to their crime of deicide. This was the purpose of their existence. The Jews, therefore, were forever, everywhere, responsible for his death collectively because they are a wicked nation. Furthermore, the calamities that befell Jewry - the destruction of the Temple and the dispersion - were seen as having Christological import, pointing to what Christians saw as just desserts for killing Christ.
The true image of the Hebrew is Judas Iscariot, who sells the Lord for silver. The Jew can never understand the Scriptures and forever will bear the guilt for the death of Jesus.8
Concerning the accusation of "deicide" - killing God - Justin Martyr in his dialogue with Trypho the Jew, stated that the Jews should "rightly suffer ", for they had "slain the Just One."9
If the Church believed that the Jews had in fact killed God, then it would stand to reason that "God is dead".
The stereotype of the 'deicide people' was transmitted through theological writings, sermons and in following centuries, through Passion plays, folklore and the arts. Christian theologians condemned Jews, accusing them of being idolaters, torturers, spiritually deaf, blasphemers, gluttons, adulterers, cannibals, Christ-killers, and beyond God's forgiveness. John Chrysostom, known as the "golden mouthed" due to his eloquence in speech, unleashed a series of Homilies against the Jews. In the late fourth century he falsely wrote:
They sacrificed their sons and daughters to devils; they outraged nature and overthrew their foundations of the laws of relationship.They are become worse than the wild beasts, and for no reason at all, with their own hands, they murder their offspring, to worship the avenging devils who are foes of our life.. They know only one thing, to satisfy their gullets, get drunk, to kill and maim one another.. The Jews are the most worthless of all men. They are lecherous, greedy, rapacious. They are perfidious murderers of Christ. The Jews are the odious assassins of Christ and for killing God there is no expiation possible, no indulgence or pardon. Christians may never cease vengeance, and the Jews must live in servitude forever. God always hated the Jews. It is incumbent upon all Christians to hate the Jews.10
Chrysostom argued that Jews will be crucified throughout history because they crucified Christ: It is because you shed the precious blood, that there is now no restoration, no mercy anymore, and no defence... 11
Persecution and violence toward the Jews became common due to heavy restrictive measures imposed by the Church against the Jewish people. In the three centuries from 300 to 600 CE., a host of rules were passed containing discriminatory provisions against the Jews in the Christian Roman Empire. These were summed up in four major rules contained in the Laws of Constantine the Great (315 CE); the Laws of Constaninus (399 CE); the Laws of Theodosius II (439 CE) and the Laws of Justinian (531 CE) Under Emperor Justinian, Roman Law was systematized and codified as Corpus Iuris Civilis, or "the Justinian Code". Church Law and doctrine now became state policy. The total of these laws declared that Jews were no longer allowed to hold high offices or have military careers. It became a capital offence to convert to Judaism and intermarriage between Christians and Jews was punishable by death. The Torah was forbidden to be read exclusively in Hebrew and Jews were allowed only a prescribed version of Scripture in their synagogues and were also prohibited to use prayers that were seen as anti-trinitarian. The keeping of the Sabbath, Jewish Festivals and performing circumcision were banned and Jewish property was confiscated. Rabbinical jurisdiction was curtailed; all former religious and governing privileges were removed and Jews were not permitted to testify against Christians. With the Christianization of the Roman Empire in east and west throughout the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries, the increase in anti-Jewish legislation and teaching reduced Judaism to a position of permanent, legal inferiority. In all respects, the Jew had to remain subservient to the Christian, and Christianity soon began to enjoy a position of superiority over Judaism which caused serious consequences for the Jews. 12
In 418 CE, Bishop Severus of Majorca forced Jews to convert. Violent street fighting broke out with a mob incited by the bishop. The synagogue was burnt. Finally the leaders of the Jewish community gave in and 540 Jews were converted. St. Jerome, who had studied with Jewish scholars in Palestine and translated the Bible into Latin wrote about the synagogue: "If you call it a brothel, a den of vice, the Devil's refuge, Satan's fortress, a place to deprave the soul, an abyss of every conceivable disaster or whatever you will, you are still saying less than it deserves." 13
In 489 CE, a Christian mob set fire to the synagogues in Antioch and threw the bodies of slain Jews into the fire. Jews could exercise no position of authority and Christianity had to be rigidly protected from " contamination" through living, eating or engaging is sexual relation with them. 14
The status of the Jew was thus no more than that of an animal, as Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny, declared to the faithful:
Truly I doubt whether a Jew can be really human... I lead out from its den a monstrous animal and show it as a laughing stock in the amphitheatre of the world. I bring thee forward, thou Jew, thou brute beast, in the sight of all men.15
Under the stigma of this image, the Jews were gradually excluded from every sphere of political influence and their political and civil rights were increasingly denied them, until eventually such rights were almost entirely a thing of the past. Church teaching, such as that of Chrysostom, paved the way for the slaughter of countless numbers of Jews throughout history.
Such statements as these were constantly made by Church leaders. The image of the Jew progressively evolved from that of 'apostate', to the total representation of evil - the very incarnation of the devil himself. The " Church triumphant" saw herself as bearing the task of making the Holy Land (and other lands along the way) Judenrein. The leader of the First Crusade, Godfroi Bouillon, in 1096 CE, swore to avenge the blood of Christ in Israel and to leave no single member of the Jewish race alive. When the Crusaders arrived in Israel, then called Palestina, they rounded up the Jews in Jerusalem, herded them into the synagogue and burned the building to the ground. Marching triumphantly around the inferno, they sang a hymn - "Christ We Adore Thee". Inside the burning synagogue, no doubt the Jews heard these strains of 'Christian ' worship as they perished.
Soon before the Church's Fourth Lateran Council, held in 1215 CE, Pope Innocent III condemned the Jews to eternal slavery by decreeing:
The Jews, against whom the blood of Jesus Christ calls out, although they ought not to be killed, lest the Christian people forget the Divine Law, yet as wanderers ought they remain upon the earth, until their countenance be filled with shame.16
With this statement, the Church settled the destiny of the Jewish people for many centuries.
Church doctrine ultimately legitimized the torture and murder of Jews in Christendom for nearly two thousand years. They were to live as wanderers on the earth, having no home, rights or privileges. The Jews were treated as pariahs and became the scapegoats for all the ills of society. People everywhere, in all classes, were eager to exterminate the Jews. These people were not born with an instinctive hatred in their hearts toward the Jewish people, their hatred was the product of a clerical propaganda. 17
The doctrines and teachings of the Church from its beginnings to the Fourth Lateran Council, laid the initial layer of ' Jew hatred' and took the Jewish people all the way to Holocaust. This first step began with the attempt to drive Jews either into Christianity or into a place of non-identity, as Judaism was no longer recognized as a valid religion. By doing so, the Church clearly defined antisemitism's first characteristic - "You have no right to live among us as Jews."
1 M. Dimont, Jews God& History, New York, 1962, p 106-108
2.Wilson, M. Our Father Abraham, Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Michigan, 1989, p92
3.Epistle of Barnabas
4.Tertuilian: An Answer to the Jews
5.Epistle to Diognetus
6.lgnatius to the Magnesians
7.Dixon, M. The Rebirth and Restoration of Israel, Chichester, Sovereign World, 1988, p80
8.Calendar of Jewish Persecution
9.Wilson, M. Op cit, p93
10.Chrysostom's Sermons, quoted in Dixon, M. p80
11.Cohn,Sherbok, D. The Crucified Jew, Harper Collins, London, 1992, p33
12.Wistrich, R. Antisemitism. The Longest Hatred, Pantheon Books, New York, 1991, pl9 & 25
14.Wistrich, R. Op cit, p45
15.Hay, M. Thy Brother's Blood, Hart Publishing Co. 1975, p57
16.Brown,M. Our Hands Are Stained With Blood, Shippensburg, Destiny Image, 1993, p13
17.Hay, M. Op cit. pp35
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A History of Antisemitism Part 2: The Middle Ages
The traditions and foundations laid by the Fathers of the Church continued into the Middle Ages and created great intolerance and suspicion toward the Jews. The founders of the Church promulgated a number of doctrines to theologically invalidate the Jews' continuing existence. These doctrines were given the greatest possible significance and divine authentication resulting in the introduction to the world a concept that had never before been present in humanity: theological slander against another religious group. An example of such doctrine and theological slander can be read in the writings of many of the Church Fathers. John Chrysostom, possibly the early Church's most powerful and influential orator stated:
The Jews have assassinated the Son of God! How dare you associate with this nation of assassins and hangmen! The Jews are the most worthless of all men. They are lecherous, greedy, rapacious. They are perfidious murderers of Christ... The Jews are the odious assassins of Christ and for killing God there is no expiation possible, no indulgence or pardon. Christian may never cease vengeance, and the Jews must live in servitude forever. God always hated the Jews. It is incumbent upon all Christians to hate the Jews.1
The result of such statements, which condemned Jews, all Jews for all time to be the assassins of Christ and spawn of the devil, caused intolerance and suspicion of Jews not only as individuals, but as a race. We cannot say that Christian persecution during the Middle Ages was constant in all countries and that Jewish intolerance came from the Church alone. Neither can we say that the Jews lived in peace until the birth of Christianity. Jews were enslaved by the Egyptians for hundreds of years and were battled by many empires. However, the Egyptians enslaved a people who happened to be Jewish, not because they were Jewish.
By the eleventh century, the Church had converted to Christianity virtually all the inhabitants of Europe. In 1215 AD, the Church's Fourth Lateran Council settled the social destiny of the Jewish people in Christian lands for many centuries. At this Council the whole of western Christianity may have well been represented. There were present 71 archbishops, 412 bishops, 800 abbots and a host of other Church dignitaries and priests. 2
It was decided that Jews were forbidden to walk in public on Christian feast days and also had to wear a distinctive badge on their clothing. They were to wander over the earth without rights, without a home or security and treated at all times as if they were beings of an inferior species. The Council's Canon 68 states:
Jews and Saracens of both sexes in every Christian province must be distinguished from the Christian by a difference of dress. Moreover, during the last three days before Easter and especially on Good Friday, they shall not go forth in public at all...3
Canon 3 was devoted specifically to the suppression of heresy. Heretics found guilty were to be handed over to the secular arm for punishment and feudal lords were expected to expel heretics from their lands. Thus began a new era for the Jews as hostilities against them intensified.
By the twelfth century, one of the main outcomes of Church doctrine was the demonic stereotyping of the Jews. The popular literature of the Middle Ages was almost entirely dominated by the point of view of Christianity. Morality plays, stories, legends, poems, sermons and songs all painted the Jew as the fount of all evil, deliberately guilty of unspeakable crimes against the founder of the Christian faith and Church. No sin was beyond him - his intention was to destroy Christendom. Sunday sermons portrayed the Jew as belonging to his father the Devil, the incarnation of the antichrist. We find this concept in the graphic arts of the time. One of the earliest dated sketches of a medieval Jew, from the Forest Roll of Essex (1277), bears the superscription Aaron fil diaboli, "Aaron, son of the devil". Such was the Jew stereotyped, that in 1267, the Vienna Council decreed that Jews must wear a horned hat. 4
Millions of Christians came to believe that the Jews were not actually human beings, but creatures of the Devil, allies of Satan and personifications of the Antichrist. Repeatedly during the Middle Ages, Jews were accused of possessing attributes of both the Devil and witches and that they emitted a foul odour as punishment for their crime against Jesus. It was said that this odour would only left them through baptism. Christian preachers taught that the Jew was Satan's partner in all his financial dealings, fleecing poor Christians without mercy. This image of the Jews became part of Western culture and rendered plausible every accusation against them. Therefore, when the ritual- murder and blood-libel accusations were brought forth, as ridiculous as they were, Christians did not question them. Motivated by the belief in the demonic power of the Jewish people, a number of clergymen encouraged the persecution of Jews.
The strange charges of ritual murder and host desecration were based on the alleged profanation of the consecrated communion wafer known as the Eucharist. The Catholic doctrine of 'transubstantiation', which claimed that the Eucharist was the literal, physical body of Jesus, was first officially recognized at the Fourth Lateran Council. 5
This official doctrine left the Jews legally vulnerable to charges of host desecration. It was imagined in Christian circles that the Jews, not content with crucifying Christ once, continued to renew the agonies of his suffering by stabbing, tormenting or burning the host. It was said that such was the intensity of their hatred, that when the host shed blood, emitted voices or took to flight, the Jews were not deterred. (It was not considered, however, that Jewish law forbids the eating of human flesh and drinking of blood).
The charge of host desecration was levelled against Jews over all the Roman Catholic world, frequently bringing large scale massacre. The first recorded case of alleged Host Desecration was at Belitz near Berlin in 1243. The city's entire Jewish community was burned alive for allegedly torturing a host. In Prague, in 1389, the Jewish community was collectively accused of attacking a monk carrying a host. Large mobs of Christians surrounded the Jewish neighbourhood, offering the Jews the choice of baptism or death. Refusing to be baptized, 3,000 Jews were put to death. 6
The accusation of Host Desecration was so prevalent, that in 1267 the Council of Vienna decreed that Jews must withdraw to their homes the instant they heard the bell ringing announcing that a host was being carried through the streets. They were also to lock their doors and windows.
The first distinct case of ritual murder or 'blood libel' was in 1144 at Norwich. It was said that the Jews had bought a Christian boy before Easter and tortured him with "all the tortures brought upon our Lord" and then crucified him on Good Friday. Another famous case was that of Hugh of Lincoln in 1255. When the body of a boy was discovered laying in a cesspool, the Jews who were in Lincoln attending a wedding, were accused of murdering the boy. It was said that the child was first fattened for ten days with white bread and milk, and then almost all the Jews in England were invited to the crucifixion. 7
A Jew was forced to confess that the boy was crucified, resulting in the hanging without trial, of nineteen Jews. Ritual murder of Jewish children was seen as token of Jewish eternal enmity toward Christendom. Since Jews were unable to crucify Christ as their fathers did, they expressed their hatred on innocent Christian children.
On the eve of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, there occurred a blood libel case of the 'Holy Child of La Guardia'. Conversos were made to confess under torture that with the knowledge of the chief Rabbi, they had abused and crucified a Christian child. 8
The ritual murder accusations further reinforced the theological stereotypes of the demonic Jew and the Synagogue being the 'Church of Satan'. Christians had no problem with imagining human sacrifices taking place in the Synagogue for magical and demonic purposes. Totally ignorant of Jewish law, the masses were easily inflamed by anti-Jewish preachers. If the Jews were capable of crucifying God, then they were capable of anything. It was also believed that Jewish men menstruated and therefore required Christian blood to replenish themselves, or alternatively, that they needed to make up for the blood they lost through circumcision. 9
By the fourteenth century the blood libel charge had become associated with the Jewish holiday of Passover, the reason being, that Jews used the blood of Christian children to make the Passover bread and wine. The Inquisitor, John of Capistrano, went throughout Europe leading a campaign against the Jewish population and initiating a series of trials for ritual murder which resulted in Jews being burned at the stake. 10
The accusations of ritual murder followed the Jews throughout Christendom for generations. Countless thousands of Jews were tortured, massacred and dispersed because of this libel. The accusations and massacres reached such high proportions, that the Popes became alarmed and in numerous papal bulls forbade them.
Conspiracy theories were also levelled against the Jews. When the disasters of plague and famine swept the 14th century, the Jews found themselves vilified as well-poisoners and sorcerers. Rumors of Jewish well poisoning began to circulate in Southern France where, in May 1348, the Jews of a Provencal town were burned on this charge. 11
This 'poisoning' accusation had particularly tragic results during the Black Death which also began in 1348. The plague, which killed about one third of Europe's population, was blamed on the Jews despite the fact that the plague also killed Jews. The Jews were accused of poisoning Christian wells, as they used separate wells for themselves. (The reason they used separate wells because they were forbidden to use Christian wells). Under torture, Jews confessed to spreading the Black Death, which resulted in a verdict stating that "all Jews from the age of seven cannot excuse themselves from this crime, since all of them in their totality are guilty of the above actions." 12
Jewish children under the age of seven were then baptized and raised as Christians after their families were murdered. To the horrors of the plague itself were added the wholesale massacre of thousands of Jews across Europe.
The negative projection of Jews continued for centuries. Even the Reformation did not improve the situation of the Jews. At the beginning, the great reformer, Martin Luther, expecting mass conversions of the Jews, wrote to the Papacy condemning the Catholic Church's persecution of them. However, when the mass conversion of the Jews did not materialize, Luther felt betrayed and his acceptance of the Jews turned into loathing. Luther declared:
Therefore know, my dear Christian, that next to the devil you have no more bitter, more poisonous, more vehement an enemy than a real Jew who earnestly desires to be a Jew... Now what are we going to do with these rejected, condemned, Jewish people? You must refuse to let them own houses among us... You must take away from them all their prayer books and Talmuds wherein such lying, cursing and blasphemy is taught... You must prohibit their Rabbis to teach... You shall not tolerate them but expel them.13
Luther also held the Jews accountable (as agents of the devil) for virtually all problems. In The Jews and their lies, Luther states:
...verily a hopeless wicked venomous and devilish thing is the existence of these Jews, who for 1400 years have been and still are our pest, torment and misfortune. They are just devils and nothing more.
Luther may have divorced himself from Roman Catholic teaching, but he did not sever himself from the anti-Jewish root and thus took the lies with him into the Reformation.
Christendom's perception of the Jew left no alternative but to isolate the Jew from the rest of society. This was initially done by forcing Jews to wear distinctive clothing. Together with the horned hat, depicting the demonic Jew, Jews had to wear a visible badge on their clothing. Popes Gregory 1X and Innocent 1V, repeatedly reminded rulers of Christian countries to pay strict attention to the requirement and to allow no exceptions to the wearing of the badge. Gradually, these "marks of Cain" became a common sight in all of Europe, their wearers identifiable everywhere at a distance. Jews were distinguishable from everyone else and therefore subjected to abuse. In some places it was regarded a privilege to pelt Jews with stones at Easter; in other places, representatives of the Jewish community were made to accept blows or slaps during this season.
Another form of isolation was the ghetto system introduced in Venice by the Church in 1516. 14
The 'ghetto' (from the Hebrew word get, meaning 'divorce'), was a segregated and enclosed section of Venice for the complete isolation of the Jews from the Christians. Ghettos were prevalent mostly in northern Italy, the German speaking countries and a few Polish cities. The Jewish quarter, which already existed, was different to that of the ghetto as Christians and Jews were able to mingle together. Christians often partook of Jewish life and learning. The creation of the ghetto was not just to keep the Jews in, but to keep the Christians out.
Finally, there was no other alternative but for the Jews to be expelled. The Jews in the Middle Ages were expelled from most countries in which they lived. Medieval Jewish history ended in England in 1290, in France in 1306 and in Spain in 1492. By 1569, Jews had been expelled from most of the Papal States. 15
However, Christendom did not rid itself of the Jews without firstly instigating the inquisitions.
The first of the Inquisitions began somewhere between 1227 and 1233 CE. The purpose of the Inquisition was to repress an increasing flood of heresies that had been infiltrating the Church and to root out the heretics. For the first two hundred years, the Inquisitions were mostly directed toward Christians who were regarded as heretics. It wasn't until 1478 that a different form of Inquisition was founded by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. The purpose of this Inquisition was to examine the genuineness of Jewish conversos (recent converts to Christianity) and marranos (meaning pig) who were suspect of practising Judaism in secret. In 1483, the Inquisitorial powers were assigned to Thomas de Torquemada by the Spanish Church. 16
Heretics were to be stamped out, first among the marranos and conversos, and then wherever else found.
The procedure of the Inquisition began with a period of grace - four months to convert or leave. Heretics were given the opportunity to come forward or to denounce others known to them. Jews were denounced for varied activities such as smiling at the mention of the Virgin Mary, eating meat on a day of abstinence, or being suspect of living as 'hidden Jews'. (Many Jews which had 'converted', continued to keep the Sabbath and Festivals secretly). For example, a woman was arrested on the grounds of not eating pork and changing her linen just before Saturday. 17
Those who were suspected of being heretics and did not voluntarily come forward, were tortured as a means of obtaining confessions and finally, the death penalty was by auto de fe
- burning at the stake. Death came easily to those consigned to the flames after weeks of excruciating torture. In this manner, thousands of Jews lost their lives during the Spanish Inquisitions and thus did the saga of the Jews in Spain end. In 1492, 300,000 Jews who refused to be baptized left Spain penniless. Jews sold their property, fine houses and estates, for a pittance; the rich Jews paid the expenses of the departure of the poor so that they would not have to become converts. Thousands of children were forcibly taken from their parents and raised as Christians. Thousands swarmed over the border to Portugal where they had temporary respite. However, in 1496, King Manuel of Portugal ordered the Jews in his realm expelled. Those who still remained in 1497 were subjected to atrocities and forced baptisms, especially of children. 18
Doctrine upon doctrine, law upon law, accusation upon accusation was levelled against the Jew, until only a dehumanized symbol of a denigrated Jew remained. First he was given humiliating clothing, then he was isolated to the ghetto. He could not own land; he had to step aside when a Christian passed by. He could not build Synagogues, he could not teach or strike up a friendship with Christians. He could only engage in a restricted number of professions and trades, and usually only that of moneylender and financier, only because this activity, while necessary for a prosperous economy, was viewed by the Church as sinful and so the Jewish stereotype was perpetuated. The Christians of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries did not know the proud, learned Jew of other days, but only saw the strangely dressed ghetto Jew with the ridiculous peaked hat representing his demonic nature. The Jew was nothing more to the Christian than an object of derision and scorn.
Yet, despite all of this, the medieval period was not a useless experience in the history of the Jews. It educated them for the Modern Age. Because the Jews were not part of the feudal system, they were not tied to its institutions. The Jews became cosmopolitan in their lives, speaking the languages of the world and appreciating its cultures. They were outsiders with an education, viewing societies objectively and thus assessing their weaknesses and strengths. In spite of the limited range of ghetto education, the Jews as a group remained the most educated in Europe.
The early Church hoped to convert the Jews by convincing them of the error of their ways. By declaring Judaism invalid and superseded, the Church could not theologically tolerate the Jew. The Church thus defined antisemitism's first characteristic - "You have no right to live among us as Jews".
The Church of the Middle Ages went a step further and secured the "Jewish Problem" for centuries to come. In portraying the Jew as inhuman and demonic, Christendom could neither theologically nor socially tolerate the Jew. Thus, by the fifteenth century, antisemitism's second characteristic was defined - "You have no right to live among us".
l.Prager, D. & Telushkin, J.Why the Jews, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1985, p94
2.Burman, E. The Inquisition, Northamptonshire, Aquarian Press, 1984, p28,29
4.Trachtenberg, J. The Devil and the Jews, Philadelphia, The Jewish Publication Society, 1983, pp12,13
6.Prager, D & Telushkin, J. Op cit. p103
7.Keter Publishing House, Antisemitism, Jerusalem, 1974, p70
8.Trachtenburg, J. Op cit. pl30
9.Wistrich, R. Antisemitism: The Longest Hatred, Pantheon Books, New York, 1991, p31
l0.Cohn-Sherbok, D. The Crucified Jew, Harper Collins, London, 1992, p61
11.Trachtenburg, J. Op cit. pl03
12.Ben-Sasson,H. A History of the Jewish People, Cambridge, Harvard Univer,sity7 Press, 1976, p244, 245
13.Keter, Op cit. p70
15.Dimont, M. Jews, God and History, Penguin, New York, 1962, p255
16.Dimont, M. Op cit. p221,222
17.Burman, E. Op cit. pl48
18.Wein, B. Herald of Destiny, Brooklyn, NY, Shaar Press, 1993, p208, 209
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A History of Antisemitism Part 3: From Enlightenment to Holocaust
Medieval Jewish history ended in England in 1290, in France in 1394 and in Spain in 1492, with the expulsions of the Jews from these countries. Modern Jewish history began with Jews being readmitted in the West in the seventeenth century and in the East in the eighteenth century as the first waves of the 'Enlightenment' breached the walls of the ghetto. As modern man sought to free himself of the old chains of monarchy, Church, feudalism and despair, the Jews emerged from the ghetto already free. The medieval period was not a useless experience in the history of the Jews - it had educated them for the Modern Age. Because the Jews were not part of the feudal system, they were not tied to its institutions. The Jews became cosmopolitan in their lives, speaking the languages of the world and appreciating its cultures. They were outsiders with an education, viewing societies objectively and thus assessing their weaknesses and strengths.
The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement which originated in eighteenth century France. It challenged the basic belief systems which claimed that knowledge derived from religion and faith, and instead emphasized that knowledge should be the product of rational and provable observations made by individuals. This had huge implications in the areas of politics, religion and science. With the dawning of this Enlightenment, the goal of European Jews became that of achieving emancipation.
With the 1789 slogan of "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite" echoing throughout France, the question soon arose: "Did the promise of the Declaration of the Rights of Man that all men are born, and remain, free and equal in rights...", apply to the Jews? Although many revolutionaries argued that it could not, emancipation was finally granted. 1
And so, Jews in France, for the first time, could become true Frenchmen. But this required them to give up on any vestiges of a Jewish national identity. Henceforth, Judaism was to be a religion alone, and Am Yisrael, (the Jewish people) would need to be redefined as a solely religious community of believers. The Jews agreed that they were primarily to be accepted as citizens of their countries and that religious observance was to be viewed as a private concern which did not spill over into all areas of life, but was to be restricted to the home and synagogue. For centuries, Jews had been restricted to living in ghettos, but now the isolated Jew could be brought into harmonious relationship with his non-Jewish neighbours.
Jewish emancipation would not be confined to France. It reached most of Central Europe in the wake of the Napoleonic conquests, and even though many German and Austrian principalities revoked the emancipatory decrees after Napoleon was defeated, (thus returning their Jews to the life of the ghetto), eventually Jews were to be emancipated all over Western and Central Europe in the 19th Century.
The effects of emancipation on the Jews was enormous. Jews flocked to the universities, quickly becoming highly represented not only in the student bodies, but also in the faculties. Jews distinguished themselves as actors, artists, composers, musicians and writers. Unfortunately, to achieve full emancipation, the Jew had to purge his Jewish way of life and its mediaeval obscurities and westernize his religion and customs. Only then would the barriers between Jew and Gentile disappear. Many Jews became so enthusiastic with the idea of becoming like the goyim (non-Jews), that they were ready to go all the way and become complete Goyim. As Heinrich Heine put it: "Baptism was the entrance ticket to European civilization". 2
Since a 'converted' Jew could reach practically any position he aspired to, many Jews went from the ghetto to the baptismal font.
But the greater proportion of the German Jews, who numbered over four hundred thousand, stood by their Judaism, whether orthodox or, more numerously, reform. In the years between 1871 and 1933, they threw themselves heart and soul into the task of building up the Empire, which they thought had finally accepted them as its loyal sons and daughters. 3
It is in this environment that the seeds of change in Jewish life begin to sprout. The best example of this involvement in German national life, lies in the life and thought of an important Jewish figure who has come to symbolize the Jewish world in transition: Moses Mendelssohn, the founder of Reform Judaism. Mendelssohn saw his task as providing the philosophic rationale whereby Jews could become full citizens of the countries in which they lived, and full participants in the general societal and cultural life of those countries, while still remaining faithful to the Divinely revealed legislation of Torah. Moses Mendelssohn came to be known as the first 'modern Jew'.
The unemancipated Jews of Eastern Europe, created a culture known as the "Haskala" (Jewish Enlightenment or understanding). 4
The Haskala identified with Jewish values but did not produce scientists, musicians or writers. However, the Haskala produced a humanistic literature in Hebrew and Jewish values with which the Eastern European Jews could identify. The Haskala produced the great Yeshivot of Poland and developed particularly among Polish Jews a unique culture like nowhere else in the world. This Eastern Jewish humanism was far more important for Jewish survival as there were no lines of Jews standing at the baptismal fonts in Russian and Polish Churches.
Regardless of how 'enlightened' and 'emancipated' Jews became, ultimately they remained Jews. Eventually, the Jew was seen as the enemy of the modern, secular state. Because societies' mistrust of the Jew was so deep-rooted, not being able to distinguish the Jew from anyone else became a problem. The new ideologies of the enlightenment and the 'right to be the same' were short lived and once again the Jews became the 'other in our midst'. Soon the Jews were living on the margins of society again. Though as citizens the Jews were to receive full rights, as Jews they counted for nothing. The speed and intensity of the transition from ghetto to emancipation and the way in which the Jews excelled given these new opportunities, created a new wave of Judeophobia. The Jew hatred of the Middle Ages was refurbished and set on a new path. The 'antisemitism' of the modern era was not so much religious in nature as it had been in the Middle Ages, but became racial and biological. It was a new phenomenon (or an old one with a new face), which was based on 'scientific theories of race' and it changed the course of Jewish history. The Jew of the Middle Ages was depicted as stupid and abhorrent. Modern antisemitism portrayed the Jew as having superior intellect and a great capacity to excel. He was diabolical and cunning. The Jews were targeted as being a race of conspirators and for these new reasons, were again made the scapegoats of society. Jews were not sought out for individual crimes as any other criminal would be, but for the 'crime of being Jewish'. This meant total rejection of the Jew and therefore assimilation would never be possible. Judah Pinsker, a Haskala intellectual, stated that this antisemitism was "a psychological disease." 5
In the second half of the 19th Century, modern antisemitism reared up its ugly head of hatred and fear. In the spring and summer of 1881, large anti-Jewish riots, known as pogroms sprung out in many locations throughout the Ukraine and southern Russia. These were based on the theory that there was an 'international Jewish conspiracy' against Russia. While these appeared to be 'spontaneous' popular outbreaks, in fact many of them were organized by the Tzarist government itself. Alexander III was heavily influenced by his "right hand man", the Procurator of the Holy Synod (the chief lay official of the Orthodox Church in Russia), and a notorious anti-Semite. Tales were spread against the Jews by the Greek Catholic Church, accusing them of being crucifiers of Christ and users of human blood. 6
In the 1881 pogroms, several hundred Jews were murdered and tens of thousands saw their property destroyed. Although there were floods of protest from many parts of the civilized world, the Russian government replied that the pogroms were the spontaneous expression of the population's protest against the exploitation by the Jews. 7
In 1901, the infamous Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion were published by Sergius Nilus. These were supposed to be a document which revealed a Zionist conspiracy to rule the world. The impact of the publication of these protocols went as far as America. In Henry Ford's paper concerning the 'protocols' and the 'Jewish Question', he wrote:
Whether you go to Rumania, Russia, Austria or Germany, or anywhere else that the Jewish question has come to the forefront as a vital issue, you will discover that the principal cause is the outworking of the Jewish genius to achieve the power of control....
There is no other racial nor national type which puts forth this kind of person (the International Jew). It is not merely that there are a few Jews among international financial controllers: it is that these world controllers are exclusively Jews.
How does the Jew so habitually and so resistlessly gravitate to the highest places? What puts him there? Why is he put there? What does he do there? What does the fact of his being there mean to the world? 8
That is the Jewish question in its origin. Considering that the Jewish people had not long been out of the ghetto after centuries of persecution and slaughter, one would wonder how and when these Jews found the time to become 'International Controllers'?
In Germany, a number of important German intellectuals, such as Hermann von Treitschke, Wilhelm Marr and the great German composer, Richard Wagner (with whom Hitler was obsessed), began to write of the conspiracy of the Jews to take-over German political, economic, social, and cultural life. The movement was not religious in nature, rather, it spoke of the Jews as a racial threat. The Jews were supposedly among the lowest representatives of the 'Semitic race', while the Germans were the purest manifestations of the "Aryan race". 9
It was the mission of the Jews, supposedly, to corrupt the Aryan race. Since their complaint was not with Jewish religion per se, the term 'antisemitism' was coined rather than 'anti-Judaism'. This term was first coined by Wilhelm Marr.
With the rise of Nazism in Germany, the Jews of Germany were shocked, as were Jews everywhere. After so many years of living under relatively peaceful and prosperous conditions, they found it hard to believe that their position and lifestyle could be threatened. The Jews did not see themselves as a separate national minority within the countries in which they lived. They claimed to differ from other citizens only in respect to their religion. Their desire was always for the same full and equal rights as the rest of the populations. They felt they were an integral part of each country in terms of nationality. In Germany, nearly two-thirds of the 500,000 Jews were engaged in trade and commerce; one quarter worked in industry and about one-eighth were in public service professions, mainly law and medicine. The Jews of Germany had deep ties to the Fatherland. They had lived there for centuries.
Due to the economic depression, social antagonisms, and inferior status of Jews that already existed in Eastern Europe, antisemitism was much more apparent. In German occupied Poland, where unemployment was a major problem, it was claimed that the Jews were a foreign element in the population who occupied positions that by right, belonged to the majority population. So when in 1940, the Hitler solution decreed that all the Jews in Germany or German-occupied territory should be transferred to the internment camps set up in Poland where they were to be left to die of starvation or disease, the majority of Poles didn't bat an eyelid.
Hitler's antisemitism did not operate in a vacuum. Neither did the response of the German people. Hitler simply made the most of an already existing anti-Jewish theology which had been deeply rooted in the people of Europe for sixteen centuries. This theology had become a norm of most Christian societies (whether they realized it or not), which during the Nazi regime produced in them, no response at all.
In Daniel Goldhagen's book, "Hitler's Willing Executioners - ordinary Germans and the Holocaust", he sets out to show that Hitler did not create German hatred toward Jews, but merely marshalled the existing hatred. German hatred of Jews was centuries old when Hitler came to power, especially after World War I, where Jews were vilified as the personification of evil, the agent of the Devil, the enemy of the people and the ruination of the beloved Fatherland. Goldhagen says: "For hundreds of years, antisemitism had lent coherence and esteem to the self-image of the Christian world; as many of the old certitudes about the world eroded in nineteenth century Germany, the centrality of antisemitism as a model of cultural coherence and eventually as a politically ideology, grew tremendously. 10
Just as the Jews of the Middle Ages were always an alien body within Christendom, representing everything that was awry, so the Jews of Germany were an alien body, representing everything awry in society, and that they were intentionally so. 11
For sixteen centuries, the same slogan was preached that was now shouted from every rooftop in Germany: "Jews are our misfortune". 12
As Goldhagen points out, the Holocaust was not just a few SS men following orders for fear of what would happen if they disobeyed, or the result of peer pressure to conform, but that it was the work of 'perfectly ordinary' Germans from all walks of life. How is it possible that in civilized, Christian Europe, only fifty years ago, tens of thousands of Jews were shot in the neck by German policemen who apparently came from respectable social backgrounds and were family men? How did they lead whimpering 12-year-olds and sobbing elderly women from their villages in eastern Poland into the surrounding forests and murdered them one by one before tossing them into makeshift mass graves? Somehow, these ordinary people had concluded "that the Jews ought to die ". Their execution, therefore, was lawful. 13
The evidence that so many ordinary people did accept the absurd beliefs about Jews that Hitler articulated in Mein Kampf is overwhelming. The acceptance of these beliefs made ordinary people become willing executioners. But was Mein Kampf any different to Martin Luther's "The Jews and their Lies"? Or the sermons of John Chrysostom? Was Eichman simply obeying orders any differently than the Inquisitor Torquemada of Spain in the fifteenth century? Was the brutality of Hitler's henchmen and willing executioners any more brutal than those who carried out the orders of the Church in the Middle Ages, where Jews were murdered because of the same accusations but with a different motivation? And finally, why did the Church speak out when Hitler was ridding the Aryan race of the physically and mentally disabled, but not when he began exterminating Jews?
With the spread of Christianity, anti-Semitism became embedded into Western culture and became a cultural phenomena. The events of the Holocaust have many parallels in the Christian church. In the early fourth century the church began to 'protect' themselves from the Jews. They imposed laws that prevented Jews from 'contaminating the life and faith of true believers. 14
The Nazis imposed similar restrictions by forbidding non Jews from shopping in stores owned by a Jew. In the seventh century the Church ordered the Talmud be burned; the Nazis held public burnings of all literature by Jewish authors. 15
The Church disqualified the Jews from holding public office 16
; the Nazis did the same. Until 1870 much of Europe had Ghettos designed to shut the Jews away from humanity for centuries 17
; the Nazi's did the same. In fact, every restriction imposed upon the Jews by the Nazis, short of the monstrous 'final solution', had an earlier counterpart in cannon law. As late as 1941, Archbishop Grober, in a pastoral letter filled with antisemitic utterances, blamed the Jews for the death of Jesus, saying that the Holocaust was "the self-imposed curse of the Jews - 'His blood be upon us and our children' - has come true... today." (Jerusalem Post, International Edition Dec. 5, 1992)
Even though the Church had never before suggested killing all of the Jews, the Nazi 'final solution' was a logical extension of the thought of those church fathers and councils who declared God was finished with the Jews. The seeds of sixteen centuries of theological antisemitism would no doubt continue to produce fruit. And fruit of the worst kind it did produce, with the lawful and willing slaughter of six million Jews just fifty years ago.
Regardless of emancipation and Jewish patriotism, and despite the overwhelming contributions Jewish people made to the modern world, for as long as society continued to define the Jew as the "other in our midst" and for as long as there was a "Jewish Question", in due time antisemitism's third characteristic was defined in full fury, in what has come to be known as the tremendum
: it said to the Jew, "You have no right to live."
1.Dimont,M, Jews, God and History, Penguin, New York,1962, p303
2.Heinrich Heine as quoted by Wafter Laquer:A History of Zionism, London 1972, p9
3.Addleson, A. Israel - The Epic of a People, Howard Timmins, Cape Town, 1972, p251
4.Grayzel, Z. A History of the Jews, Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1963, p606,607
5.Judah Leo Pinsker, quoted by D. Goldberg & J. Rayner in The Jewish People, Their History & Their Religion UK 1987, p165
6.Addleson, A. op.cit., p255, 256
7.Grayzel, Z. op.cit., p638,639
8.Ford Henry, The Dearborn Independent: a selection of the articles of 1920-22, as published in the book titled The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, Part 1: The Jewish question, 1934, p 7-11
9.Addleson, A. op.cit., p 293
10. Goldhagen, D. Hitler's Willing Executioners - Ordinary Germans & the Holocaust, Little, Brown & Co., London, 1996, p54
11. ibid, p55
12. ibid, p428
13. ibid, p388
14.Glock, C. Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism., Harper & Row, New York,1966, p148
15.Stadtler, B. The Holocaust A History of Courage and Resistance, Behrman House, New York, 1973, p20
16.Glock, C. op.cit., pl48
Addleson, A. Israel, The Epic of a People, Howard Timmins, Cape Town, 1972
Ben-Sasson, H. A History of the Jewish People, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1976
Brown, M. Our Hands Are Stained With Blood, Shippensburg, Destiny Image, 1993
Burman, E. The Inquisition, Northamptonshire, Aquarian Press, 1984
Cohn-Sherbok, D. The Crucified Jew, Harper Collins, London, 1992
Dimont, M. Jews, God and History , Penguin, New York, 1962
Dixon, M. The Rebirth and Restoration of Israel, Chichester, Sovereign World, 1988
Glock, C. Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism., Harper & Row, New York, 1966
Goldberg, D. & Rayner, J.,The Jewish People, Their History & Their Religion UK, 1987
Goldhagen, D. Hitler's Willing Executioners - Ordinary Germans & the Holocaust, Little, Brown & Co., London,1996
Grayzel, Z. A History of the Jews, Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1963
Hay, M. Thy Brother's Blood, Hart Publishing Co. 1975
Keter Publishing House, A n t i s e m i t i s m, Jerusalem, 1974
Laquer, W. .A History of Zionism, Trinity Press, London, 1972
Littell, Franklin H. The Crucifixion of the Jews. Harper & Row, New York, 1975.
Luther, M. The Jews and Yheir Lies, Oregon, American Christian Ministries, 1990
New International Version Study Bible, USA, Zondervan Publishing House, 1995
Prager, D. & Telushkin, J. Why the Jews, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1985
Stadtler, B. The Holocaust A History of Courage and Resistance, Behrman House, New York, 1973
Stamforth, M. (translated by), Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers, Penguin Books, London, 1968
The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion , Translated from the Russian text by Victor E. Marsden, 1934
Trachtenberg, J. The Devil and the Jews, Philadelphia, The Jewish Publication Society, 1983
Wein, B. Herald of Destiny, Brooklyn, NY, Shaar Press, 1993
Wilson, M. Our Father Abraham, Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Michigan, 1989
Wistrich, R. Antisemitism: The Longest Hatred, Pantheon Books, New York, 1991
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Written by: Luana Fabri
Used by Permission