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August 01, 2003 - Image 80

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-08-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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S o I'm starting to realize that
this Harry Potter book is a
pretty big deal.
I see that icy blue book
jacket all over town. I see it in the
satchel of a silver-haired, suit-clad busi-
nessman on a subway bound for Wall
Street. I notice another copy in the
hands of the Korean woman behind
the counter at the corner deli. Later, I
spy one wedged into the passenger seat
beside a Pakistani cabdriver.
All of these people, it seems, relate
warmly to this fantastical tale of the
little British boy wizard, regardless of
their background. Everyone, from
everywhere, is just wild about Harry.
"You know," a friend said recently, "they
say he's Jewish. I read that somewhere."
I must say, I have never truly under-
stood the craze. This may be due in part
to the fact that I have
never picked up any
of the books.

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"He's a real
mentsh," says
Cantor Amy Miller;
who led a discussion
last month at the first
international Harry
Potter Symposium.

Though I did see the first movie — on
the day it opened, braving the inter-
minable lines in solidarity with a friend
who had been dragged there by his little
cousin (she's 27, but barely 5 feet tall).
I enjoyed what I saw — particularly
the Quidditch match scene — but I did
not readily identify with the story. In
none of the characters did I see myself.
But now this. What if Harry Potter
is Jewish? At least, as Jewish as he is
Korean, or Pakistani, or, for that mat-
ter, British.
Is there some way to relate to him
from a Jewish perspective? At the very
least, it's a question worth discussing.
Indeed, a cursory Internet search
reveals that the five Potter books have
been subject to almost as much rab-
binical commentary as those other
Five Books.
Some say Harry's story is rife with
odd kabbalistic symbolism ("As in
Jewish tradition, all power
derives from the number
three"), while others, citing
the Prophets, think
he is sim-
ply divine
("But
now, 0
Lord, you
are our
Father;
We are the
clay, and You
are the
Potter." -
Isaiah 64:7).
More reasonable
voices claim this is
simply a morality tale
that transmits ethics
based in Judaism.
"[Author] J.K. Rowling
may never have studied Jewish
history, but her series provides a
perfect parable for the causes of the
destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem,"
expounds Rabbi Yonason Goldson of
Block Yeshiva High School in St. Louis.
"The Talmud tells us the cause ...
was senseless hatred; 1,931 years later,
we are still quarreling senselessly with
one another.
"If we haven't learned the lessons of

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