‘People Love Dead Jews’ author to discuss anti-Semitism


Dara Horn spent more than 20 years ignoring an uncomfortable feeling about her religion – that living Jews are often ignored by society at large as people tell tales of the dead – until she can’t put it aside anymore.

Then she decided that others shouldn’t be able to ignore it either and wrote her first nonfiction book on the subject, “People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present.”

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Horn, the author of several novels, began writing the book after events made him realize that people tell stories about dead Jews but don’t talk about what happened to them while they were alive or why. Jews no longer live in these places.

Horn will discuss his book, its history, anti-Semitism and what it’s like to be a Jewish writer with the Columbus community Friday and Saturday as part of a residency program at Congregation Tifereth Israel .

The program was originally scheduled to take place in January, but was delayed due to COVID-19.

Before the New Jersey resident set about writing the book, which took her traveling around the world, Horn said she was naïve.

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“I hadn’t realized the role dead Jews play in the world’s imagination,” she said in a January interview. “Why do we care how these people died if we don’t care whether they lived?”

The book contains stories of cities around the world that were built by Jews or that hosted large populations of them and now have few, if any.

Horn points to a city in China called Harbin which was built by Russian Jews in the early 20th century. Now one Jew lives there — out of 16 million people, she said. Over the years, the Jews of the community were driven from the city – sometimes violently – by non-Jewish Russian refugees, Japanese occupiers, Soviets and other groups.

The city has spent millions restoring “Jewish heritage sites,” without saying why there are no more Jews, Horn said. Many countries around the world are doing the same, she said.

“Once you see this problem, you can’t ignore it, and you realize how pervasive it is.” Horn said.

According to Associate Rabbi Alex Braver, Tifereth Israel, a Middle Eastern synagogue, uses its annual scholar-in-residence program to shed light on relevant and pressing issues in the Jewish community each year.

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In the past, scholars have spoken about Judaism and the environment, feminism, art and more.

Anti-Semitism remains a huge conversation in the Jewish world, Braver said in an interview earlier this year. He said he hoped people would come back from the weekend seeing Jewish life and anti-Semitism in ways they hadn’t been able to see before.

“Hopefully in our conversation with her, we can somehow find out ‘OK, now what are we doing as American Jews in 2022 – and as non-Jews who are only interested in what topic? to confront this and to confront more subtle forms of anti-Semitism? ” did he declare.

The book puts into words a feeling that many Jews felt but were unable to articulate, Braver said.

Dara Horn, author of "People love dead Jews," will be the researcher in residence at Congregation Tifereth Israel.

Chief Rabbi Hillel Skolnik said it was remarkable to read Horn’s words and draw inspiration from them. He’s “someone we have so much to learn from,” he said.

Horn said she started asking about dead Jews in 2018, when a magazine asked her to write an essay about Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who hid from the Nazis during the Holocaust and whose diary, published after his death in a concentration camp, is famous.

Horn said she felt an “overwhelming sense of dread” about writing the essay and began to consider why she didn’t want to write the article. Meanwhile, she noticed a news article about how the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam, in the building where Frank hid from the Nazis, had not allowed a young Jewish employee to wear a yarmulke to work.

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The man appealed the decision and the museum’s board deliberated for four months before allowing him to wear the religious skullcap.

“I thought, ‘Four months is a very long time for the Anne Frank Museum to consider whether they should force a Jew into hiding,'” Horn said. “That realization launched me into this book.”

Horn wants to contribute to a larger conversation in the country about diversity and whether or not society will be open and accepting differences of opinion.

Congregation Tifereth Israel, 1354 E. Broad St. welcomes Dara Horn, an author, as Scholar-in-Residence.

“I want people to be uncomfortable. … When you’re uncomfortable, it forces you to question your assumptions that you didn’t even know were assumptions,” he said. she stated. “I am really, in this book, a challenge for the readers.”

It’s hard to talk about the negative, Braver said, but Horn argues it’s not possible to avoid conversations about anti-Semitism in 2022.

“America is one of the most welcoming places for Jews,” Braver said. “To shed light on the problem, the dark belly, … is really uncomfortable.”

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Horn wants to draw attention to the problem, but she says she’s not sure how to fix it. That said, she has some ideas.

One is to change the way students study Judaism in non-Jewish culture, such as in K-12 history books and social studies texts. Most have chapters on the Holocaust, but Horn said that’s not enough.

“From this we learn that Jews are people who were killed, and the dead Jews are here to teach you a great lesson,” she said. “But there is nothing in between. … What would it mean if there was something in between?”

Horn said she was not interested in convincing people of her point of view; instead, she invites them to take a journey with her, telling stories about the Jews in each chapter.

“I encourage people to reconsider their assumptions about what living Jewish culture is, and I encourage people to reconsider their assumptions about what it means to fight anti-Semitism,” Horn said.

For more information on events featuring Dara Horn at Congregation Tifereth Israel, visit tiferethisrael.org.

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