Friday, August 14, 2009

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

I know I was raised with practically zero Jewish education. So it shouldn't be surprising when every once in a while, something totally comes out of left field and blindsides me.

For instance I knew that there was a Hebrew blessing called Birkat HaGomel, which is to be said when one has just survived a dangerous situation.

However, for the past five years, I thought it was a reference to, you know, Gomel.
The Bund, a Jewish left-wing organization, organized defense networks among Jewish workers and community members. Five months later, when a pogrom broke out in Gomel, the Jewish community actively resisted. Lambroza said, "Gomel might have been significantly worse were it not for aggressive Jewish defense measures."

1903 September 1, GOMEL/HOMEL (Russia)

Von Plehve, the Russian Minister of the Interior who helped promote the Kishinev pogroms, instigated another pogrom. In spite of a vigorous defense, twelve Jews were killed and two hundred and fifty homes were destroyed. Thirty-six of the defenders were prosecuted, together with the perpetrators of the pogrom.

Hey, it made sense to me. After all, I've seen Reform and Conservative prayerbooks that mentioned the Inquisition, Cossacks and Holocaust tacked on to the Yom Kippur martyrology. I just figured that we wanted to include a special mention of Gomel, too.

Turns out, no. It's Talmudic.

See kids, this is what happens when you study 20th century Eastern European Jewish social history instead of basic Hebrew. Listen to your parents. Be cool, stay in [Hebrew] school.

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