I recently learned of a new Jewish holiday about which I knew absolutely nothing. It’s called “Hit a Jew Day.”
According to an Oct. 24 story in USA TODAY, a few students at a suburban St. Louis middle school created “Hit a Jew Day,” the purpose of which was to show their superiority to and disdain for Jews, by hitting any Jews they could find.
I have mixed feelings about Hit a Jew Day. On the upside I am pleased there are Jews in St. Louis that one might hit. On the down side, I am saddened that students would actually want to hit them. On the upside again, I am pleased that American middle-schoolers are creative enough to invent new holidays. On the downside, though, I am saddened to discover that Hallmark has not yet released a series of greeting cards for Hit a Jew Day.
On reflection, however, Hit a Jew Day isn’t all that new.
It has its most ancient roots in the authentically Jewish holiday of Purim. According to the Book of Esther, Haman, the evil genius behind the Persian version of Hit a Jew Day, convinced his king to declare the 14th of the month of Adar as Kill a Jew Day when all good Persians could murder Jews without concern.
Haman was thwarted by the brave Esther, who was a Jewess married to the king, but since Kill a Jew Day was already on everyone’s calendars the king felt he couldn’t disappoint his people by canceling it. So he created yet another holiday to be held on the same day. This holiday, which we might call Kill the Anti-Semites Day, allowed Jews to defend themselves on Kill a Jew Day. As is often the case in these kinds of biblical stories, the Jews kill tens of thousands of their enemies.
I imagine the solid people of St. Louis, both Jews and Gentiles, are horrified by the anti-Semitism of these middle-school Nazis, but I fear they will take things too far. Should these students be arrested? Should they be expelled from school? Should they be waterboarded to see if they are part of a radical sleeper cell? Should they be forced to eat matzoh rather than bread for the week of Passover?
Given the historical precedent of Purim, let me suggest an alternative to these responses. The best way to handle Hit a Jew Day is to proclaim Hit Back on the Anti-Semites Day, allowing Jews to arm themselves at school and to defend themselves against their Hit a Jew Day attackers. Celebrated correctly, Hit Back on the Anti-Semites Day would insure that Hit a Jew Day will fail to catch on.
At least in St. Louis.
Rabbi Rami Shapiro is director of the One River Foundation in Murfreesboro, Tenn. This column appeared originally on his blog.
Rabbi Rami Shapiro appears in a new Baptist Center for Ethics DVD “Good Will for the Common Good: Nurturing Baptists’ Relationships with Jews.” Click here to order.