Amid concerns about growing antisemitism, Norwegian pupils depend on myths to define Judaism

lifted from Vårt Land, google translate


Shatters myths created by schools
Pupils think that all Jews follow strict kashrut and wear a kippah. They are shocked when they meet Lise Rebekah Paltiel.
Kjell Kvamme

– In school you learn about Orthodox Judaism. One finds little in textbooks about how modern Norwegian Jews live and practice their religion. I have often discussed this with teachers. Often the focus is on the orthodox practice because it is so different. The kids think all Jews follow the kosher, and they are concerned about how hard it is to not mix pork and milk. When I say that I do not follow these rules, students are shocked, says Lise Rebekah Paltiel, a presented at the Jewish Museum in Trondheim ..

Throughout the school year, many pupils and students visit the museum, mostly from primary and secondary schools.

Also students who visit the Jewish Museum in Oslo have the same perceptions, confirms  the academic director Mats Tangestuen.

– Teachers have an extremely important role, more important than ours. Pupils who have active teachers, have a basis for understanding what a Jew is, he says.

Ancient myths

– Is Norwegian school out of touch in how it teaches about Judaism, Paltiel?

– It gets better, and teachers also learn by coming here. Many believe we have long noses and are rich. I meet many old myths that permeate the greater community.

– Where do these beliefs come from?

– Some of if, from the the school – if one conveys Orthodox Judaism with curls, hats and all the boys go with kippa. But much comes from parents and the Internet, said Paltiel.


Nothing in the curricula for primary instructs schools to teach pupils exclusively about Orthodox Judaism, according to Dag Johannes Sunde, senior adviser at the department of curriculum development in the Education Directorate.

– The term “Orthodox Judaism” is not used in the curriculum. One of the competence goals in the subject is that students should be able to provide an overview of the diversity of Judaism, says Sunde to Vårt Land.

Local schools are however free to fill competency goals with content, he said.

Rector Mette Winsnes Råberg at Rosenborg school in Trondheim does not agree that her school fails to teach about Jewish plurality, she writes in an e-mail:

“I think that the school conveys both how Judaism is practiced as a religion, but also what it means to be a Jew. It may be, however, that it is this difference that should be pointed out more clearly? “.

High school

Compulsory instruction in other religions than Islam and Christianity were taken out of the curriculum in 2006, when the so-called Knowledge Promotion was introduced. Only a few years later did the Jewish Museum in Trondheim feel consequences: Drastically fewer pupils from secondary school came to visit.

– Although students learn about Judaism in primary school, it does not really stick. It is clear. Therefore, it is a pity that secondary school pupils do not receive compulsory education in this subject, because students of this age are more susceptible and reflective, says Lise Rebekah Paltiel.

She herself is a trained teacher. Around 300 pupils from secondary schools in Trondheim and the surrounding region visit the museum throughout the year.

Schools are not to blame for keeping anti-Semitic myths alive, but they do not anything with them, says Ervin Kohn, head of the Jewish community in Oslo.

– They do not see that there is a problem. But we can not leave all the blame at the door steps of the schools. Even community leaders do not recognize anti-Semitism. So we must teach those who teach the teachers and finally to get the two professorships I’ve repeatedly asked for: One in Jewish studies and one in anti-Semitism, says Ervin Kohn.

The Jewish diversity is erased.

– We are aware that the idea of ​​a Jew is limited among students. It is a religious, orthodox definition. The diversity of the Jewish religion has been erased away, says Vibeke Kieding Banik,a researcher at  the Norwegian Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities (HL center).

In her opinion, the low level of knowledge in Judaic religion and culture among pupils, reflects the fact that the schools themselves has poor knowledge. She believes that teaching  Judaism and Jewish culture in secondary school should be made mandatory again.

– Knowledge has a  calming effect on religion and cultural differences, she says.


“It is a problem that teachers do not recognize anti-Semitic remarks or acts, or that for various reasons do not take such incidents seriously enough,” says the action plan against anti-Semitism, that the government adopted last year. One of the measures against this is Dembra – Democratic preparedness against racism and anti-Semitism – which is now offered in secondary schools.

Claudia Lenz has supervised in Dembra project since 2013. An attitude she has registered among teachers is that antisemitism first becomes relevant when you have Jewish students at the school.

– This is striking. When evaluating afterwards, they say that they have become aware that they need this knowledge regardless of hether they have  Jewish students or not. This knowledge is important for the wider community, says Lenz who is a senior researcher at the HL Centre and associate professor at the School of Theology.


She and colleague Vibeke Kieding Banik at the

The HL center has also noted another detail among many of the nearly 8,000 pupils and students who visit during a year: The emphasis on the Holocaust portrays Jews solely as victims of persecution and mass murder – and they all have striped pajamas.

– It is just as one-sided as to reduce Jewish life to orthodoxy. Jews are not portrayed as active community members and people with a vibrant and diverse culture, according to Claudia Lenz.

1 comment for “Amid concerns about growing antisemitism, Norwegian pupils depend on myths to define Judaism

  1. motti
    March 23, 2017 at 10:33 am

    Interesting to read that all Jews are perceived as
    I suppose the perception of Muslims is perfection, peaceful loving people who are shat upon by racists?

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