The Many Incarnations of Moroccan Jewish Folklore’s Comic Sage

A simultaneously wise and foolish folk hero whose humorous adventures tend to satirize figures of authority? To an Ashkenazi Jew, this might sound like one of the wise men of Chelm or the tales of Hershele of Ostropol. To a Moroccan Jew, it is an apt description of the folkloric character named Seha. Marc Eliany, who has recently published a book of these tales, writes:

Rep­re­sent­ed in Jew­ish, Mus­lim, and Chris­t­ian sto­ries through­out the Mediter­ranean basin, Seha was depict­ed in a vari­ety of ways. In Jew­ish inter­pre­ta­tions, Seha was the prophet Eli­jah, the Baby­lon­ian Rab­bi Yose, an une­d­u­cat­ed spice-mak­er, a saint, a yeshi­va stu­dent, a wan­der­ing mer­chant, a jew­el­er, and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Jew­ish Moroc­can res­i­dents. . . . When my grand­fa­ther, a rab­bi, told me sto­ries, he described Seha as sim­i­lar to him­self. My mater­nal grand­moth­er pre­sent­ed Seha as a socioe­co­nom­ic and polit­i­cal hero—as a reflec­tion of her own prox­im­i­ty to local polit­i­cal lead­ers. My pater­nal grand­moth­er, on the oth­er hand, trans­formed him into a comedic, self-dep­re­cat­ing figure.

In fact, self-dep­re­ca­tion in Moroc­can Jew­ish sto­ry­telling serves as a means of cop­ing with the lim­i­ta­tions of the dhim­ma sys­tem—a Mus­lim law that charged non-Mus­lims a tax in exchange for free­dom of reli­gion and prop­er­ty own­er­ship. Humor in Seha tales lessens the dif­fer­ences between Moroc­can Jews and their Mus­lim neigh­bors, ful­fill­ing a com­mu­ni­ty need to ele­vate the sta­tus of dhim­ma Jews.

Read more at Jewish Book Council

More about: Chelm, Jewish folklore, Jewish humor, Moroccan Jewry

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University