No Room in the Synagogue…

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Jesus with a plate behind his head

There was a bit of discussion in Britain last week over a BBC program (or programme), part of which a Rabbi objected to:

The scene depicts a pregnant Mary, mother of Jesus, trying to escape a Bethlehem crowd which accuses her of adultery. She is refused haven in a synagogue by a tallit-wearing rabbi, although he allows her to flee by a back door.  Rabbi Romain had not seen the episode, but had been alerted to its contents by two people who had attended preview screenings.  Many Jews, he said, would be “aghast that amid a story central to the beliefs of millions of Christians, an anti-Judaic aspect has been twisted into the narrative. The Gospels tell us there was no room at the inn, not that a rabbi kicked Mary out of a synagogue”.  He added: “It would be tragic if a 30-minute television programme undoes 30 years of inter-faith dialogue.”  But a BBC spokesman rejected the accusation: “There is absolutely no truth to claims the rabbi is depicted in a negative way,” she said.

Telling Mary to move along- through the back door- doesn’t really seem like something smelling of antisemitism to me.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked to get out by means of the back door of this or that establishment/house/church/hospital/theatre etc. and I have never once taken it as an ethnic or racial insult.  In fact, when I was at Chris Tilling’s flat in London a couple of years ago he told me

When you leave, do slink down the back stairs.  I’d prefer that no one knew you were here.

I took it as an act of kindness that he wanted me to go unnoticed.  Maybe that was the Rabbi’s intention in the Synagogue scene…

[Some people are just too sensitive].

2 thoughts on “No Room in the Synagogue…

  1. steph 28 Dec 2010 at 6:53 pm

    I did enjoy your analogy there – and it seems entirely fitting … although I can’t quite imagine you ‘slinking’! I can actually imagine you better sliding down the bannisters and even climbing shakily down the fire escape…


  2. Ben Slobodkin 30 Dec 2010 at 3:33 am

    I didn’t see the BBC program, but it sounds to me like it may contain a historical inaccuracy: although tzitzit are from Biblical times, the tallit prayer shawl as we know it started to take shape about a thousand years after Christ.


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