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Project explores how history shaped perceptions of the Jewish people

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Using interviews with nationally renowned historians and theologians, a two-part WQLN-TV original production, Perspective: Jewish History, produced in collaboration with Randall Howarth, Ph.D., professor of ancient history at Mercyhurst University, will air on Thursday, March 27, at 8 p.m.

The production augments The Story of the Jews with Simon Schama, a five-part history series on WQLN-TV airing March 25-April 1.

A corresponding essay contest, sponsored by Mercyhurst University in partnership with public broadcasting’s WQLN and WNET, will award $500 to the area high school or college student who best answers the question: “How has history shaped modern perceptions of Jews?”

WQLN’s original documentary revisits Imperial Rome and Europe in the Middle Ages to discover how and why Christendom made outsiders of the Jews. Part I of the broadcast, “Jews in the Roman Empire,” will explore the processes that socially marginalized the Jews, beginning at the time of the Judean rebellions and continuing through the 400s C.E. Part 2: “Jews in the European Middle Ages” will look at the ambivalent treatment of Jews in medieval Europe, where they were routinely dispossessed but also protected as part of burgeoning European economies.

Howarth served as the lead writer and associate producer on the project. He also recruited the national experts showcased in the production.

“Our goal in this program is to provide insight into the process through which Jews became a marginalized community in the Western World and to examine the historical elements that have fed into the creation of modern anti-Semitism,” Howarth said.

Perspective: Jewish History is shaped by original commentary from Joshua Ezra Burns, (Ph.D. Yale University), assistant professor of theology at Marquette University; Curtis Hutt (Ph.D., Brown University), assistant professor of religious studies at University of Nebraska Omaha; and Albert Bell (Ph.D., University of North Carolina), professor of history at Hope College; as well as Rabbi John Bush of Temple Anshe Hesed in Erie.

The essay contest is intended to provoke further thought and discussion about Jewish history among students. In addition to the monetary award, the contest winner will join panelists in discussing the subject at Mercyhurst University on Tuesday, April 22. (Time to be announced.) The panel discussion will be recorded by WQLN and broadcast at a later date.

“The panel discussion will explore the degree to which these problems still exist and to note parallels in other modern ethnic and political contexts,” Howarth said.

Essay contestants must be enrolled in an area high school or college. The essay should be between 2500 and 3500 words and use any nationally recognized form of citation. Electronic submissions should be sent to Randall Howarth at Mercyhurst: by April 15.


IMAGE: Loot taken from the sack of Jerusalem in 70 CE as commemorated on the Arch of Titus.