Chumash Class: Comparing and Contrasting Pharaoh and the Nazi Regime

October 30, 2015

Chumash1Students in Mrs. Goldfischer’s ninth-grade Chumash class have been working on an in-class assignment where they had to either compare or contrast Pharaoh and Hitler and their treatment of the Jewish people. This is an example of how Frisch students explore ancient Jewish history through a modern prism. Students considered what they learned in Shemot Chapter 1 and reflected on Pharaoh’s goals, reasons why he persecuted the Jews, his use of propaganda, progression of anti-Semitic attacks and more. The commentary of Ramban, written in the 13th century, dealt with the many of stages of Pharaoh’s anti-Semitic measures against the Jews – measures that frighteningly resemble some forms of modern anti-Semitism.

Some student groups felt that these two anti-Semites were extremely similar, while other groups argued that they share some similarities but also significant differences. Other groups, still, argued that these two rulers were radically different from one another in their treatment of the Jews.

One group noticed that these ruthless tyrants both had reasons to feel gratitude to a specific Jew—for Pharaoh, it was Yosef, and for Hitler, it was Eduard Bloch, a Jewish family doctor who took care of his mother. Yet these feelings of appreciation were instead replaced with feelings of fear and hatred of the Jewish nation.

Excerpts from students’ writings are below:

“Both Pharoah and Hitler convinced people who weren’t initially against Jews to hate them. Hitler convinced a lot of the Germans and non-Jewish neighbors to kill Jews. Similarly, Pharaoh started off by only convincing the higher government officials but eventually convinced any Egyptian that they can take advantage of the Jews.”

“Pharoah only wanted to slow down Jewish growth, his ‘final solution’ was only created once his earlier attempts were unsuccessful and even then his main objective was to kill the baby boys and not total extermination.”

“Both Pharpah and Hitler had a personal connection to a Jew that they knew was Jewish and protected while targeting the rest of the nation.”