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By Marla H. Zimmerman (editor)

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He told them to “touch his head, he had no horns”, which they did. Then they told him that it must be because he was a “good Jew”. “ 24 I’m not sure I ever believed the shoe leather story, but my father is a great story teller; detailed, picturesque, emotive; you could taste the shoe leather! Then he’d tell about being the only Jew in his military unit. ” Of course, my father was shocked that they had such an astounding belief. He told them to “touch his head, he had no horns”, which they did.

This strategy creates both social pressure for all students to speak up and encourages talkative students to invite quiet students to join in the discussion. It helps solve the “free rider” problem while getting nontraditional and traditional students talking with each other. Finally, I seek to respect my students’ religious orientation or lack thereof. This can be challenging when teaching courses like the Sociology of Religion. The last time I taught the course I had everything from a “practicing atheist” (his words) to a fifty year member of a local Baptist church.

Or maybe there’s the beginning of a story that just happens to need a “Jew” in it. I spent many years not knowing what to say in such circumstances, but at some point I decided that these statements, jokes, conversations were a slippery slope and are the first steps, bricks on the path to a lynching or the crematoriums. Left untreated, unchallenged, the cancer grows. Now I suggest people use their own culture and then tell the joke. Not many takers, doesn’t seem funny to them any longer. Or I might say, “that’s interesting, I’m Jewish, tell me more .

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