Before Whom Do We Stand?

This essay places before the reader four historic texts that raise significant questions for Jews and Christians who choose to enter into post-Holocaust examination of their respective identities and their relationships to their grounding traditions. The Kristallnacht exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum introduces museum visitors to the defaced Talmudic instruction of R. Eliezer-Know before whom you stand-which frames this essay. As with the story the museum recounts, more than texts are at stake in this essay, but the way forward is distinctly framed by their critical presence. In this case, the distinctive texts are faced in reconfiguring ways, asking those who face them to rethink the place of the other in their identities and life-orienting commitments. Early on, Samuel Bak's surrealistic rendering of a crucified, Jewish child provides a refracting image for exploring the questions these texts pose for post-Shoah people of faith who take their place before them, asking in recursive fashion: before whom do you stand?.

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