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Antisemitism and the Uses of Rhetoric: Purpose, Power and Possibilities


This paper will examine various types of rhetoric that have been used throughout history to isolate and target Jews. The first is the voice of authority or kerygma, observable in canonized scripture, what Northrop Frye termed the “rhetoric of God.” Next is the rhetoric of paranoia, traditionally used by politicians to persuade people to adopt a defensive position against the imagined threat of certain groups. This is particularly popular on social media, which creates a sense of community through the shared fears of its participants. Third, and perhaps most insidious, is the largely invisible rhetoric of consubstantiality, that is, the use of coded rhetoric to create a “safe space” for more radical hate speech that often results in heinous acts of violence. In conclusion we will examine some on-the-ground examples of ways that scholars and faith leaders are using rhetorical tools such as careful translation, socially sensitive hermeneutics and the personal narrative to overcome the negative uses of persuasive speech.

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