(Forward) History of Dutch Jews’ Role in Slavery Is Bluntly Depicted

Zacharias Wagenaer. Slave market in Recife, Brazil. Mid-17th century.

Zacharias Wagenaer. Slave market in Recife, Brazil. Mid-17th century.

My article “History of Dutch Jews’ Role in Slavery Is Bluntly Depicted” appears in the Jewish Daily Forward. Below is the article lede:

“The word ‘slave’ is used in this exhibition,” notes a wall text at “Jews in the Caribbean: Four Centuries of History in Suriname and Curacao” at Amsterdam’s Jewish Historical Museum. “The museum is aware of the controversial nature of this term. ‘Slaves,’ as used here, refers to African men, women, and children taken captive and sold as slaves and their descendants who were born into slavery.”

That Jews have owned slaves, despite biblical injunctions about caring for the disadvantaged and the Passover focus on liberation from servitude, isn’t an unknown narrative. The bible itself refers often to laws governing both Jewish and non-Jewish slaves. But it is rare for an exhibit at a Jewish museum to so bluntly and thoroughly address the topic as this show does. (A notable exception: the 1961 Jewish Museum exhibit “ The American Jew in the Civil War .”)

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