Your RDA of Irony

The Original Road Company of Fiddler on the Roof


My mother had a wonderful explanation for the remarkable dispersion of Jews around the world: “Someone has to own the stores.” However, the Diaspora originally was not intended to fill a marketing niche. In fact, it was not even our idea. The Emperor Hadrian thought of it, and he really was not trying to do us a favor.

He was quite angry with us.  Here he was having a perfectly enjoyable Pax Romana when Judea spoiled it all by rebelling. History does not even know why Judea rebelled. Hadrian was an excellent emperor. No one else had any complaints. At least when Judea rebelled some sixty years earlier, the Emperor then was the less than lovable Nero. Unfortunately, the Roman army did not consider that an adequate excuse and crushed the Jewish revolt.

Destroying Jerusalem in A.D. 70, Rome seemed to have made its point: Render unto Caesar–or else. However, that still was too subtle for my ancestors and we wanted a rematch. The second round, named for the belligerent and quite abrasive leader Simon Bar Kochba (the Michael Savage of his day) lasted from A.D. 133 to 135.

How would you expect a fight between one Ben Stiller and twenty Vin Diesels to end? Judea against Rome had the same odds.

After crushing this rebellion Hadrian decided that the surviving Jews needed a change of climate. Anywhere but Judea. What is Latin for ethnic cleansing? Even the name of the region was changed to emphasize Hadrian’s Jew-less goal. Invoking the name of the long-gone and now completely irrelevant Philistines, Hadrian ordered that Judea would henceforth be called Palestina.

The massive deportations would presumably encourage assimilation. Perhaps the Jews would learn comedy and medicine from the Greeks. Nonetheless, Hadrian attempted to enforce this assimilation by banning circumcision. (The Emperor was extremely fond of foreskins–and wouldn’t have appreciated Leviticus’ attitudes about his enthusiasm.) He further outlawed Jewish schools or any second century equivalent to Stanley Kaplan tutorials.

However, the prohibitions were limply enforced. How exactly would Roman law punish circumcision? Feed the indicted area to a lion? (The poor lion!) Hadrian’s successor dispensed with the Anti-Jewish prohibitions, realizing that 100 dietary laws were punishment enough.

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