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December 19, 2014 2:52 pm

The Jew in Harry Potter and What it Means About Religion in the Beloved Book Series

avatar by Alina Dain Sharon / JNS.org

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The author of the Harry Potter book series J.K. Rowling. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org – Hey, Jewish Harry Potter fans! In case you haven’t yet heard, J.K. Rowling has just announced that there is a Jewish character in the beloved magical series. His name is Anthony Goldstein and he is a member of the Ravenclaw house.

The Jewish wizard was revealed in a Twitter question-and-answer session on Tuesday, when Ben Roffman tweeted that his wife had said that there were no Jews at Hogwarts, which means she is the only who could be “magical” in his family. But J.K. Rowling quickly responded with the tweet, “Anthony Goldstein, Ravenclaw, Jewish wizard.”

The Harry Potter Wiki page further explains that the Goldstein character was a classmate of Harry Potter and had fought in Dumbledore’s Army. Ironically, Rowling later also tweeted that the only people she “never imagined there are Wiccans.”

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Having grown up with this book series since the first novel was released, I’ve always wondered about the role of religion in the series. The practice of religion or the belief in God are not explicitly mentioned in the books, although there are multiple mentions of Christmas and Yultide parties, and Hogwarts goes on a Christmas break every year.

I do understand why Rowling chose not to delve into religion too deeply, given the magic-related content and the fact that the books, even as they are now, have actually been often banned by ultra-religious and conservative groups.

But, if magical people celebrate Christmas, then it’s only fair to wonder how their magic fits into their religious belief system. Maybe one day Rowling will feel comfortable with elaborating on the subject.

Meanwhile, in case wizards also celebrate Hanukkah, Chag Sameach from us muggles.

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  • David

    Ja and what of it huh?

  • David Hoffman

    In Rowling’s books, magic seems to be more of a technology (that only certain individuals have the ability to access) than a belief system. Perhaps there are magical people who refuse to use their abilities due to religious scruples. If so, they would be analogous to groups like the Amish, who refrain from using certain types of modern technology.

    A more interesting question would be, does Anthony Goldstein keep kosher? No doubt, the house elves would be more than happy to provide for special dietary needs on request…..

  • Susan

    How could anyone have missed that? I thought it was trite that she went the stereotypical route & put him in Ravenclaw, but, okay, fine…

  • Efram

    Sweet! Now, if she would only say what happened to Umbriage.

  • Markus

    Harry Potter has mislead our youth into worst form of demonic spirituality. May GOD have mercy on all

    • RenoB

      Ha! You are so funny.

  • michal

    And Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who played Harry Potter, is actually jewish – his mother is jewish therefore he is jewish.

  • Julian Clovelley

    I am amused by the penultimate paragraph inquiring how Christmas might be fitted into the religious belief system of Harry Potter’s world

    The truth be known, increasingly we are having difficulty fitting it into the Christian world. The idea of the Virgin Mary almost certainly is a literary invention based on a misreading of Isaiah and a mistranslation of Hebrew scripture. Angels do not perch on clouds like weightless cockatoos. If you follow a star you go round in circles. Quirinus’s official position does not match the supposed date of Jesus’s birth. There is no slaughter of the innocents on record in the extensive records of the Roman Empire (it’s a copy of the Biblical slaughter of Hebrew babies at the time of Moses birth) and even the date, 25th December, is really the date of a co-opted pagan festival. What’s left?

    Outside of Catholicism and of Fundamentalism, Christians have long ago had to come to terms with the reality that the Nativity Story is a myth. Inside Catholicism it remains a taboo subject handled in the usual manner of lip service to an entirely disbelieved Catechism – a kind of “shut up or the priest will be even more annoying”. Apparent belief in the Christmas story is a kind of conspiracy between priest and congregation – backed by some really awful Christmas carols – and a few good ones.

    Christmas in many ways fits better with the secular – they don’t care that the reindeer and the cribs are plastic. It is a fairy tale festival – an annual festival which some people enjoy at a very superficial level of religious belief, but an ardent level in the love of friends, of family, and of children.. It is the time when for a moment we come together and recognise that it is the child that we worship – the future that is our reality, and that that future will be theirs, and their children’s, not ours. Such is our mortality.

    I think that fits in Harry Potter’s Christmas world – the medium is the message. Be happy, share happy, share love and reconciliation – even if but for a moment. Whatever the reality of Christianity itself, the Christmas story is an increasingly recognised fantasy and its celebration a frolic in the middle of Winter cold

    Down here in Australia is where we really have trouble. Santa would die in his red costume, and his sleigh would get stuck in the sand. We shoot deer because they are imported feral animals. It is too hot for hot punch, mulled wine and ale, or to light the Yule log. It last snowed and settled anywhere near me in 1932 and that was in July; the last friend who remembered it died twenty years ago. She used her mother’s tea tray as a toboggan to slide down the pavement. The temperatue at Christams is sometimes in the forties Centigrade, well over one hundred Fahrenheit, just in time for the annual bushfires.

    The outdoor Christmas celebrations really do come across as a bit peculiar and very artificial, with their spray on plastic snow. Private home owners compete for the silliest lights.

    As for yours truly he will as usual look for a quiet corner in which to abide until the storm be past, the madness over for another year. Mind you first I have a couple of ducks to cook.

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