J.K. Rowling’s greatest magic trick might have been forcing me to have opinions about Harry Potter.
In the last decade or so, the billionaire author’s harmful rhetoric against the trans community has made fence-sitting impossible while she is still profiting off of the work she created. For many, those public comments have tainted her classic book series. For an observer like me, who isn’t even entirely sure what a horcrux is, it’s meant a steady, tedious dose of The Discourse. Each time a new venture from the wizarding world is announced, from a video game to a new entry in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, it’s met with controversy.
And while much of that controversy has to do with Rowling’s smears against trans people, some of it also touches on Jewish issues.
It’s hard to keep track of where it all started. Jon Stewart called the goblins in the Harry Potter series — hook-nosed, rat-toothed bankers who, in the films, have a Star of David on the floor of their central bank — “a caricature of a Jew from an antisemitic piece of literature.” (He insisted that he wasn’t calling Rowling antisemitic.)
Social media huckster Caroline Calloway blamed her sharing of an antisemitic meme on Rowling’s characterization of those goblins, saying they helped make her “desensitized to the idea of hook-nosed villains.”
In the 2023 video game Hogwarts Legacy, some players claimed that a central goblin scheme of abducting children to use their blood in a ritual echoed the ancient trope of blood libel.
And so it’s with no small amount of fatigue that I anticipate a newly-announced Harry Potter TV series on Max, the next iteration of HBO’s streaming app, which is already being boycotted over Rowling’s involvement as executive producer. But the new show is also an opportunity. After all, Hogwarts has Jewish characters — or, rather, one, a Ravenclaw named, in the somewhat racist fashion of Cho Chang and Kingsley Shacklebolt, Anthony Goldstein. Now is the time to make the Wizarding World Jewish.
Here are my proposals for the Jewish plot points in the new Harry Potter, because, sure, why not.
Anthony Goldstein forms the Union for Jewish Wizards
Frustrated by the Christian hegemony at Hogwarts, which all but mandates observance of Christmas, Goldstein forms the UJW to serve as a resource.
Its first campaigns: Advocating for kosher meal options and Shabbat accommodations. In a recruitment montage, we learn that the bathroom ghost Moaning Myrtle is Jewish (obviously), and are introduced to a new roster of witches and warlocks who are members of the tribe. I personally would give them names like Rachel Cohen, Eli Saloman and Ethan Shapiro. But to throw Rowling a bone I’ll let her name one something like Judah Finkelnose.
A Hogwarts Hanukkah
In December, Goldstein, together with a member of a local wizards-only Chabad, host Hogwarts’ first ever menorah lighting at one of those long tables in the Great Hall. The gorgeous ritual ends in catastrophe, though, when Hufflepuff Leah Feinberg’s robe catches fire. (I mean, classic Leah Feinberg.)
The Triwizard Tournament welcomes Israel
In The Goblet of Fire season, Harry and his friends meet student athletes from Israel’s own wizarding school, Chickenshmaltz (aka the Moses Cordevero Academy of Magic and Talmud). Alas, the Chickenshmaltzonians are effectively shut out of the Triwizard Tournament, as most of the major events are scheduled for Shabbat.
The Room of Requirement is used to hide the Afikomen
Hermione’s cat, Crookshanks, finds it before any Jews do.
Dumbledore admits to his role in the Menachem Mendel Beilis case
How Hogwarts’ headmaster got involved in one of the most infamous blood libel cases of the 20th century is a long story — but, to make it brief, he was visiting the Koldovstoretz school, doing some magic with the kids, one got hurt and the next thing you know this poor Jew passing by was accused of ritualized murder. Certainly Dumbledore would never endanger children. Why even suggest it?
A listening session with our goblin friends
After Moaning Myrtle finds an anti-goblin slur in her bathroom stall, the Hogwarts faculty invite a local goblin to explain the historical factors that led to his species being dominant figures in finance.
“You’re a Hebrew, Harry!”
In a flash-forward after the Battle of Hogwarts, we see an adult Harry receiving a letter from the Ministry of Magic about his application to become an auror — in Harry Potter, the equivalent of a detective.
In a stunning reveal that bookends the pilot episode’s revelation of his wizard ancestry, Harry learns he’s Jewish when his employer of choice regretfully informs him that they’ve met their quota for “wizards of Hebrew extraction.” Dreams shattered, Harry instead becomes an accountant at the firm of Judah Finkelnose.
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