A startling exploration of how Jewish history is exploited to comfort the living.
Reflecting on subjects as far-flung as the international veneration of Anne Frank, the blockbuster travelling exhibition called “Auschwitz”, the Jewish history of the Chinese city of Harbin and the little known “righteous-gentile” Varian Fry, Dara Horn challenges us to confront the reasons why there might be so much fascination with Jewish deaths, as emblematic of the worst of evils the world has to offer, and so little respect for Jewish lives, as they continue to unfold in the present.
Horn draws on her own family life—trying to explain Shakespeare’s Shylock to a curious ten-year-old, her anger when swastikas are drawn on desks in her children’s school in New Jersey, the profound and essential perspective offered by traditional religious practice, prayer and study—to assert the vitality, complexity and depth of this life against an anti-Semitism that, far from being disarmed by the mantra of “Never Forget”, is on the rise.
"Weaving together history, social science, and personal story, she asks readers to think critically about why we venerate stories and spaces that make the destruction of world Jewry a compelling narrative while also minimizing the current crisis of antisemitism... People Love Dead Jews offers no definitive solution to the paradox it unfolds. Horn leaves the reader with several interwoven explanations, each of which lead us to confront the dark reality that Jewish deaths make for a compelling educational narrative, while facing the antisemitism of the present demands a commitment to equality that the world remains unable to embrace." — Jonathan Fass, Jewish Book Council
"People Love Dead Jews is, of all things, a deeply entertaining book, from its whopper of a title on. Horn’s sarcasm is bracing, reminding us that the politics of Jewish memory often becomes an outrageous marketing of half-truths and outright lies... People Love Dead Jews reminds us that Jewishness is not a museum, a graveyard, or a heritage site but a lively ongoing conversation at a long table that stretches before and behind us. Come out of hiding, Horn urges us, it’s time to take part in Jewish life." — David Mikics, The Tablet
"... brilliant book... “People Love Dead Jews” is an outstanding book with a bold mission." — Yaniv Iczkovits, The New York Times Book Review
Shortlisted — Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction, 2021