The bizarre question of Harry Potter’s Jewish identity is to be discussed at a three-day conference
covering the entire spectrum of the magical children’s book.
Originally written for a young audience, the Harry Potter series has become a phenomenon enjoyed by adults and children alike.
Over the weekend of 29-31 July this year around 250 Potter enthusiasts will gather at a venue in Reading University, UK, to explore the book which follows Harry as he grows up as a wizard at a school in England.
One of the presentations will focus on the question of whether Harry Potter is, in fact, a nice Jewish boy.
Presenter Amy Miller believes the wizard created by JK Rowling has created “has a yiddishe neshama” -a Jewish soul.
“That Harry Potter could be called ‘a nice Jewish boy’ makes many people laugh, including me. He doesn't wear a skull cap, or go to Hebrew school, or keep kosher,” she said.
“But he cares about how others are feeling, he is kind, and he defends his beliefs; these are a very few examples of proper Jewish behavior.”
Miller’s presentation will be one of a number of discussions on the religious persuasion of the character who is soon to be featured in the sixth and penultimate book.
Another academic debating the issue will be Cia Sautter, whose session will be entitled “Blessed are you for Creating Harry: Jewish Affinity with Rowling's tale.”
Sautter believes there are a number of comparisons between the growth of the Harry Potter character and kabbala.
“With spells that may sound like blessings, apparent borrowing of Rabbinic tales, and even use of last names like ‘Black’ the affection is not surprising. It reads ‘Jewish’,” she said.
“The session will explore some important reasons for Jewish embracing of Harry Potter books, especially exploring how Harry's growth as an individual follows the kabbalistic ‘tree of life’ sefirot system,” she added.
Serena Culfeather, spokesman for the conference organizers Accio UK, said she is surprised by the interest there has been in the Jewish discussions.
“I was quite surprised that there were any discussions planned on the Jewish connection because it wasn’t an aspect of Harry Potter I was aware of,” she told EJP.
“Since we’ve published the abstract for the session I have been astounded by the number of people who have commented,” she added.
Gila Bar Hillel, the Israeli translator of the Harry Potter books, will also be attending the conference to present a session on the difficulties of purveying mystical words in Hebrew.
She said: “I don’t think anyone is literally claiming Harry Potter is Jewish. It is all very tongue-in-cheek but a lot of the points are kind of cute.”