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Withdraw ‘appalling’ religion textbook, leaders urge

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SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — Jewish leaders in Sydney called for a high school textbook on religion to be withdrawn because of “offensive” claims that could “fuel anti-Semitism.”

The chapter on Judaism in the 2009 edition of the Cambridge Studies of Religion, published by Cambridge University Press (Australia and New Zealand), claims that “much modern conflict in the world is related to the reactions of other groups to the Jewish people” and that Passover “involves slaughtering lambs, [and] smearing the lintel on the front door with blood.”

The book, by Christopher Hartney of the University of Sydney, also claims that polygamy is “commonly practiced” in Israel and that “the tendency for Jews to choose sophisticated professions such as law, medicine and scholarship is closely connected to Jewish family togetherness.”

“It is alarming that a book which is widely used in schools across New South Wales could contain so many inaccuracies and such appalling statements,” New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff told JTA.

The claim about the connection between Jews and conflicts is in the “the realm of racial vilification,” he said. “Some of the statements could perpetuate myths and inaccurate stereotypes about Judaism and the Jewish people and fuel anti-Semitism.”

The book already has been distributed to approximately 5,000 students in their final two years of high school in New South Wales.

Alhadeff, who met last week with Jonathan Noble, the book’s contributing editor, said he also had requested that the chapter be rewritten and reissued to schools that have purchased the book.

The Cambridge University Press said it will "review" the Jewish community’s concerns, Alhadeff said, adding that he did not rule out taking the matter to the New South Wales Department of Education if the publisher refuses to withdraw the book.

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