July 24, 2003
Jewish Wizard Takes Flight in New Potter Book
Are there Jews at Hogwarts? The world's most famous School of Witchcraft and Wizardry might be muggle-free, but it is possible that it has an equal-opportunity policy for Jewish wizards.
In "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth of seven books in J.K. Rowling's insanely popular children's series, readers are introduced to one Anthony Goldstein.
The book doesn't tell us much about Anthony, but we can ascertain certain things. He is in Ravenclaw, which means he is of "the sharpest mind" according to the "sorting hat." Because Anthony is a prefect, he is a considered to be a leader among his classmates. We know that he is one of the good guys, because he joins "Dumbledore's Army," the defense against the dark arts class that Harry teaches after the unctuous professor Dolores Umbridge removes anything remotely practical from their defense lessons.
Representatives at Scholastic Books, the publisher of the Harry Potter series, said they had "no idea" if Anthony is Jewish or not, and Rowling was unavailable for comment. However, Dr. Raymond Jones, a professor of English at the University of Alberta, who teaches literature courses in "Harry Potter," said that is was highly probable that Anthony is Jewish.
"One of the things that is happening here is that Rowling is making the school contemporary," Jones said. "The school seems quite old-fashioned -- they use quills and not computers -- but, by populating her school with a variety of ethnic backgrounds, she is admitting to the reality of modern England and modern America."
But even if Anthony and others are Jewish, don't expect them to start lighting the menorah too soon; according to Jones, religion plays no role of any kind in Harry Potter -- where the only miracles are ones done by the wizarding community.