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Dogs In Jewish Culture

My neighborhood consists of two types of people: young yuppie Hollywood types and Hasidic Jewish families. It’s a great little ‘hood but I have noticed something strange—and it has to do with my dogs.

Any time I walk my dogs and approach or pass a Jewish family—especially one with children—they all move from the sidewalk and glower in my direction. The children sometimes scream and they grab for their parents, bending their bodies as far as they can from my pets. I get kind of offended by it. Do they hate my dogs? Is it me? What is the deal?

I had been meaning to research a potential meaning for months and yesterday I finally looked it up and I think I have an answer: dogs have a strange place in Jewish history. First, dogs are seen as guardians but—alarmingly—they represent demonic powers in the Kabbalah. Dogs have a long history of being something to fear which stretches all the way back to biblical times. Written in the Talmud, a dog brushing against you is cause for a person to “strip off his clothes and bury them for twelve months of a year.” Who knew this dog dislike ran so deep? I had no clue.

Even more alarming (and good to know) is that the relationship between Jews and dogs is tied to the Holocaust: dogs were symbols of Nazism, specifically German Shepherds. Hitler and his wife had dogs. Fucked up, right? We forget that these creatures are capable of causing harm and thusly have a long history of violence. Knowing this makes it unsurprising that stories of fearing dogs are so common.

Thankfully, the view of dogs is shifting. This doesn’t deny their history, though. Now I know why half of my neighbors hate my dogs. Cultural sensitivity, man.

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