The OAJA Project was born on June 4, 2011, when Steven Markoff clicked on the link “Glenn Beck and Anti-Semitism” on the AOL.com homepage. At that time, Mr. Beck was a popular conservative talk show host. The link took Mr. Markoff to Mr. Beck’s on-air programming on Anti-Semitism through the ages. His site featured about a dozen or so Official Anti-Jewish Acts. Up to that time, Mr. Markoff had never thought about the distinction between Official and Unofficial Acts and that distinction set him thinking.
Mr. Markoff, like millions of other Jews, has lived with various forms of Anti-Semitism, but until Beck’s link, he had never before focused on the time periods the Official Anti-Semitic laws covered, or the geographical area in which they occurred.
A few days later, Mr. Markoff asked his assistant to transcribe Mr. Beck’s online information about Anti-Semitism. When Mr. Markoff looked more closely at the information and did a bit of initial research, it was clear that Mr. Beck’s number of Official Anti-Jewish Acts, although useful as a starting point, barely touched on the total number of Official Acts of Anti-Semitism in the past.
Mr. Markoff then decided to aggregate and publish as many Official Anti-Semitic Acts as he could find. Locating the Official Anti-Semitic Acts seemed an achievable goal to him, as opposed to trying to document countless other unofficial Acts against Jews – private, anecdotal, personal, rumored and in lower court decisions.
It seemed that a collection of the Official Anti-Semitic Acts would be a useful and educational resource for many, and adding the source of each law or Act would let any reader verify the accuracy of each Act presented.
As Mr. Markoff’s compiling of Official Acts of Anti-Semitism progressed, in July of 2013 he contacted Professor Shaye J.D. Cohen, Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. Prof. Cohen explained that the word “Anti-Semitic” was a relatively recent term coined by Wilhelm Marr in the 1870s. Based in part on his statement, and a bit of additional research, Mr. Markoff changed the name of this work to “Official Anti-Jewish Acts Throughout History.”
Mr. Markoff thought that historians, those involved with or interested in the Acts collected, or just curious souls, will use the Official Anti-Jewish Acts as a foundation from which to expand into the many questions that seem to spring naturally from these Official Acts.
Such questions might include: why Jews have been the brunt of so much discrimination in so many places for so many years; how the discrimination of the Jews compares to the discrimination of other groups; and why non-Jews, sometimes at their great peril, fought anti-Jewish discrimination and shielded Jews from horrific treatment or death.
In sum, Mr. Markoff hoped that his assemblage of such Acts would encourage the study of these important but ugly Official Acts of history.