I don't think Dickens was anti-semitic in his writing. It was a description he used. One might even say it added diversity to the thieves.
I have recently been studying Oliver in my GCSE English class and after doing extensive research on the perpetrators of suffering in the novel, I found out that Dickens did not make Fagin a Jew out of racism. I also read that he regretted making Fagin a Jew as some of his readers took it the wrong way. He was NOT trying to make a statement about Jews, it was just a coincidence and he regretted this choice.
Laura x x
If I went about reading classics with this view in mind I would probably discard wonderful books like The Adventures of Tom Saywer already!
I just wonder why Dickens needed to make it a point that Fagin was Jewish. Why couldn't Fagin simply have been someone who lived in London who taught young boys how to pick pockets. Why is his ethnicity/religion even relevant. Answer. Because I'm sure Dickens was influenced by his enviroment, which I believe, every author is, and so he believed Jews made up a large portion of the criminal class. He made Fagin's ethnicity/religion relevant, but only because he probably based it on preconceived prejudices and ideas already accepted in Dicken's time. In other words, Dickens would not have mentioned that Fagin was a Jew if Anti-semitism were not as prevalent as it was in 19th century Europe.
Dickens was definitely influenced by social prejudice, but personally, I don't see a problem with that. It wasn't his intention to persecute Jews, and I don't see how he could have made Fagin's character quite so striking or memorable without tapping into the feelings people had about them. I don't mean to sound insensitive, but can you think of anything else that could have inspired the same feelings in people at the time of the book's writing? Witches and warlocks maybe? That would've ruined his book.
Though I wouldn't have the book written any other way, I can definitely understand why it upsets members of the Jewish community. If I were a Jew, I'd probably have a very hard time appreciating it, too. Still, I think his only crime was being insensitive in his quest to write a great book. He chose a role that brought his character to life in the eyes of his audience, and in my opinion, the book is better for it.