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The Amish / 1

Amish The Amish ( ) are known for their restrictions on the use of modern de­ vices such as automobiles and electri­ city and for their plain dress. The Amish separate themselves from mainstream society for religious reasons: they do not join the military, draw no Social Secu­ rity, nor accept any form of financial assistance from the government, and many avoid insurance. The Amish speak a German dialect known as Pennsylva­ nia Dutch (or Pennsylvania German) at home, and are taught English at school. Church services are conducted mostly in Pennsylvania German. The first Amish began migrating to the United States in the18th century, largely to avoid religious persecution and com­ pulsory military service. Many eventu­ ally settled in Lancaster County, Penn­ sylvania. Separation from the outside and among group The Amish prefer to have minimal con­ tact with non-Amish. However, in­ creased prices for farmland and de­ creasing revenues for low-tech farming have forced many Amish to work away from the farm, particularly in construc­ tion and factory labor, and, in those areas where there is a significant tourist trade, to engage in crafts for profit. The Amish are ambivalent about both the consequences of this contact and the commoditization of their culture. Baptism, rumspringa, and shunning The Amish do not believe that a child can be meaningfully baptized. Amish children are expected to follow the will of their parents in all issues, but when they come of age, they are expected to make an adult, permanent commitment to the church. Rumspringa (German: “running around”) is the general term for adolescence and the period leading up to serious court­


PS PRAK TISK SPROG · NR. 1 · januar 2007

ship during which rules may be relaxed a little. As in non-Amish families, it is understood as a practical matter that there will likely be a certain amount of misbehavior during this period, but it is neither encouraged nor overlooked. At the end of this period, Amish young adults are expected to find a spouse and be baptized. A few choose not to join the church, but to live the rest of their lives in wider society. Some communities will actively shun those who decide to leave the church. Still other communities practice hardly any shunning, keeping close family and social contact with those who leave the church. Weddings Weddings are typically held on Thurs­ days in late autumn, after the harvest is in. The bride usually wears blue. It will be a new dress for the wedding, but she will wear it again on other formal occa­ sions, and of course, she wears no makeup. She will have no engagement ring, and no wedding ring will be ex­ changed, for the Ordnung prohibits per­ sonal jewelry. The marriage ceremony itself may take several hours, after which the community celebrates with the newlyweds, sharing food, drink, stories, and laughter. Newlyweds typi­ cally spend the wedding night in the bride‘s mother‘s home.

Total ­population:

198,000 (2000 est.)

Regions with significant ­populations:

United States, especially Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Maryland, and Ontario, Canada.


Pennsylvania Dutch


Anabaptist Christianity

Related ethnic groups:

Swiss German

Funerals They hold funeral services in the home. Instead of referring to the deceased with stories of his life, eulogizing him, servi­ ces tend to focus on the creation story, and biblical accounts of resurrection. After the funeral, the hearse carries the casket to the cemetery, for a reading from the Bible, perhaps a hymn is read (rather than sung) and the Lord’s Prayer. The Amish usually, but not always, choose Amish cemeteries, and purchase gravestones which are uniform, modest, and plain; in recent years, they have been inscribed in English. After a fu­ neral, the community gathers together to share a meal. Source: Wikipedia


The Amish / 2

WHY AMISH CHILDREN? On October 2, 2006, Charles Carl Rob­ erts, 32, went into West Nickel Mines Amish School, Pennsylvania with the clear intention of killing. All other children but 10 girls were asked to leave the one-room school. Roberts shot the girls execution style, binding their legs and lining them up in front of the board, and in the minutes that followed Roberts shot these girls, killing five of them, before reloading and killing himself. There seemed to be no motive, no drugs involved, but at the time he pointed his gun at them he said, “I’m going to make you pay for my daughter”.

Apparently Roberts lost a daughter three years earlier, whom he now wanted to revenge by killing young innocent Amish girls. Before the killings Roberts called his wife and referred to some suicide notes he had left behind. Police believe that he had intended to sexually abuse the girls, since lubricat­ ing cream was found in his belongings, but he never came round to it. The oldest of the five girls shot dead, Marian Fisher, 13, is said to have asked her killer to shoot her first. It seems that Roberts actually planned his deed 6 days before the killing by

bringing in wood, eyebolts, flex cuffs and the cream. Since the killing, police have been inves­ tigating a possible suspicion with Rob­ erts as the suspect in a 2005 attempted rape of an Amish woman in her home. At that time there was no definitive proof that it was Roberts. Now police are comparing fingerprints from both crime scenes. The Amish families involved have been praying for the Roberts family (wife and three children) and sent them flowers, gifts and cards to an extent which has ‘touched their hearts in a way that no words can describe.’

Questions to the text:

Why do you think that ­Roberts was only interested in the girls? Is it a motive to make the girls pay for his daughter? Could you imagine why he didn’t abuse the girls after all? Would you have the courage to ask to be killed as the first one? How would your feelings be towards a killer and his family?

E  mpty the picture Pass around a piece of paper in your groups and write down one thing you think of when looking at the picture. While the other group members write down something, consider the next thing which you are going to write.

Amish families attending the funeral. PS PRAK TISK SPROG · NR. 1 · januar 2007


The Amish - shoolshooting  

Text and assignments before watching Amish Grace

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