Letters

Hebrew 102

Jan 09, 2019

To the Editor:

Hebrew 102: Do you speak Jewish?

There are two things that are ingrained into the fiber of being “Jewish.” One is that we debate everything and the other is that humor has brought us through all the hard times and persecution we have endured.

Not all “Jews” are from the tribe of Judah. The tribe of Judah was only one of the 12 tribes of Israel, of which as a whole were the Israelites. The entirety of the Israelites is referred to as the Hebrews of Israel frequently in the Tanakh (derived from the Hebrew letters of its three components, the Torah, Nevi’im and Ketuvim).

The name “Jews” was not a name chosen by the Israelites, aka Hebrews, but rather a name given to them and evolved through the Greeks, Romans, French and Normands, who then invaded England where the final evolution of the modern word “Jew” was used to identify the Israelites.

If you read through the history of the geographic area of Yehuda, land belonging to and ruled by the king of the tribe of Judah, following how Yehuda transforms into the modern term Jew, you will see how this name was given to the Israelites. It is an ethnic name chosen for us.

The Hebrews of Israel never participated in the name change but over the centuries have slowly begun to identify themselves with this given name. In my grandparents’ home there were three languages spoken: English, Yiddish and Hebrew, not Jewish. When I attended shul with my grandfather we prayed, spoke and read the Tanakh in Hebrew. There is no language Jewish; it’s Hebrew. Our language is named for our religion and people, Hebrew(s).

I do not believe Mr. Coen was implying in his humorous observations (Liquid Lines, 12/12) that the purpose of the Hebrews celebrating Hanukkah early was to beat out Christmas, that Hanukkah should always coincide with Christmas, or that the holiday was timed for economic reasons. Rather, his humorous reference to the timing of Hanukkah this year was based on his knowledge that it follows the Jewish calendar. It’s sarcasm as a form of humor that he was expressing, t­he same humor we pride ourselves in possessing while facing the centuries of persecution.

So for all the concerned people who politically corrected Mr. Coen: If there is any political correction to be made, it’s in calling us Hebrews “Jews.”

Mitchell Crayne

Little Egg Harbor

 

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