Friday, 27 May 2016

It's Shabbat, Not Shabbos!

I grew up in a family with roots both in the Jewish diaspora and Israel.  My father was born and raised in Israel.  In fact, he is a few years older than the state itself, having been born before 1948. My mother was born in Canada to parents with roots in Poland, which was at the center of European, Ashkenazi Jewry before the Holocaust.  For the better part of my adult life, I have chosen to emphasize my Israeli identity over the Polish, Ashkenazi heritage of my mother's family.  The reason is that I perceive Israeli identity as being closer to what the Jews were as a people before two thousand years of exile began polluting our Semitic Hebrew culture with foreign customs, names and languages.

For example, when mentioning Jewish holidays or anything associated with them, I prefer to use Hebrew terminology.  I say "Shabbat", not "Shabbos".  I say "yom tov", not "yantef".  In fact, for me, anything said in Yiddish is basically a four letter word.  For me, Yiddish is a relic of our long exile, which ended in 1948 with the creation of the State of Israel.  For me, using Yiddish in the context of Jewish life is anti-Zionist, as is corrupting the modern Hebrew language by using European, Ashkenazi pronunciation.  

It bothers me enough that people in the diaspora still insist on perpetuating the pollution of our Semitic Jewish heritage with non-Semitic elements.  But what really gets me ticked off is that Jews that have made the righteous decision to make Israel their home continue in the corruption of their own culture.  So for example, if you are a Jew who lives in Israel, you should not have a name like Rubenstein or Wasserman.  You should also certainly not be walking around in medieval Polish garb with black hats and long black coats, as if you were still living in the old shtetls and ghettos of Europe. Doing any of these things, for me, is anti-Zionist and a form of sedition in a country where all the corrupted, non-Semitic elements that have polluted Jewish culture should be abandoned.  Now of course, Israel is a democracy, so we can't ban people from conversing in Yiddish or wearing medieval Polish garb, but we should certainly be discouraging such practices, because we cannot truly return to the land of our forefathers - the Land of Israel - until we return to our Semitic Hebrew roots.   


  1. If you're so eager to throw away two thousand years of growth and change to your own people, of art, literature and theater, of poetry and metaphor, of dozens of beautiful, unique languages used, lived in, and created in by the Jewish people in times of joy and grief, that still echo with the history of our people worldwide, in favor of trying to recreate some imagined pure Jewish culture untouched by contact with outsiders, perhaps you should start by abandoning the use of English to write think pieces about our Semitic culture, since you're getting icky Germanic and Latin influences all over Judaism.

    Oh, and by the way, "Shabbos" isn't Yiddish, it's the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the Hebrew word שַׁבָּת just as "Shabbat" is the Modern Hebrew pronunciation. Traditional Ashkenazi pronunciation of ת is as an s except under certain circumstances. Modern Hebrew is far from free of change from ancient Hebrew bought about by the diaspora. It's pronunciations are mostly taken from Sephardi Hebrew under the mistaken belief that it was more pure.

    1. With all due respect, if the forefathers of the State of Israel thought like you did, we would not have a State of Israel. Israel was created, not only to re-establish Jewish independence, but also to return us to our cultural roots. I am not advocating anything different than our forefathers have. Why do you think, for example, most of the state's founders Hebraicized their names? Because they sought to set an example to their people and advocate a return of the Jews to their Semitic Hebrew roots - it's an example that fortunately many Israelis followed. I personally would never put down roots in Israel without adopting a Hebrew name. To do so would be hypocritical and anti-Zionist.

      You do make a good point about me writing in English. It does seem hypocritical, doesn't it? But let me tell you why I do it. For one thing, if I were to write my blogs in Hebrew, most Jews wouldn't understand it. It just proves my point that we have lost touch with where we came from. And besides, I'm not trying to present myself as holier than thou. I am just as guilty of losing touch with our cultural roots as the next guy. I am simply saying that all of us, including myself and especially Jews living in Israel need to do more to re-connect with our original Semitic Hebrew identity.

      Oh, and by the way, I'm well aware of the fact that "Shabbos" is the Ashkenazi pronunciation of Shabbat. My point was that this is something that we should try to avoid. You were probably thrown off because I next mentioned Yiddish in the context of a four letter word.

      The fact of the matter is that no culture is immune from external influences. Nevertheless, if you care to study cultures around the world, you will find that most of not all the peoples of the world have made concerted efforts to purge their cultures and languages of elements that they consider to be undesirable in order to preserve themselves as distinct peoples.

    2. I am an American as well as a Jew. I see people trying to purge "American" culture, bu which they usually mean WASP culture of "foreign" elements. These nationalistic impulses are always, always, always about racism, exclusion, and an illusion of purity. Globally, nationalistic attempts at cultural purity lead to ethnic cleansing, even genocide, and cultural degradation.

      Recognizing the Jewish people as a culturally distinct people is a valuable thing. Celebrating our unique culture and history is a valuable thing. If we wish to do that in an honest way that enriches the fabric of Jewish life, recognizing the impact of the diaspora is essential. Slicing away Jewish diasporic languages and other cultural elements developed in the diaspora does no one any good and in fact hurts Jews and Jewish culture as a whole. Furthermore, diasporic culture, diasporic languages, are part of what make us a culturally distinct people. If I leave behind Yiddish, I leave behind Yiddish theater. If Sephardi Jews leave behind Ladino, they leave behind Ladino poetry. If I leave behind the culture of the diaspora, I leave behind the way my family was Jewish in the diaspora in favor of a Judaism that has never been mine. Why would you ask that of your fellow Jews? Why would you ask us to leave behind the authentic Judaism of their own family roots in order to try to create a new Judaism out of Israeli Hebrew and the pretense that the diaspora never happened and that we created nothing Jewish during it?

      Lastly, there is nothing more pure or more Jewish about the Modern Hebrew pronunciations derived from Sephardi Hebrew than there is about Ashkenazi Hebrew pronunciations. Telling the Jewish people that they should give up all of their regional and sub-ethnic variations on Hebrew in favor of the Hebrew pronunciation you like best is ridiculous. It is demanding other Jewish people give up the way they and their families have been Jewish for two thousand years in order to please you. That doesn't sound like a good way to maintain our unique Jewish culture to me.

  2. jason,stop the tribalism....learn that we all fucked around in the bush sometime in the dark past..embrace the new...donna's friend; art bergmann;and where did i get that slave name?