Saturday, July 15, 2006

Jew Blind

From Tapped, Ezra Klein writes, "When Jason Horowitz called to ask me about anti-Semitism’s influence in the blogosphere, my first response was... Say my name, real slowly, and then ask again." This reminded me of something that I have noticed before, namely that political writers seem to be able to recognize Jewish names easier that I can and--like Ezra--seem to expect everyone to be able to do this.

Growing up in a small southern town, I knew exactly one person who I knew to be Jewish--Amy Wolstein. (I didn't make acquaintance with her brother Byron, until after high school.) I just didn't have enough exposure to Jewishness to learn to recognize it; I'm pretty sure the first place I ever heard the word "dradle" was on South Park; I would have been about 37 or 38 at the time. (Not only did I not recognize Klein as a Jewish name, I was surprised to learn that Ezra was a man's name. Most people I can think of with similar sounding names are women--Essala, Evita, Elmira, Elvira....)

I am aware that there is a strain of anti-semitism in some parts of the country. I remember Daryl being surprised by it in Chicago. But some writers, who want to see anti-semitism in every sideways glance, need to learn that not everyone thinks that way. I, for one, had no idea that many neo-cons were Jewish until David Brooks accused liberals like me of being prejudiced against them for that reason.

6 Comments:

Blogger RichM said...

When I was growing up, one of my best friends was Danny Ullmann, a Jew. I remember one time we puzzling over what religions were okay with divorce, since I knew that Catholics were against it and he knew that Jews were too. I also remember that his father had a cool gas mask from I don't know how long ago. Ah well, I'm too old to overcome my pro-Semitic upbringing.

I think most people who know Ezra is a male name know that from the poet Ezra Pound, and the rest know it from the book of Ezra in the Bible. The name that confused me was Ariel as a man's name, even though it's in Shakespeare as such, since the first one I knew personally was a young girl.

9:01 PM  
Anonymous battlepanda said...

I too, used to be Jew-blind. Until I went to Amherst College, I don't think I really knew anyone Jewish as such. I mean, I must have known people who were jews, but it never came up.

My first Hannukah party, I tried to eat a small plastic dreidle because I though it was an oddly shaped piece of candy.

But, as the cliche goes, I started finding that some of my best friends are jews. I even helped cook for hillel. One thing I can pass on about the Jews -- they can't help stirring the rice. I tell them every time, leave the rice alone! If you stir it, it will turn mushy. But do they listen to me? No. Big mushy pot of rice for 30 people. Oy!

Now I think my Jewdar is a little bit more developed. It's still not great though. I guess I have more of a goydar, as in "that person with a mullet and a moustache getting into that pickup-truck -- he's not jewish".

9:27 AM  
Blogger Kyle McCullough said...

Rich:
Things to do:
3. Read Pound
2. Read Bible
1. Get prescription for those memory pills Mom's been taking.

Battlepanda:

Thank you for your comments. Actually, I do have a few Jewish friends these days. For one thing, I'm living closer to DC now than to Atlanta. But I still have not been invited to any Hannukah parties.

So, I asked Li Na, my wife, if she finds that Americans want to stir the rice too much. I was thinking it might be more of a European thing than a Jewish thing. She said that her friend Stacy sometimes does. Stacy's Jewish.

9:43 PM  
Blogger Daryl McCullough said...

Hi, Angelica. I feel like I should be getting out cookies and putting on a tea kettle. We get so few visitors here...

11:23 PM  
Blogger RichM said...

Well if it's arborio rice, you have to stir the stuff all the time, to make a proper risotto.

Every other kind of rice we make comes out of the rice cooker.

People mistake my ethnicity for all sorts of things (Indians think I'm from India, that kind of thing), but I'm never taken for Jewish. Sometimes Pamela is, however.

9:13 PM  
Blogger Daryl McCullough said...

I'm occasionally mistaken for a Yankee.

11:11 AM  

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