The term, historically used to describe an adherent to the ideology of white supremacy, is now thrown around so often that it no longer is always clear what it means. That’s a dangerous trend.
As Israeli elections near, Moment looks at the history of political slogans in the country’s elections. From Mapai to Rabin, Netanyahu and Benny Gantz.
n the 1946 film The Big Sleep, based on the Raymond Chandler mystery of the same name, Carmen—the promiscuous, drug-addicted younger sister of Lauren Bacall’s character—sizes up Philip Marlowe, played by Humphrey Bogart, and asks him, “What are you, a prizefighter?” Bogart responds, “No, I’m a shamus.” “What’s a shamus?” she inquires. “It’s a private detective,” he answers. Yes, Bogart is using the Yiddish version—more popularly spelled “shammes”—of the Hebrew word, “shamash.”
This past spring, Trayon White Sr., a Washington, DC city councilmember, sparked an outcry by blaming a late season snowfall on the Rothschilds, the famous Jewish banking dynasty, who, he explained, control “the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities.”
During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump proclaimed at a rally that Hillary Clinton “got schlonged” in the 2008 primaries. Schlong, when used as a noun, is a Yiddish word for penis—and a pretty vulgar one at that. But when used as a verb, is it even a word?
It’s hard to escape the OMGs and LOLs of today, but don’t blame millennials—acronyms actually originated thousands of years ago with the development of the ancient Hebrew alphabet. Around the 10th century BCE, Hebrew letters emerged out of ideographic pictures and, soon after, groups of letters started to be used in place of frequently recurring words.
Although such comparisons remain rare, for Jews and non-Jews the golem serves as a concept uniquely suited to expressing the fears and insecurities of the modern era. As Isaac Bashevis Singer wrote in 1984, “The golem story appears less obsolete today than it seemed one hundred years ago. After all, what are the computers and robots of our times if not golems?”
The term “anti-Semitism” has evolved. As scholarship on the subject grew, the available vocabulary expanded. Today, its definition—and its boundaries—are uncertain. “Anti-Semitism” is but one of a convoluted, interconnected web of similar words—including “anti-Judaism,” “anti-Zionism,” “Judeophobia” and “Zionophobia.”
“Keep reminding yourself: This is not normal,” warned comedian John Oliver on Last Week Tonight. It was less than a week after Election Day, and the country was just beginning to process Donald Trump’s unexpected victory. Opponents of the president-elect were scrambling to discern what had changed in a world they thought they understood.