Tag Archives: anti-semitism

Born to Russian immigrant parents

Eve Arnold and Marilyn Monroe

Eve Arnold with Marilyn Monroe during the filming of 'The Misfits', 1960 Photograph: Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos

Twice in today’s obituaries the phrase “born to Russian immigrants” appeared. One was for screenwriter Frederica Sagor Maas, who was 111 years old (the third-oldest person in California) and who was “born in New York to Russian immigrants.”

The other was photographer Eve Arnold (only 99), who was “born Eve Cohen to Russian immigrant parents in Philadelphia.”

Every time I read that someone was “born to Russian immigrants” the voice of correction in my head shoots back, “Jewish. She was Jewish. Say it with me: Jewish.”

When did Russian become a euphemism for Jewish? It’s like when you read about someone being flamboyant, you know the writer means gay. My guess is that Eve Cohen’s parents didn’t leave Russia because they were Russian, but because they were Jews who were sick of anti-Semitism and were trying to get away from the Russians.

And I say that as the son of a Polish immigrant and grandson of Russian immigrants.



Filed under Judaism

With friends like these

Saint Bernard: Friend of foe?

St. Bernard: Keep on expiating.

In his review in Tablet of “Philosemitism in History,” edited by Adam Sutcliffe and Jonathan Karp, Adam Kirsch made clear to me why people who Love the Jews are so creepy:

“…closer to the bone is the saying that ‘a philo-Semite is an anti-Semite who loves Jews.’ That formulation helps to capture the sense that philo- and anti- share an unhealthy interest in Jews and an unreal notion of who and what Jews are.”

That unhealthy interest is what is perverse about Christian Zionists of the fundamentalist kind. It’s why Washington Post opinionaire Dana Milbank called the news that Sen. Joe Lieberman was going to join Glenn Beck’s rally in Israel in August a shande.

Milbank wrote: “Beck’s descriptions of his event as a gathering and a restoration echo his Mormon faith’s theology: there will be a ‘Gathering of Scattered Israel’  in which Jews return to the Holy Land and are converted to Christianity as part of ‘the restoration of all things’ and the Second Coming.”

For this we should send a thank-you card?

If so, one for Saint Bernard is long overdue. In his review, Kirsch quotes Saint Bernard warning the Second Crusaders not to slaughter Jews like the First Crusaders did:

“The Jews are for us the living words of Scripture, for they remind us always of what our Lord suffered. They are dispersed all over the world, so that by expiating their crime they may be everywhere the living witnesses of our redemption.”

It’s a bit like the punchline of the joke in which the Jew asks God if the Jews were really the chosen people: Would you mind loving someone else for a change?

Leave a comment

Filed under books, Judaism, reading