Friday, January 07, 2011

One Jew daven's like a Yid, another davens like a Goy. But an urchin says, "Them's Jews."

Letter to the Jewish Chronicle June 8, 1917, proposing to resolve the question, Are Jews a nation or a religion?


  1. Hmmm, I had thought that the term "ultra Orthodox" was a lot more recent. Interesting!


  2. What Phil said. I was thinking that too. Maybe it was I. J. Golding's personal usage.

    A few more notes. First, Golding said that the clean-shaven man is "known [to Golding] to 'daven' and speak English like a 'Goy.'" Clean-Shaven is known to daven (as opposed to "pray"). I take this to mean that Clean-Shaven engages in Jewish worship, which would mean that he practices Jewish religion (you should forgive me for not calling non-Ortho Jewish practice an oxymoron). Second, presumably the street Arab whose name may not be Bill doesn't know about Clean-Shaven's religious practice. How does he know Clean-Shaven is a Jew? Maybe he assumes that Bearded-and-Ringleted associates only with other Jews. If that's the case, the street Arab whose name may not be Bill isn't necessarily reliable.

    Finally, a note of clarification. A "street arab" isn't necessarily an Arab. According to the OED, s.v. "street Arab" ("also with lower-case initial in the second element"), the phrase means "A homeless child or young person living on the streets." Before the def. it says "Now chiefly *arch.* or *hist.*" (as opposed to "In earlier generations chiefly *arch.* or *hist.*"); after the def. it says "Now generally regarded as offensive." Go figure; maybe it has to do with the difference between "chiefly" and "generally." And I seem to be blithering again.

  3. "Ultra orthodox" is not new - but then you already knew that. Another vintage term is "hyper orthodox."

    Of course there's no way of knowing what lies behind this parable, but note that Golding maintains that clean-shaven guy is an agnostic. It is unclear to me if he means to say he is non-Orthodox, because certainly in 1917 from the perspective of the other individual, even a "regular" British Orthodox Jew would seem like a "goy."

    As for the term "street Arab," I would speculate that it had a nomadic connotation and/ or was a vintage British Empire reference to the many kids requesting "baksheesh" that one reads about in travel books and journals.



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