Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It's Parochial Tuesday at WWPD

-The NYT had the good sense not to open up for comments its article about how The Jews are demographically inundating New York.

-Sweden had the bad sense to let one of its citizens hold forth on The Jews on Twitter using the @Sweden handle. Or did it? The "rant" (claims Slate) doesn't seem anti-Semitic at all. It's a Swedish woman who doesn't know any Jews (but is named Abrahamsson!), wondering if Jews are a race or religion, and asking why Jews are hated. That's 100% naive, well-meaning Gentile. This woman thinks you can't tell a Swede from a Jew, god bless her. Someone, send her American Pastoral.

-Yossi and Jagger, in happier times.


David Schraub said...

That Sweden twitter story feels like a 30 Rock episode (specifically, the one where John Slattery plays an insane independent congressional candidate).

Britta said...

I think I posted a long time ago in your comments how many Scandinavians have very Jewish sounding names, except since there is almost no awareness Jews or Jewish culture outside big cities (as the twitter painfully demonstrates), the names are not necessarily thought of as being Jewish. There was a Swedish cowboy dinger in the 50s called Cacka Israelsson (you can probably figure out why he wasn't a breakout international figure) who is not Jewish, and my cousin in Northern Sweden has two children named Judith and Rubin, also with no connection with or desire to give them Jewish names. Unlike in Germany, where you had significant Jewish populations and Jewish cultural influence alongside anti-Semitism, and everyone is hyper aware of any name that is or could be or maybe once was Jewish, Scandinavians can be really oblivious and ignorant.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...




Yes, that does sound vaguely familiar. I think it's partly a Protestant thing - a British person named Rachel or David is not immediately assumed to be Jewish, whereas a French one with one of those names probably would be. With Scandinavians and Jews, though, the most confusing thing name-wise I'd ever encountered has been the name "Rosenberg."

Withywindle said...

There's a good article to be written (or has it been already?) about the entrance of Old Testament names into various Christian denominations, especially among Protestants after the Reformation. Obviously it's big in England--the English Israel--but I think there are echoes elsewhere--I would have thought most strongly among the Calvintern, but probably in Lutheran countries as well. And probably more extensively in countries with few if any actual Jews. (England while the Puritan naming practices were getting going; presumably much of Scandinavia; it would be interesting to see how many Dutch Calvinists named their kids Benjamin and Abraham, with all those Jews next door in Amsterdam, etc.) For French, you'd want to look at Huguenot naming patterns--it would be interesting if you found someone in an 1850 novel or newspaper article saying, "His Christian name is Benjamin, the family was Huguenot once."

Also, if you read Cold Comfort Farm, mocking the Rural English Novel, our heroine goes off to Darkest Surrey, or some such, wondering if her farmhand cousin will be named Seth or Reuben. It turns out that there are two brothers--Seth and Reuben.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


An interesting idea for an article, if not one I'm volunteering to write any time soon.

Without being altogether startled that a Scandinavian woman would have an Old Testament-sounding name, there was just such amazingness in someone with such an Old Testamentish name being so confused about who Jews are.

CW said...

Almost everyone I've ever met named Tovah or Tove is of Norwegian descent. I didn't realize it was considred to be a Jewish name until relatively recently.

PG said...

Are we wondering about Old Testament names just for surnames or also for first names? Among Indians you often can tell who is from Kerala or Goa and historically a Christian (rather than a recent convert) because they're usually named for Biblical figures. "Thomas Thomas," for the saint who brought Christianity to India, is particularly popular, but so are names like Abraham and Sarah.

Britta said...

PG et. al.

At least in Scandinavia, the Old Testament last names come from the first, what with patronymics and such, so this unfortunate tweeter at one point had a male ancestor named 'Abraham.'


I am not an expert, but it would be interesting to compare naming practices between mainstream Lutherans and Pietists or more Calvinist-influenced Lutherans (like the Haugians in Norway). Martin Luther was quite disdainful of the Old Testament, what with his anti-Semitism and all, so there was far less 'we are the new Hebrews' occurring in those parts of Europe, and Lutheran theology by and large rejects any thing in the Old Testament which was 'updated' in the New, at least among status quo Lutheranism. (There is a Swedish movie "Jerusalem" made in the 80s which is about 19th century Swedes in the Holy Land, I've only seen snippets, but it might be more enlightening on Scandinavian protestants' attitudes towards the Old Testament.)