Thursday, August 16, 2012

Jew on Google

A long time ago, relative to social media and blogging, someone explained to me a bit about the Google search engine and how we can effect it. More, how we can change the results. I did an experiment with some senior citizens - I asked them to search for an anti-Israel activist by name. The first result would be Wikipedia, I explained. The second was an anti-Israel site promoting this woman's agenda. The third was a site pointing out her ignorance and how her anti-Israel arguments were wrong.

I asked the senior citizens to click on the THIRD link - and to spread the word. I explained that every time you hear about an anti-Israel site and you go there to read what they said, you are helping to boost them in the Google ranking. Within a day, we had reversed the order of the links and the pro-Israel was the second link.

Today, Google issued a statement explaining why the word "Jew" was returning very "disturbing" results. Part of their explanation intrigued me and brought back a memory (you can see their statement here: Part of the explanation on Google included two links to popular Jewish sites - this is their attempt to balance the search results. They expect we will click on these "good" links and help tip the balance to normality rather than hatred.

All of this was understood and expected, until I got to where they explained why this was happening. There's a line that triggered a memory: "One reason is that the word “Jew” is often used in an anti-Semitic context. Jewish organizations are more likely to use the word “Jewish” when talking about members of their faith."

When I was a teenager, I had the honor of hearing Rabbi Meir Kahane speak. One young man asked a question. In answering it, Rabbi Kahane asked the boy something about himself. His answer was that he was "Jewish."

Rabbi Kahane answered back, "Jewish? You are Jewish? What does that word mean? Have you ever heard a Black person say they are 'black-ish'? You are not Jew-ish; you are a Jew." Isn't it funny that we have surrendered who we are to the anti-Semites. The suffix "ish" - is often used to mean something that is similar, but not exactly. If you say you are a Jew, that is what you are. If you say you are Jewish -  doesn't that mean you are sort of...but not exactly?

Yes, it is semantics, and no it is not. Too often, Jews allow themselves to be more (and less) than they are. Years ago, I was speaking with a Jew who lived in America. They were explaining to me how they felt about the US and Israel. It was complicated, they explained.

And I answered that it was actually very simple. There are American Jews...and there are Jewish Americans. I am an American Jew as now I am an Israeli Jew. It is the "Jewish" part of me that governs my life. I am a Jew.

It is ironic that as we present ourselves to the world (and as we search for ourselves on Google), it is our enemies that recognize us for what we are. They will search for Jew; while we search for Jewish. They understand that as much as we try to be something else, the essence of what we are, remains the Jew inside of us.

No, you are not Jewish; you are a Jew...on Google...and everywhere else.


grandpa said...

Meir Kahana was not a crack at english language.

Black is an adjective as it stands. Jew is not an adjective, but a noun. "I am jew" is not english. So you have to add -ish in oder to make an adjective.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Grandpa, I suggest you missed Rav Kahane's point. Oh, and his English was excellent as borne out by his varied writing and editing career.

If a person is 'Jewish', then he is simply claiming a characteristic or quality among others that he possesses. If a person is a 'Jew', that is his essential identity. It can't be confused with an 'add on' quality.

As for Blacks, I believe Rav Kahane was right there. When a Negro says 'I am Black', he is not merely referring to a skin color or adjective. He is making a statement of racial identity; the same as if he had said 'I am a Black'.

A Jew should learn to say 'I am a Jew', and identify with it.

sheldan said...

Paula, this is right on. It is sad that "Jew" is considered an adjective rather than a noun (as in "Jew lawyer," which is quite different in connotation from the correct "Jewish lawyer"). The anti-Semites know what they are doing when they use "Jew" as an adjective.

This reminds me of Leo Rosten's comment about "Jewish" as a noun, as in "Do you speak Jewish?" (meaning Hebrew or Yiddish). He pointed out that "Jewish" is an adjective, not a noun, but also added, "We may as well accept reality" in regard to using "Jewish" to refer to (especially) Yiddish (since one of the translations of the word Yiddish is "Jewish"). Indeed, we should reclaim "Jew" as a title of honor and make the anti-Semites' use of it as unacceptable as other things that have been relegated to that status.

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