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Monday, November 11, 2019

Let’s begin with the obvious: there is absolutely nothing funny about antisemitism and it should never be the topic of a humor article. That is an absolute rule with no exceptions and is completely non-negotiable. That said, if it is true that antisemitism is verboten in humor, then is the opposite also true? Is “pro-semitism” permitted? Is it acceptable fodder?

While pro-semitism may be the opposite of antisemitism, other words containing an “anti” prefix typically do not have a “pro” prefix opposite. In the world of pharmaceuticals, there are antihistamines and antidotes but there are no pro-histamines and pro-dotes. In the world of immunology, there are antigens and antibodies but there are no pro-gens and pro-bodies. (If you want to see pro-bodies, watch an NBA or WNBA game.) In the world of healthcare, there are antiseptics but there are no pro-septics. (Being pro-septic, i.e., in favor of harmful infections, would be completely nonsensical and is like being pro-cancer, pro-hatred or pro-tsuris.)

So what exactly is pro-semitism? You will not find it defined in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary but you will find a definition of anti-semitismi: “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.” Thus, the inverse would be a fair definition of pro-semitism, that is, friendliness toward or support for Jews as a religious, ethnic or racial group. In the interest of completeness, it must be noted that on Wikipedia you will find the term “philo-semitism” which is described as an interest in, respect for and an appreciation of Jewish people, their history and the influence of Judaism. Philo-semitism, however, is not a widely-used term. To the average Jew, especially boureka-loving and baklava-loving Jews, the mention of the word “philo” probably sounds like a salute to phyllo (or filo) dough. Thus, philo-semitism sounds more like a form of Jewish baking and is not a term that would resonate among the masses. In fact, it might leave some Jews, especially Jewish pastry chefs, very confused.

Another term used by some to describe a positive attitude toward or interest in Jews is “Judeophilia.” Rest assured, in several other instances the “philia” suffix is used in other words to describe positive feelings for certain groups like “Anglophilia” (love of the country, culture and/or people of England), “Russophilia” (love of Russian culture, country and/or people) and “Indophilia” (love for India and/or its people and culture). The “philia” suffix could be used more specifically with respect to particular groups within the Jewish world like “Sephardophilia” (love of Jews who eat rice on Passover), “Bukhariaphilia” (love of Jews who eat plov, a slow-cooked rice dish) and “Ashkenazophilia” (love of Jews who typically eat rice and other Chinese food on non-Jewish holidays)

What would turn someone into a pro-Semite? Well, one could argue that there are many extraordinarily wonderful things in or from the Jewish world that should encourage pro-semitic acts and sentiments. For example:

Science: For starters, Albert Einstein. Enough said. His “Theory of Relativity” literally changed how humankind views the world and universe. That said, other Jews also have an important theory of relativity, that is, never think you have the most embarrassing family because everything is relative, including relatives.

Sports: The classic example is Sandy Koufax, a phenomenal professional baseball player who pitched four no-hitters and struck out more batters than innings pitched. (You could say that he whipped more batters than a whisk-crazy pancake maker.) Most importantly, Koufax elected to sit out a World Series game because it fell on Yom Kippur. Truth be told, that was a good call by Sandy because fast balls and fasting do not mix.

Industry: One fun example is Ruth Handler who, along with her husband, created one of the most iconic and best-selling toys of all-time: the Barbie Doll. That said, not every result of the Barbie Doll is perfectly positive. For example, there is something known as the “Barbie syndrome,” i.e., the desire to have a physical appearance and lifestyle representative of the Barbie doll. It would be better for children to have the “Bubbie syndrome, i.e., obsession with cooking a brisket as well as one’s grandmother.

Food: This is too easy. The Jewish contributions to the culinary universe are innumerable and include legendary stalwarts such as matzah ball soup (i.e, the cure for every disease), latkes (what French fries only wish they could be), hamantaschen (one of the very few triangular treats), chopped liver (unabashedly proud despite its relatively blunt and gross name), matzah (there arguably would be no TamsTams without matzah) and cholent (single-handedly has kept the crock-pot relevant).

Final thought: The opposite of professional is not anti-fessional, the opposite of protect is not anti-tect and the opposite of pronounce is not anti-nounce. And the opposite of an antidisestablishmentarian is merely a disestablishmentarian. Go figure.

By Jon Kranz