Let’s Celebrate Chanukah

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In his much admired new book commemorating 350 years of Jewish life in America, Jonathan Sarna displays a 1879 poster announcing the “Great Revival” of the “Jewish National Holiday of Chanucka.” In the accompanying text, the holiday is referred to as Hanukkah, a usage that is not true either to how we say the word or the poster that is being referred to. Is there any longer a justification for this pseudo-scholarly affectation that is embraced by too many Jews who should know better. After all, no one – not even our tiny and incestuous little community of sterile American Judaic scholars – refers to the next holiday on the calendar as Khristmas.

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4 Responses

  1. Nachum says:

    By the way, it’s extremely underhanded to write, for your paper column, that the book is magnificient with one small caveat (an omission), while here, it’s only “much admired” and Sarna is one of a “tiny and incestuous little community of sterile American Judaic scholars.”

    For shame. Nasty ad hominem attacks are the norm for you, eh, Mr. Shick? (I’m thinking about your latest.)

  2. Nachum says:

    Oh, get real. “Ch” in English is pronounced as in “church.” “H” is a much more accurate transcription of “Het” than “ch,” which is best used for “Khet,” if at all (better: “kh.”)

    “Christ” begins with the Greek Chi, closer to Khet. Nu? *This* is what gets your gander up?

  3. Shmarya says:

    Here is an excerpt from an e-mail send by Professor G.L. (Jerry) Esterson regarding the transliteration of Yiddish into English. Much of what he writes applies to your post:

    The name Chuna actually does appear on the Galicia Given Names Data Base, along with the US secular name Charles as adopted by many immigrants.

    < http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/GivenNames/ >

    Your problem was that you were using a non-standard transliteration method to render the Yiddish name Khune in English characters, obtaining Chuna. CHUNA is the way the Yiddish name would be written using German characters — a method which was common some years ago in the US, but is today considered to be non-standard. And CHUNA therefor does not appear in the Yiddish nickname list on the GNDB, because it is not the proper transliterated name.

    In establishing a data base such as this one, it is simply not feasible to include all of the dozens of methods which have been and are used to transliterate Yiddish names into English characters. The GNDBs on JewishGen use only the YIVO standard method, and that is the one you should learn to use.

    For those not familiar with this, a table is presented in the JewishGen web site showing how this standard works.

    If you will use the YIVO standard representation of the CHanuka CH pronunciation, which is KH in YIVO, you will find the name for which you are searching. But it is better for you to realize that the way _you_ spell names may not be standard or may indeed be otherwise incorrect, and therefor you should compensate for this by also using the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex search (which is an option on the web site). This approach used with your name CHUNA will give you the results you seek. Try it — you’ll like it!

    Incidentally, I tried searching for CHARLES on the right-hand input form, and for Galicia, found only 40 “hits” (not 54, as you found), of which the fourth item gave the result you want — for the Hebrew name Elchanan. This set of linked names includes Charles and Chune for the US adopted names, showing that a number of Galician immigrants to the US adopted the Anglicized name Chune, based on their Yiddish nickname Chune in Galicia.

    Chag sameach,

    Prof. G. L. Esterson, Ra’anana, Israel

  4. Shmarya says:

    Of course, that is because the origin of the word is from a language that pronounced, as far as we know, the word with an opening “K,” not an opening “Kh.” Further, the word is now, and has been for many hundreds of years, a part of the English language, and is not a foreign word used in an English sentence.

    As for the spelling of Hanukkah in Sarna’s book and elsewhere, let’s extend your ‘argument.’ Should Moshe be written Moishe? Sukkot as Sukkis? IsrAEl as IsrEAl? JeruSalem as JeruZalem?

    Get real.