My first choice, when I rag on religion, is Judaism, just because I know it first-hand. Of course, there’s always more to learn. Through my current wife, I became aware of what goes on in Jewish enclaves/ghettos (depends on who’s herding Jews together, Jews or gentiles) — the threats, the ostracism, the mind control, the obsession with ritual (these people REALLY observe all the Sabbath and milk/meat separation rules, and it is a major pain in the ass).

I also became aware of sectarian rivalry — no, make that contempt — between the two major Jewish gene pools, the Ashkenazic (Eastern Europs/Poland) and the Sephardic (Spain/Muslim world). My wife’s family includes rabbis from both. The Sephardic one thinks the Ashkenazic a bunch of dolts who can’t read or understand Scripture and commentary properly. I would assume the disdain is mutual. At least they don’t blow themselves up.

Needless to say, none of these folks would consider my family, with their four-day-a-year observance and opulent bar/bat mitzvahs, to be real Jews. The same for everybody to the left of conservative — Reform Jews, humanists, Reconstructionists, etc. You don’t count. But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. If you say you’re Jewish, that’s enough.

Superstitious remnant

One bit of Jewishness that seems ubiquitous (I have to believe that the Orthodox, with all their superstition, use it) is what called “the three most important Jewish words” — kein ayin hara, pronounced colloquially “kenna hurra.” It is to be uttered right after reporting or remarking on anything positive, e.g., “Your kids are getting so big, kenna hurra.”

It’s purpose is to ward off the Evil Eye, hard to pin down, but apparently a traditional malevolent force that seeks out good and gleefully balances it with misfortune.

Our language is the product of our history, so it’s no surprise that there’s so much God-talk. Each atheist has to adapt his/her own strategy, and this has been a fruitful topic at A/N. Along with other substitutions, I advise not shouting God’s name at the moment of orgasm, but rather the name of the person who is giving you said orgasm.

Atheists also have to deal with the remnants of superstitious ignorance that still occur in the language. It’s amazing (to me) that so many liberal Jews use “kenna hurra.” I’ve even had doctors usher me out of their offices with it.

On the jewniverse site one article proclaims, with some pride, that the writer and her husband are getting more superstitious, using the phrase more and more (along with the old-country pu-pu-pu spitting gersture). Yeah, well, the older you get, the more uncertain life looks. But that’s no reason to fall back on religion. Sorry, but I find it the path of weak people.

Intent of “kenna hurra”

I can understand the desire that another’s circumstances go well (or continue to go well). I can understand our powerlessness in the face of chance, and I can understand the need to acknowledge it. And maybe uttering “kenna hurra” says to the listener, “Hey, I’m just as aware as you of the fragility of life.”

But I’m all for dropping the superstition. I’ll try to come up with alternatives, but for now, I replace the “kenna horra” with an expression of approval (”Your kids are getting so big - that’s terrific!”).

Of course, I have geography working for me. Here in New Hampshire, nobody says “kenna hurra” to me (so I don’t have to be a wiseass and say, “The Evil Ey isi here??? Where???”). And nobody knows what it means.

3 Responses to “Straddling the Fence on Superstition”

  1. on 02 Nov 2013 at 7:30 pmRich

    New Commentary cover article: “Loving Us To Death: How America’s Embrace is Imperiling American Jewry”.

    I’ve been reading & hearing about it for 20+ years. Rabbis saying “The Nazis killed us; Americans want to marry us.”

    Commentary has had articles on subject since 1979, when my subscription began. At the time, I was a Neo-Conservative. The new crop is v v different, & I’m not happy about it.

    … Got another phone call @ my New Yorker subscription. “It will expire in 2 weeks. Give me your credit card #, or we’ll cut you off forever.”

    Got one a month ago, same spiel. I said, “The cover label expiration is 2017.”

    Girl said, “You’re wrong. That’s a Post Office code, has nothing to do w/your subscription.”

    I called NYorker next day. “You’re good till 2017!”

    I’m infuriated. Despicable fraudsters are bilking the elderly, exploiting their frail memories.

    I hope there IS a Hell. Too damn many criminals get away w/crimes. Like Jamie Dimon, for instance.

  2. on 04 Nov 2013 at 2:00 amAlan

    There’s nothing special about being Jewish. Heretical but true.

    What did Jamie do? Hell, I was in Chi. and could barely follow his machinations.

  3. on 06 Nov 2013 at 12:39 pmRich

    It’s v difficult to know much of what Dimon & his fellow financial tycoons did or didn’t do. They DID cause the Great Recession - tho WSJ blames the gummint. There are 10s of $Trillions of exotic Dark Matter “financial instruments” floating around the world, and when they descend, there will be a reckoning.

    It varies, but last I read, Dimon has deigned to pay the gummint $13B in fines for various capers. Rather, Chase’s stockholders will pay. No financial tycoon has spent his own money, or a day in prison (Madoff doesn’t count for me).

    I saw Money Lust infect the military brass. They worshipped tycoons, had their Getting Rich books in their offices vice History & Strategy & Cultural Studies (they Still don’t seem to “get” Islam). They retired to plush positions in “private industry” and K Street.

    Please forgive this Outsider’s perspective. I am fain to cause offense or upset. But I see WCiv w/3 Foundations: Greece & Rome; “Judeo/Xtian” tradition; & Teutonic culture (Jefferson hearkened to that complex phenomenon).

    The 2nd Foundation was created almost exclusively by Jews. Since, Jews have contributed immensely in virtually all fields of endeavor. Despite horrendous persecution & hatred that continues to this day. There’s even such a creature as Japanese anti-Semitism.

    To me, it’s unparalleled in History, esp considering the tiny demographic. To many people, it’s a cause of anger & rage. Go figure.

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