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Naming and Renaming

By Ann Cheng WHEN MY mother’s mother fled Eastern Europe for the U.S., she was on her fourth last name — the Jewish one she was born with, the non-Jewish one her family chose in the late 1930s, the French one from a fake marriage staged to escape Communist Hungary, and finally the recently chosen, […]

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Jew-Hatred: Its Rise, Fall, and Resurgence

by Ralph Seliger ANTISEMITISM, the world’s oldest, ongoing hatred, morphed from its earliest days in ancient times as a theological prejudice, with the ascendency of the Christian faith to the status of state religion of the Roman Empire, to the racist doctrines of rightwing 19th- and 20th-century European nationalists. (I prefer the British spelling of […]

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The Origins and Meanings of Ashkenazic Last Names

by Bennett Muraskin (Editor’s note: Corrections and updates for this article are listed at the end of it. See also Bennett Muraskin’s follow-up piece by clicking here. For a musical exploration of Ashkenazic names by Corey Weinstein, click here.) Ashkenazic Jews were among the last Europeans to take family names. Some German-speaking Jews took last […]

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November 12: Jews Acquire Family Names

In a decree promulgated on this date in 1787, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II ordered all Jews in the Hapsburg Empire to acquire family names. The decree came five years after the Edict of Tolerance, which permitted Jewish children to attend schools and universities, eliminated vocational restrictions for Jewish adults, abolished stigmatizing rules of dress […]

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