VOICE OF THE JEWISH NEWS: What’s in a (Jewish) name?

VOICE OF THE JEWISH NEWS: What’s in a (Jewish) name?

Voice of the Jewish News
Voice of the Jewish News

A drunk American rabbi walks into a Chinese restaurant and punches the bartender.

“That’s for Pearl Harbour,” he says, pulling up a chair.

“Pearl Harbour?” says the bartender, bleeding. “That was the Japanese! I’m Chinese.”

The rabbi considers it. “Japanese, Chinese,” he says. “What’s the difference?”

He calms down and offers the man a drink. They talk. After a while, the bartender reaches over and punches the rabbi.

“That’s for the Titanic,” he says.

“The Titanic?” asks the rabbi. “That was an iceberg!” “Iceberg, Goldberg…” says the bartender.

Voice of the Jewish News
Voice of the Jewish News

That’s one of the jokes that sprang to mind this week, when Ipsos MORI, the UK’s second largest pollster, said how it was identifying British Jews for a survey of British-Jewish attitudes on Israel.

READ about the survey in FULL – CLICK HERE

It said it was using a list of 40 “distinctive Jewish names” and sending letters to anyone so labelled. Jewish sociologists said it was “unsophisticated” and “fraught with issues”.

Ipsos MORI said it was “cost effective”. It dismisses the charge of stereotyping. Ipsos MORI won’t publish the list, agreeing with their Jewish expert that there is “no public interest argument” for doing so.

Far be it from us to speak for the community, but we’re pretty sure there would be a public interest in knowing which 40 names best identify British Jews as British Jews. Do they, for example, include “Mirvis” and “Sacks,” the surnames of the past two chief rabbis?

What about “Johnson,” the name of the head of the Jewish Leadership Council? How about “Marks,” “Arkush” or “Brummer,” the names of the vice presidents and senior vice president at the Board of Deputies? Surely it must include “Pack,” as per the United Synagogue president, or “Delew,” after the chief executive of the CST? And what of all the Cohens and Goldsteins that aren’t Jewish? And all the Jews called “Smith”? Ipsos MORI has defended the methodology and the group’s client – a “Jewish communal organisation”.

No doubt this organisation hopes to use the results in the coming weeks to publicise British Jews’ attitude towards Israel.

For something carrying such potential political sensitivity, so soon after Gaza and Paris, it would be nice to know that respondents were in fact British Jews, and a diverse cross-section of them.

Because, for all we know, Mr and Mrs Iceberg up and down the country have been giving their thoughts on Israel. And they may just have cherished the prospect of doing so.

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