JTA - Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican senator running for president as an anti-establishment maverick, has once again been accused of making Jews collateral damage in attacks on his insider rivals.
Cruzs accusers detected the whiff of anti-Semitism in his broadsides against neoconservatives and his mocking of real estate magnate Donald Trumps New York values.
Now, hes getting scored for his use of the word chutzpah.
Dana Milbank wrote in the Washington Post:
For Cruz, New York is another way of saying Jewish.
At an event in New Hampshire, Cruz, the Republican Iowa caucuses winner, was asked about campaign money he and his wife borrowed from Goldman Sachs. Cruz, asserting that Trump had upward of $480 million of loans from giant Wall Street banks, said: For him to make this attack, to use a New York term, its the height of chutzpah. Cruz, pausing for laughter after the phrase New York term, exaggerated the guttural ch to more laughter and applause.
But chutzpah, of course, is not a New York term. Its a Yiddish — a Jewish — one. And using New York as a euphemism for Jewish has long been an anti-Semitic dog whistle.
Jeet Heer at the New Republic agreed:
Chutzpah is a Yiddish word, so a New York term means one inflected by a dialect associated with Jewish immigrants and their descendants. And that can also only mean that Jewish values — sorry, New York values — are inimical to the good conservatives of the American heartland.
Over here at JTA, Im not so sure.
True, Cruz was talking about Wall Street — a place that often features in conspiracy theories about Jews. And true, he played up the foreign-sounding pronunciation of chutzpah for laughs.
But what he called out Trump for isnt connected to any discernible anti-Semitic stereotype. He simply accused his rival of audacity — and used a popular Jewish term for boastfulness to do it.
If anything, he honored Jewish perspicaciousness by invoking our linguistic tradition to make his point. And hes far from alone among politicians in using the word.
As my colleague Daniel Treiman recently pointed out — citing President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Mitt Romney — chutzpah is becoming as familiar in election years as paeans to Iowa ethanol and the hardy independence of Granite Staters. In fact, the last time Cruz used the term, Treiman noted, was to lambaste Obama for presuming to speak to Jews on Jewish values.
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