Sandusky and A Primer on Jewish Names

Matzoh Man

Matzoh Man

We already have Madoff, as well as Gingrich’s billionaire SuperPacSuperMacher Sheldon Adelson, so I’m glad that, even though Sandusky sounds like a Jewish name, he is not one of ours.

Sandusky’s name is misleading, because the “sky” at the end could be construed as belonging to our tribe. But is that something only Jewish people are likely to know, like an unintentional collective secret?

It matters not at all that I am an agnostic when I awaken to news of a Wall Street scoundrel scandal. I squeeze my eyes shut and pray his (it’s usually a he) name does not include either of the precious metals silver or gold or the color green. Those could indicate likely Jewishness. It’s not that I feel guilty by association, but it’s definitely not good for our brand.

On the other hand, I’m proud of “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart, though I would be even more pleased if a mensch like him were to use his Leibowitz name of origin.

There are other names likely to be Jewish, though you can never count on a single one, given all the intermarriage and conversions this way and that; plus, strict law says the only way you can be Jewish is if you are born to a Jewish mother.

So even with a father whose name is Luca Spaghetti, you could be Eddie Spaghetti and be Jewish or the more obvious Moishe Spaghetti. That said there are plenty of Sephardic Jewish folks with Spanish names that end in i or o, like one of my former Mr. Wrongs, Mr. Calamaro.

Some Jewish people change their names. My last name was changed when my ex-father-in-law went to college, because at that time ex-f-i-l’s father was concerned about anti-Semitism. I also know a Phillips who had been a Mandelkern and a Keyes who had been a Keiselstein.

A person with the name Cohen is usually Jewish, and 60% are said to be the chosenest of The Chosen, descended from Temple priests; and though the pronunciation can be the same, Cone is generally not Jewish, as in the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode in which Larry believes he is adopted. When he meets his birthparents, he discovers they are the Cones, not the Cohens, so he swaps his sneakers for moccasins and begins to wear sweater vests. He takes up fly fishing and horseback riding.

Jewish prefixes and suffixes can also stand alone or be paired up, so you can have a Jewish Berg or Stein or Bergstein as well as Steinberg, the name of my doctor when I lived in New York.

And you can count on my Casey to be one who celebrates Hanukkah when you hear his nickname, Chaim Goodman.

I thought it was a Jewish thing to always be asking “Is he Jewish?” “Is she Jewish?” but I just did a search on Google AdWords, where I found slightly more searches for “Sandusky Catholic” than “Sandusky Jewish.” “Sandusky Protestant” and “Sandusky Muslim” yielded no searches, even though according to the Daily Beast, he is Methodist, which also shows no searches.

In part, the smaller your group is—and add a history of persecution to that—the more likely its members are to wonder who else is in their club, even if it is only to suffer when one of the Madoff variety is a member.

Thankfully the Koch brothers belong to another tribe, though Koch can be tricky with that ch at the end: New York City’s Jewish former Mayor Ed Koch’s Koch rhymes with botch as opposed to the Koch brothers’ Koch that rhymes with joke.

How do you feel when someone of your religion, ethnicity, persuasion shows up in a front-page scandal or embarrasses in other ways?

Check out some of my Life Goes Strong posts:

*Are You Having Less Sex Than You Think You Should? One Women’s Story

*Joyce Maynard Adopted Two Girls From Ethiopia Then Gave Them Up

*A Great New Way to Date

*Free in NYC: NYC Parks and Other Fun in the Big Apple

*Living Together: Men Speak Out With Advice About Sex and More

*My Husband’s Final Days At Home & His Burial: Beth’s Story

*Can Separate Bedrooms Save Or Destroy A Marriage?

*Last Week My Mom Died; This Week I Celebrated Her Life

*Family Vacation With My Ex & Daughters






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