Anti-Semitism or antisemitism?

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In response to the Sept. 4 article, “Despite pandemic, R.I. Coalition for Israel continues to battle anti-Semitism,” I wanted to point out the repeated, yet common, misspelling of word antisemitism. Though the hyphen has become familiar as accepted by many publications and software such as Microsoft Word, I have learned that the word “anti-Semitism” is a misnomer. 

As the ADL explains in their statement about the spelling of Antisemitism (adl.org/spelling), “the word ‘Semitic’ was first used by a German historian in 1781 to bind together languages of Middle Eastern origin that have some linguistic similarities. The speakers of those languages, however, do not otherwise have shared heritage or history. There is no such thing as a Semitic peoplehood.”

As such, to say “anti-Semitism exists” implies the hatred of an entity that does not exist. 

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (www.holocaustremembrance.com/antisemitism/spelling-antisemitism) explains “The unhyphenated spelling is favored by many scholars and institutions in order to dispel the idea that there is an entity ‘Semitism’ which ‘anti-Semitism’ opposes. Antisemitism should be read as a unified term so that the meaning of the generic term for modern Jew-hatred is clear.“

As the Jewish voice of Rhode Island, it would be appropriate for the paper to reconsider the spelling of this word in the future. 

As a Jewish Rhode Islander,
I hope and pray that we experience no more acts of antisemitism. 

Saara Moskowitz
Providence, R.I.

Editor’s note: Like many newspapers, Jewish Rhode Island follows Associated Press Style, which calls for the hyphenated spelling of anti-Semitism. But style evolves, and we are interested in reader feedback on this spelling and the meaning behind it. Let us know what you think by emailing editor@jewishallianceri.org.