Why there’s neither a hyphen nor a cap-S when spelling antisemitism

With this Tweet on April 23, 2021, Associated Press officially changed its style on spelling antisemitism.

Since the founding of Front Edge Publishing and our online weekly magazine, ReadTheSpirit.com, in 2007, there’s no question: We are against it.

The challenge was how to name it and, in the early years, our writers tended to follow their own preferences when spelling it. Allowing for diversity in our writing was important because we were building one of the world’s most religiously diverse publishing houses through a community of authors who represent many faith communities, including Christians, Jews, Muslims and people who do not have any religious affiliation. What unites us is our belief in the journalistic principles we follow. Together, we report honest, fair and balanced stories. We believe: “Good media builds healthy community.”

So, from our founding, we have been against all forms of hateful “anti—” bigotry, including the deadly tradition of “antisemitism,” the subject of this column. 

Roughly a decade ago, we began moving toward a consensus of spelling the term with no hyphen and no capitalized letters, but it was not until early 2021 that this style crystalized nationally. On April 23, 2021, Associated Press declared that it would henceforth spell the term “antisemitism.” By that time, we already had published two major 2021 books that significantly address antisemitism: Bill Tammeus’s Love, Loss and Endurance, which includes a major section on “Unplugging Extremism,” and Mindy Corporon’s memoir, Healing a Shattered Soul about the aftermath of an antisemitic hate crime.

Bill is a veteran journalist who has reported extensively on Holocaust remembrance and religious bigotry—and he was an early advocate of the no-hyphen-no-cap spelling. In fact, Bill continues to address this timely topic as he did in January 2022 with a column headlined: Can a resurgent, ugly antisemitism be reversed?

As 2022 unfolds, we also are continuing to publish books by Jewish authors, including the April release of Torah Tutor: A Contemporary Torah Study, by Rabbi Lenore Bohm, and later this spring Shining Brightlyby Howard Brown, a well-known interfaith peace advocate. Like Bill Tammeus, we find ourselves freshly discussing the evolving consensus on the spelling of this term that unfortunately remains absolutely vital to our national conversations. Our world still has not conquered antisemitism. We have to keep talking about it.

The history of the term antisemitism is long—stretching back into 19th century Germany, where the myth of a “Semitic race” evolved until it eventually undergirded Nazi genocide. The current change in spelling has been made to finally drive a stake through the ugly myth that there is some kind of collective race of “Semites”—as Nazis did in claiming that this mythic race was so inferior from “Aryans” that these people did not deserve to live.

Given the sweeping global consensus over the past year, the only acceptable usage of the related term “Semitic” with a capital “S” is among academic scholars studying the origins of global languages who see similarities in what they call “Semitic languages.” That’s a distinctly different concept than ideas promoted by Nazi race theorists.

The consensus now is overwhelming. The Associated Press change in 2021 was endorsed by the U.S.-based human-rights nonprofit ADL, the Israel-based Jerusalem Post, the Israel-based Times of Israel and a host of other news media. The New York Times still was using the hyphen and cap in the spring of 2021, but soon made the change as well.

The argument simply was too compelling, as outlined by the highly respected International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

That’s why our books and our online magazine have used the “antisemitism” spelling for a number of years.

And, yes, we’re still united against it—and all forms of bigotry that try to isolate “others” and reduce them to less than fully human.

About David Crumm

David Crumm is founding Editor of Front Edge Publishing. Nationally, he is known as a veteran journalist—a top writer and editor—with experience both in the U.S. and overseas. He is based in Canton, Michigan, where he also serves as Editor of Read the Spirit online magazine. His columns on trends in media appear twice a month on our Front Edge Publishing website.

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