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    Hip Hip Hooray – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. I have heard that Jews shouldn’t say “Hip Hip Hooray”. Is this true and, if so, why?

    A. I must have often joined in when people greeted one another with the shout, “Hip hip hooray”, but I don’t intend to ever do it again.

    For one thing, “Hooray!” (or its variants, “Hurrah!” or “Huzzah!”) is pure nonsense. It has no accepted etymology (though people have tried to trace it in Hindi and other languages) and was probably invented by some old-time cheerleader. Possibly every language has a rallying-call and this is what English ended up with.

    Hebraic ingenuity sees a similarity between “Hooray” and the Harei which means “Behold! See!” But does this hold water? Is it sheer imagination? Who knows?

    The general view is that the introductory “Hip hip” is the initials of three antisemitic words, Hierysolima est perdita, “Jerusalem is lost!” – presumably a Roman or Crusader cry of triumph.

    If this is true, we still don’t know how an antisemitic slogan came to introduce a silly greeting which makes no sense of anything.

    There is only one historical but nasty possibility, that it links with the 1819 Hep Hep riots in Germany. Any Jew living in those pre-State of Israel days was a ready target for persecution even if (as usual) the prejudice against Jews had no rational basis.

    If the phrase really is antisemitic, what a stupid custom it is to endorse the toast to a bride and groom at a Jewish wedding celebration with these words.

    The most I can say in its defence is that it might be linked to an old Hebrew phrase, He’ach he’ach – “Aha, aha” (Psalm 35:21) or He’dad (Isaiah 16:9), again using an “h”. Both might have been shouts of victory in ancient times.

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