From eJewish Philanthropy (October 5, 2023)
“Can I see your horns?” the boy asked when he heard I was Jewish.
“What horns?” 10-year-old me responded.
“The ones on your head,” said the boy.
“What?! I don’t have horns.”
The first time I was asked this question as a young girl growing up in Texas, I was flabbergasted. Why did people think I had horns? It was not until later that I learned that this is a common misperception some gentiles have based on a biblical mistranslation. In Exodus 34:29, the verse says that when Moses descended from Mount Sinai “karan ohr panav” (“the skin of his face shone” or “was like a ray [of light]”). Karan is spelled similarly to keren, which means horn; and when the artists like Michelangelo depicted Moses according to the widely accepted but erroneous Latin translation of the text, the prophet was literally decked with horns. It is an image that has since become a meme the world over.
Needless to say, Jews do not have horns, but thanks to the work of Michelangelo and other artistic portrayals this misperception persists until today.
This story was top of mind for me as we at TEN: Together Ending Need (formerly the Jewish Poverty Affinity Group) released a new report: “The Case of the Missing Narrative: Hollywood, Media & Jewish Poverty.”
- Read the full op-ed by Rabbi Rebecca W. Sirbu in eJewish Philanthropy.