Question for Jewish Dopers

My World Religions teacher in my Catholic high school told us that we should refer to Jewish people as, well, ‘Jewish people’ and never Jews. She said that calling someone a Jew is offensive.

My former roommate, whose family was non-practicing Jewish for two generations, laughed at me for never using the term ‘Jew’.

I realize that some people will be offended by anything, but do the Jewish in general find being called ‘Jew’ to be offensive? I never use the term because of that one teacher, but she was so laughable in so many ways that now I wonder if she was right.

No, we do not consider it offensive to be called a Jew.

Of course, some may add an inflection of derision, as in “dirty Jew” or some such. But if said without negative intent, we have no problem with it.

I think that came out in the ultra-PC revolution or something. I can only speak for myself, but I’ve never met a Jew who objected to the word “Jew”. In fact, I almost universally hear fellow Jews calling each other “Jews”.

If you look at the Urban Dictionary you’ll see a host of insults incorporating the word Jew that will, so to speak, curl your hair. And right in their base definition of the word Jew you’ll see “2. Derogatory term for someone tight with their money or someone not very generous.”

But look at sense 1. “Someone who practices Judaism.”

I’ve never known a practicing Jew who did not call him- or herself a Jew or minded being called a Jew. And none ever, even jokingly, called themselves a Jewish person.

I think it all comes down to intent, maybe even to tone of voice. Calling someone a Jew is perfectly OK. Referring to someone as that Jew is an insult. I can’t get inside the head of someone who would use the term “jewbag cunt,” but unless I could use a large electric drill, I wouldn’t want to.

I was told exactly the same thing by the priests at my Catholic school and, as a result, have always called someone Jewish, rather than a Jew.

See, the thing is, the teacher was definitely not being PC. To her (deep breath) the Jews were misguided fools. I still remember the time she said to us in the most mind-boggled of tones: Can you *believe *that Jewish *people *don’t believe in Jesus Christ? Perhaps you had to be there, but it was one of the most offensive things I had ever heard. It really doesn’t seem so bad written out. It was all about the tone.

I guess it wouldn’t really make sens to be offended by being called a Jew. It’s pretty much akin to me being called a Catholic, and I would be amused at somebody trying to call me a Catholic person.

Thanks for all your quick responses. I’ll make myself say ‘Jew’ now, but I have ten years of training working against me. Please be patient.

Ah, confirmation of Catholic teaching! Maybe it dates back to before the Pope forgave (here it comes!) Jews for crucifying Jesus. If a lot of the perceived insult is in the tone, it’s altogether possible that the general tone used by Catholics was harsh and insulting. (You know, if any of the people who had anything to do with the crucifixion were still alive to be forgiven, I would seriously consider switching religions to whatever they were!)

My mom also taught me the same thing–never use the word “Jew”, always “Jewish people” because the former was offensive. If it’s not offensive, then I’d like to know where people got the idea that “Jew” wasn’t a polite expression. :confused:

Hmm–Catholic teaching is an interesting theory–my mother was not Catholic nor did she go to a Catholic school, but she did grow up in Chicago.

We prefer the term “Hebraic-American.”

Or ‘Persons of Jewish Descent’.

Screw that. Call me a Jew. It won’t bug me.

Great. So if we persuade all those Hebraic-Americans to get out of the middle east and go back home to Brooklyn, we’ll solve the Palestine problem?

Okay, here goes: Jesus came here to die!! We should be thanking the Jews for having Him killed. Except they didn’t. Does anybody else remember a certain people called the Romans ? You know, the ones who actually came up with the whole crucifixion thing? As I recall, the Jews weren’t allowed to punish anybody because the Romans had conquered them and had to do the dirty work.
All these centuries we’ve been blaming the wrong people. See what happens when you base your religion in Rome? Talk about your PR spin!

Italian-American/Roman Catholic (escaped)

I never really thought about it too much but I describe myself as “Jewish” not “a Jew”.

Why? Beats me. I’m agnostic but culturally Jewish so maybe it just feels more appropriate to use it as an adjective and not a noun. If I was very observant it might be different. Being called “a Jew” sort of makes me feel like that is somehow supposed to describe everything about me rather than just denote my heritage.

The word “Jew” does tend to be used by racists. Do a Google search for Jew and look at the results.

In that case, I can’t help but wonder how it was that the original word for someone Jewish became a derogatory term. I think substituting “Jewish person” or “Person of Jewish descent” or “Hebraic-Judeo-American Homo Sapiens” or whatever for the simple term “Jew” is merely reinforcing that racism. Why let skinhead losers own that term?

I call myself a Jew, and I have no problem with other people calling me a Jew.

Sure, the Wandering Jewish Person.

I’ve told this before so some the members who have been here a while may have read it.

I’m for the most part a non-practicing Jew but still consider myself a Jew, and I married a Texas Southern Baptist (much to the dimay of her family - although they have come to if not like me, to tolerate me - I think if I could stand chicken fried steak and grits - they would actually like me) When after about a year I attended my first family reunion of my wife’s clan (there were hundreds of them). We were in the basement of a Baptist Church in the Panhandle of Texas and my wife was off visiting long lost cousins, and I was sitting there trying not to look bored. And a small blond-haired girl about eight or nine came across the room directly to me, planted herself and politely asked, “Why did you kill our Lord?”

The room got very quiet very quickly.

I looked at her and decided there was only one thing to do. I pointed to a large lady standing near the punch bowl and said, also politely, “No, No, it wasn’t me, it was that heavyset lady over there.”

The child thanked me and headed for the lady.

By this point my wife had caught the interchange and came running over with tears in her eyes, hug and kissed me. I, of course, responded by saying, “Please, we ARE in a Baptist Church.” She then turned and glared at the rest of the assemblege. In pretty quick succession her brothers, sister and mother came and stood around beside and in back of us and helped my wife glare.

I decided that even if they never understood my sense of humor, I had married into a pretty good family.

Not exactly on the OP, but vaguely related.


Really? They invented it? I thought that crucifixion, like most execution methods, had been around for quite a while, and was used by many cultures.

Can I ask for a cite that says Romans invented cruicifixion, please?

Like some other words, it depends on who says it and how they say it. I’ve run into more than a few people who use it in a derogatory sense, as a noun and verb. This is often tied into common stereotypes of Jews as being clever, stingy, sharp, etc. Some people use it as a verb without thinking about what they are saying, similar to the way some people use the word “gyp”.

I cringe a bit when someone starts a sentence with “The Jews”, it usually doesn’t end well. A lot of anti-Semitic propaganda makes liberal use of “the Jew” and “the Jews”.

Earlier generations of Jews used the words Hebrew and Israelite, which sound rather old-fashioned to me.

There is something to be said for taking control of the language, and not letting bigots poison words by the way they use them.

Am I a Jew, or a Jewish American, or an American of the Jewish religion? I’d have to pick Jew and American. I think the two are compatible.