Miriyummy Guest Post: I’m An Apology For A Jew
I recently received some feedback from someone whose opinion I highly respect. She’s not happy with the name I call my husband here in Miriyummyland: Ju-Boy. To quote:
You’re spelling it differently (and maybe this is a post-modern way of reversing the meaning of a term), but “Jewboy” was used as a derogatory appellation, usually preceding a fight…
This is not the first time someone has commented on my choice of nickname (blogname? blognomer?). But his name comes with history. My husband was first called Ju-Boy back in his Carmel College days. In the tradition of English public schools (the equivalent of North American prep schools), almost everyone had a nickname. J had quite a few, and Ju-Boy was given to him by one of his best friends.
Yes, I can see how my perception can irk people the wrong way, and I apologize. So does the man in question. I am relishing the moment, it’s not often that he apologizes, even though it’s not really an apology at all. Read and decide:
I’m an apology for a Jew
I’m English. I was born in England to parents raised in England. This means that I am like many other middle-class Englishmen. I am also a religious Jew and was raised as a religious Jew. This makes me a Western Jew.
The problem with the Western Jew is that he is exactly that, Western first and only then a Jew. This contrasts to members of other religions, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, etc. who are first and foremost identified by their religion and then by their country.
Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims living in Western countries call their children by Hindi, Sikh or Muslim names respectively. Jews however shy away from any name that would identify themselves as Jews, so Jonathan, Mark, Michael, Karen, Paul, Louise, etc. are the names of choice for Jewish kids. I bet there are more Aaron Christian kids running around America than there are Aaron Jewish kids. How many Marks are really apologies for Mordechais? How many Karens are really apologies for Chanas? What is wrong with being called Mordechai or Chana? Why is Mark or Karen so much better?
Why? Because we are embarrassed by our Judaism.
When I worked in England I wore a kippa at home and on the journey to and from work. But at work? Not a chance – too Jewish. And I was not alone, and there are many English community rabbis who say this is the way to be – why draw attention to ourselves unnecessarily?
We are desperate to be English, or American, or whatever western country we reside in. The Muslim is proud to be a Muslim wherever he lives and the Sikh wears his Turban proudly wherever he lives. Jews, however, want to constantly assimilate, not necessarily religiously, but definitely nationally.
As an Englishman I support a football team (who doesn’t?): in my case Tottenham Hotspur. As a Jew I could not attend most of their games, since they mostly played on Shabbat. The weekday games that I did attend were mostly great (when we won). They all included a chant that went around the stadium: Come on you yids – yiddos. This was a chant of affection and support, deriving from the fact that many of the supporters were and still are Jewish. The chant was used to encourage our players on the pitch and it worked. 11 non-Jewish athletes were motivated by our chant. They didn’t find it offensive. We didn’t find it offensive.
Nowadays, because of political correctness, the powers that be have decided that this chant is offensive and want to ban it from matches.
Why? It is like banning the name Yankees to be used for an American baseball team, since it upsets the sensibilities of every southerner!
So what do I want?
I want to stop being an apologist for what I am – first and foremost a Jew. I want to be identified as a Jew by a kippa on my head and tzitzit that aren’t always tucked in. I want to be able to support the Yiddos because that is the name used for my team for more than half a century, and I am not ashamed to support them as the Yiddos and be part of the Yiddo army! I want to be recognized for what I am, as much as for who I am. I want to stop apologizing.
And what don’t I want?
I don’t want the political correctness of the few to impair the innocent traditions of the many. I don’t want to be scared to use a name, because it identifies me as a Jew. I don’t want to have to apologize for who and what I am.
On the other hand (and we Jews have so many other hands, we could open a secondhand shop selling them), I must admit that I actually don’t like the name Ju-Boy for two reasons. Firstly, I am referred to as a boy. Immature I might be, but I am an immature man. Secondly, although Ju is a shortened form of Julian, it does not identify me for what I am, a proud Jew.
So, I suggest scrapping Ju-Boy as a derogatory name and replacing it with the more complimentary and fitting epithet, namely, Jew-Man.