What if you found out that there was an agreement between your employer, your bank, your cable and phone companies, to apply hidden user fees to every paycheck and every time you bought anything? One day you find out and realize the wealth that has been taken from you. You could have stopped it if only you stated your claim, and demanded what was yours.
My wealth, my inheritance, has been quietly stolen from me. It is my Judaism, my identity, and my heritage, and I am making a claim and demanding it back.
The indigenous language of my people, born in the Middle East, is Hebrew. The members of our tribal nation are called Yehudim. The name derives from the area of land called Yehuda, or Judah or Judea, named after the tribe of Judah, and the Kingdom of Judah that ruled the land for centuries. For twenty-five centuries our people called ourselves Yehudi.
I am Yehudi. The thieves of my heritage call me “Jew.” The word “Jew” is a European epithet. Yehudi means “of Judah.” “Jew” means nothing. The Middle English word “Jew” derives from Old French “juieu,” which dropped the letter “d” from the Latin “Iudaeus,” which, like Greek term ”Ioudaios,” meant Judeans or “of Judea.” Most European languages retained the letter “d” in the word, and in many languages, including the Arabic “Yahud,” the word still means Judean or “of Judea.”
Most people would never call a Japanese person a “Jap,” or a Chinese person a “Chink.” These shortened versions are derogatory. They change the meaning of the word from a human being with an indigenous connection to their homeland, to a meaningless term for someone identified as “other.” Our people are Judean. We are indigenous to the land of Israel just as the Cherokee are to North America or the Maori tribe to New Zealand. Because it separates our people from our essential identity and connection with our homeland, the term “Jew” is antisemitic. It is a term of oppression and colonialization. It is time to raise consciousness and demand recognition of our identity and our heritage. It is wrong to call Native American as “Indians” or even worse “Injuns”. It is wrong to refer to Palestinians as “Arabs,” to deny them their connection to the land. We must recognize that the correct translation of the word “Yehudi” is “Judean,” not “Jew” or “Jewish.”
Before we can demand this of others, we must start ourselves. My local Cleveland Jewish News should become the “Cleveland Judean News”. The Jewish Federations should become ”Judean Federations.” Before we can fully claim our freedom, we must de-colonize our language.
I am proud to be Yehudi. I ask my fellow Yehudim, let us call ourselves Yehudi, or Judean. Don’t call me a “Jew.”