Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

A Jewish man or a Jew?

WW II Star of David with the Dutch word for Jew with Latin letters in the style of Hebrew letters
WW II Star of David with the Dutch word for Jew with Latin letters in the style of Hebrew letters

It should not annoy me but it does. I know that many Jews outside of Israel call themselves Jewish. They all seem to assume that Jew is somehow a dirty word.

The recent news report that spoke of a Jewish man attacked in Berlin – why did it not write: a Jew?

Are Christians and homos not persecuted in the Middle East (except in Israel) or are they Christian and homo people? No one says the latter. Do Muslims keep Ramadan or Muslim people? Why should Jews only be adjectively identified?

There are the British and the French, the Egyptians and the Israelis, Native Americans and Jewish people? When I hear talk about Jewish people I always ask myself: do they mean this “people” in contrast with Jewish dogs, Jewish birds?

The most ridiculous of course are Jewish rabbis and Jewish synagogues.

Would you think that others regard you less a Jew when you call yourself Jewish? Or see you more as a human when you adjectivate yourself?

There is nothing uncouth about the word Jew. Get some pride and call yourself what everyone already thought you are, a Jew.

And correct others who call Jews Jewish.


Related: In proper Dutch spelling, the word for Jews (joden) for years, was not to be capitalized, just like the word for Roma (Gypsies) (zigeuners), supposedly because their names were not rooted in geographical names. It could say: Romeinen, Franken, Friezen, Grieken en joden, and no one blinked. It took many years before Dutch linguists admitted that this smells of racism and got a new system approved.

Now all Peoples’ names in proper Dutch are written with a capital.

But in the language of the Netherlands, religious adjective are not capitalized: de christelijke, protestante, katholieke, islamitische en joodse religie (you got that – that was not so hard).

So now, when identifying the People, the adjective is spelled Joods, but when referring to the oldest monotheistic religion, Jewish as a religious and not a national adjective, it must be written joods. So we must spell “joodse les” (a lesson in Judaism) but “Joodse indentiteit.”

But then, should it be a Joodse sjabbat or a joodse sjabbat? Is the Day of Rest religious or does it belong to the People of Israel?

Also, now we can see how christenen en Joden work together to stop anti-Semitism. Too often we hear anti-Joodse woorden van moslims. Now, suddenly, Jews are capitalized when religious groups are not because Jews are often a Nation and other religious groups aren’t.

Complicated as this may be, Dutch Jews often persist in writing about Jews as joden, not Joden. Not only is this now against the prescribing spelling rules, it also is shameful that Jews would (still) be the only People that doesn’t capitalize itself. Jewish Pride outside of Israel is scary.


However, I don’t blame the victim. I count on our Gentile allies to make things so safe for Jews everywhere so that we can call ourselves Jews and in Dutch can refer to ourselves as Joden, always.

And when Pride is too hard, at least we should show that we are fond of ourselves.

About the Author
The author is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (DES - Diethylstilbestrol), born in 1953 to two Holocaust survivors in The Netherlands, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a vegan for 8 years now. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. His fields of attention are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality), Medicine, Science, Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism), Oppression and Liberation (of young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQI, foreigners, and anyone else who's dehumanized and exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation) and Veganism. Many of his posts will relate to current affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or to new insights that suddenly befell him. He always tries to bring something original and to avoid boring you or wasting your time with the obvious. To send a personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click on Contact Me.
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