Time to reclaim our true identity

We’ve heard it over and over, time and time again: Jews are just a religion. Well people who say this have a point. However, we are also right when we say the religious part of being Jewish (a.k.a. Judaism) is just one part of a bigger culture

Just like Hinduism is a part of Indian culture. Like Shinto is a part of Japanese culture. Like Buddhism is a part of several Asian cultures. Like Islam is a part of Arab culture.

Judaism is a part of Hebrew culture. Why did I say Hebrew? Because the Hebrew language is the language of the people commonly known as the Jews. The Jews have their own language. And a large part of ethnic identity is language, Yet, the Jewish people are the only ethnic group with a distinct language who are named after their religion rather than their language. The Japanese are named after their language. Same with the Italians, French, Koreans, Arabs, etc. In fact, out of all the ethnic groups in this list, the only people with their own distinct language not named after that language, are the Jews. The word “Jew” is derived from the region of Judah, which is a Hebrew word.

In fact, in some languages, such as Armenian, Greek, Italian, Kurdish, and Romanian (Note that these languages originate not far from Israel), among others, the native word for “Hebrews” is used instead of “Jews” to refer to the Jewish people. The Bible begins by talking about the Hebrews or Israelites. Jews only begin to be mentioned later in the Bible. The first time the word “Jew” is mentioned in the Bible is in 2 Kings 16:6.

Judaism is to the Hebrew people like Shinto is to the Japanese people. Are all Japanese people Shinto? Of course not. However, when the word “Jewish” is used to refer to us, it implies we are all religious. However, a 2012 study found only 38% of Jews worldwide consider themselves religious.

Why is it important that we reclaim the term “Hebrew people”? Because the anti-Israel brigade loves to use the argument that because we are a religious community, we are not entitled to self-determination. However, if Italians, Koreans, Germans, Danes, and many other ethnic groups with distinct languages can have their own state, why can’t the Hebrews? If there can be more than 20 Arabic-speaking countries, a Japanese speaking country, a Swedish-speaking country, an Icelandic speaking country, among others, why can’t there be a Hebrew speaking country?

About the Author
Cliff, a recent college grad, lives in the NYC borough of Queens. Raised in a reform Jewish household, he now considers himself a secularist Jew who unequivocally support Israel's right to exist and defend itself against its sworn enemies.
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