Earlier this year, I went on NPR’s “On the Media” to speak out for a term that has oddly fallen out of favor in our public discourse: Jew. When the president, say, wishes believers a happy Easter, he speaks of and to America’s Christians. But Passover? That mazal tov goes out to the “Jewish people”—they get the noun, we only get the adjective. I understand why: Stand behind someone in line at the supermarket, for example, and hear them speak of someone else as “a real Christian,” and you’d likely imagine an upright and morally excellent human. But if the person in front of you says someone else is “a real Jew,” you may get uncomfortable and suspect anti-Semitism may be at play. Still, I argued, it was time for us to reclaim the simplest and best word to describe us. It was time to take back “Jew.”
And then came Kayla Moore, the wife of Alabama’s controversial Senate hopeful Roy Moore, addressing a rally and talking about having Jewish friends and about one of her lawyers being “a Jew.” And I confess, it made me feel uncomfortable. I went back on “On the Media” this week to talk about Jew, Jewish, Moore, and other pressing questions. Take a listen:
Mark Oppenheimer is a Senior Editor at Tablet. He hosts the podcast Unorthodox. He has contributed to Slate and Mother Jones, among many other publications. He is the author, most recently, of Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood. He will be hosting a discussion forum about this article on his newsletter, where you can subscribe for free and submit comments.