17 June 2012

A Reflection on My Use of the Term "Jewish"

Considering my usage of "Jewish" as that relating to Judaism
For some reason, the question arose recently on my mind regarding how people use the term "Jewish" and to what it refers.  With a quick online search, a common and simple definition, such as that offered by Dictionary.com appears: "of, pertaining to, or characteristic of the Jews or Judaism". 
      For some reason, "Jewish" to me is that relating to or deriving from Judaism.  That sounds simple enough, except that would exclude, for instance, social history of Jews, which I would not describe as Jewish social history.  Thus, following this line of nomenclature, books that are part of Judaism are Jewish books, but books generally written by Jews are not inherently Jewish books. 
      I imagine this line of thinking has been in my mind since my time both in Ohr Somayach and Yeshiva University, although this doesn't diminish its truth to me in my use of such parlance when it comes to employing the term "Jewish".  Perhaps a term could be used - that isn't the term "Jewish" - when it comes to [my] describing that which is related or coming from Jews (e.g. cultural creations of Jews or demographics of Jews), so I am open to hearing suggestions.

4 comments:

Steven Radcliffe said...

This seems to work well if you use it to describe someone's behavior as Jewish or not Jewish, but is there a possibility that some Jews are not Jewish according to your understanding of the word ? I think it is a good idea to try to define the use of this word, even if you always have to do it at the beginning of any discussion . It would probably help people's understanding of whatever you have to say .
Steve Racliffe (old acquaintance)

Drew_Kaplan said...

Steve,
Yes, it's certainly possibly that some Jews are not living Jewishly [according to my understanding of the term], but I am not bothered by that.
As to a clarification of terms at the outset of a conversation, you're right - that could be very helpful in getting on the same semantic page :)

Steven Radcliffe said...

I am glad to have a little contact with you again.

Drew_Kaplan said...

:)