Jewish Journal


August 19, 2008

The end of the goys



There is a once-again-popular practice among some Christians of celebrating Passover. I wrote about this two years, and in discussing a Christian Seder, I included this paragraph:

The Seder began with the “mother” of each table lighting a candle that represents the spiritual joy of God’s promise to the Israelites. Monsignor Peter Nugent explained to the goys what each object on the Seder plate represented - the bitter herbs of slavery, the nuts and apples of hard work, the unleavened bread of people on the run, among other items.

Buried right there in the middle of that segment was what attracted one really angry email. Did I not realize, one reader wanted to know, how offensive the term “goy” is to Christians? He obviously did not realize that plenty of people call me a goy.

But that brings up a bigger issue, which I began thinking about two weeks ago when this comment was left in a post about Barack Obama’s secret life as a Shabbos Goy. Rabbi Kerry Olitzky commented:

It is time to stop the use of such language that excludes and offends. With the growing number of those from different religious backgrounds now part of the Jewish community, the term “goy” needs to be excluded from our vocabulary. No more need be said.

Is it? What is so profane about referring to the non-Jews as goyim? Sure, it is an us/them designation, and in certain connotations it can be quite the pejorative, but it’s not like this word. If goyim is a no go, what about alter cocker, which is about as ageist as goy is exclusionary?

(The above headline is a reference to a plethora of books on my shelves that include the words “end” and “Jews” in their titles.)

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