December 10, 2018

My Name Is Jew, and I Want My Name Back

Mourners react during a memorial service at the Sailors and Soldiers Memorial Hall of the University of Pittsburgh, a day after 11 worshippers were shot dead at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

My name is “Jew.” My name is smoothed by centuries of storms, polished by the rolling river of time. My name is a diamond, born of friction and pressure, thrust to the surface by fiery lava, precious, multi-faceted. My name is “Jew” and my name is the philosopher’s stone, turning base metals into gold, turning all that is mundane in this world and infusing it with meaning, turning it into the shining substance of the sacred.

My name is “Jew” and my name turns the animal of man, his brutality, his beastliness, into beauty and righteousness, elevating him above his dust and his dross.

“Jew” is the stamp on the greatest love-letter ever written, from Creator to created, the love-letter in which we are given the Ten Commandments, the ethical guideposts of civilizations, the love-letter that proclaimed that every person is made in the Image of God, b’Tzelem Elohim, that every living vessel, whether broken or whole, is infused worthiness, casting down cast systems, a love-letter that told the story of all humanity descending from one couple, that we are one family, no one superior to another, a love-letter that illustrated the redemption of a slave people into a nation of priests, a people whose babies had been drowned in the river, a people beaten and in rags, restored to dignity, a thread of royal blue tied to the corner of their garments, a reminder of each individual’s inherent nobility.

Dear humankind, Here is Shabbat, the world’s greatest religious gift, a day upon which the flower and the gardener stand as equals to one another, day of peace, of rest, of family, of vision of a future world. Enjoy. Sincerely, Jews.

Dear humankind, I have put My rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between [God] and the world. Sincerely, Jews.

Dear humankind, Love your neighbor as yourself. Sincerely, Jews.

Dear humankind, Welcome the stranger in your midst. Sincerely, Jews.

Dear humankind, Let my people go. Sincerely, Jews.

Dear humankind, Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. Sincerely, Jews.

Dear humankind, Proclaim liberty throughout all the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof. Love, Jews.

I want my name back.

Jew means “championing what is arguably the single most revolutionary concept in human civilization, monotheism.” One God. A universal moral code of conduct.

Jew means having partnership with the Divine for the repair of our broken world. Tikkun Olam.

Jew means helping the other is my responsibility during my lifetime. Jew means confessing my shortcomings and striving to better myself.

I want my name back. My name is “Jew.”


Rabbi Zoë Klein Miles is the senior rabbi at Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles.