May 24, 2019

Is "Goy" a Slur?

“JTA — My seders, like most, drew to a close with the annual cringe-fest known as “Sh’foch Hamatcha,” in which everyone stands up and urges the Almighty to “Pour out Your fury on the nations [goyim] that do not know You.” The section is a justifiable reflection of historic Jewish anger and wishful thinking, especially during the Middle Ages, when the biblical verse was added to the Haggadah. But PC it is not.

The word “goyim” sits there like a stray bone in the homemade gefilte fish, inevitable and undigestible. In this case the word means nothing other than “nation,” counting the Jews as one among many “goyim” out there. But the verse plants the seeds for how we’ve come to think of “goy” and “goyim”: as designations for any individual or collective who simply are Not Us.

But is “goy” necessarily disparaging? I saw the point being debated on Twitter last week. The writer Ariel Sobel insisted in a tweet, “Goy isn’t a slur. If you think it is, you are a goy.””

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