We Should All Be Proud

By Wendy Belzberg

Published August 01, 2003, issue of August 01, 2003.

Yes, I am a Jew, but why am I not called a Hebrew? In Israel, they speak, write and read Hebrew. In the Bible, our forefathers were Hebrews. Why aren’t we called Hebrew-Americans?

— A Hebrew at heart

According to Rabbi Harlan Wechsler of Manhattan’s Congregation Or Zarua, though the Bible on occasion refers to the Jews as Hebrews, more frequently they are referred to as “B’nai Yisrael,” Children of Israel. This is a specific reference to Jacob, also known as Israel, whose sons constituted the tribes who were central to the organization of people that became known as B’nai Yisrael.

The name “Jews” comes from Judaism; that comes from Judah, the son of Jacob, whose tribe came to inhabit the southern area of habitation of the tribes in the Land of Israel. After the Assyrian conquest of the northern tribes, Judah constituted the largest area of Jewish habitation. Its name therefore lent itself to an entire people. The term “Jew” summarizes in one word the life, literature, faith and identity of a people for almost 4,000 years. An identity and a label of which we should all be proud.

* * *

After a recent dinner, my girlfriend confided in me that she and her husband are having a hard time. She told me that her husband would like to be with someone who treats him with kindness and respect. She claims that she does this. But having watched her in action, I have to admit I’m on his side. Do I tell her?

— Truth be told?

Yes. You may choose to do so tactfully, boldly, diplomatically or bluntly. But tell her you must, for the sake of her marriage and for the honesty of your friendship. If she cannot hear your message, you will have an even clearer insight into the impasse in the marriage. Your friend may or may not be less defensive when hearing her husband’s concerns voiced by you. She may be grateful to you for your candor — or she may choose to shoot the messenger. Either way, there is too much at stake to pay lip service to bad behavior.

Write to “Ask Wendy” at 954 Lexington Avenue #189, New York, N.Y. 10021 or at wendy@forward.com.



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