"Why would you use the term "Jew" in your signage?" I thought, surely he understood we were actually Jewish people and had come to believe in Jesus as our Messiah. Right? So the question surprised me. I tilted my head a little and answered, "Because we are Jews, I guess." That should have satisfied him.
But his response was jarring.
"The word 'Jew' means 'miser', so why would you want to use that word in your name?"
Wow, I don't know that I'd ever heard that. 'Jew' of course doesn't mean that at all, but where he had been raised, and the thought had apparently never been successfully challenged, 'Jew' meant a Shylock, a miser, a tightwad. And any good Christian would never name themselves with such an appellation.
Rabbi Doniel Baron wrote about this very thing a couple days ago. My friend Phil sent it to me.
"We are a nation of many names: Israel, Jacob, Ephraim, to name a few. Why does it seem that the name "Jew" sticks the most? What does the name mean?
The words Jew (Yehudi in Hebrew) and Judaism (Yahadut) come from the name Judah, or Yehuda as it is pronounced in Hebrew. Yehuda was one the 12 tribes that descended from our forefather Yaakov. Understanding who Yehuda was and what he represented provides us with the key to comprehending the name Jew and understanding who we really are.
The word Yehuda comes from the Hebrew word lehodot, which means to thank. Indeed, upon his birth, Leah, Yehuda's mother, exclaimed "hapaam odeh et Hashem," this time I thank God. Feelings of gratitude characterized Yehuda's birth. The commonly used word todah, meaning "thank you," stems from the same root.
Our Sages taught that a person's name is given by his parents in a moment of Divinely inspired insight, and a name describes something about the person who bears it."
Now being a thankful people is not something which has always characterized the Jewish people.
Isaiah said it four times, Jeremiah once, Daniel twice, Ezra and Nehemiah once each, but David was the man who thanked God the most and who called us as Israel to 'give thanks to the Lord' more than anyone else.
Why would we use the term "Jew" of ourselves? Because we are Jewish people, who read the same Scriptures as other Jews, who want to learn of them, who want to live thankful to the Lord, and who want to call others to the same thankfulness. We are not cheap about that; we give of ourselves to that goal daily.
Would you use the term if you could?