I am certain that all of us recall the days when our parents and grandparents would ponder every historical event, no matter how trivial, with but a single question: "Is it good for the Jews?" Most things weren't. Now, at a time, perhaps, when we should be raising that question anew, we are so comfortable in our own Jewish skin that we don't.
I was pondering this weighty question, however, when I read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle in June 2007. On a trip to San Francisco, I read a secondary headline in a local news story: "Jew Manipulates Funds, Accused of Theft." My G-d, I thought, is this how newspapers are referring to our People? (Then, one week later -- "Mayor Urged to Consider Ousting Jew.") This can't be good for the Jews. Then I read the story itself. It seems that an Asian-American San Francisco Councilman, Eddie Jew (probably not a MOT) stood accused of misappropriating City funds.
Sorry, Eddie, but I have to admit to some relief. In this age of political rectitude, I began to question the headline writers at the Chronicle. Were they just "having a little fun?" Were they negligent? Were they willful? (By Summer 2007, all Chronicle references were to "Eddie Jew.")
Is there something inherently wrong when a Jewish person is referred to as "Jew?" Or, has the acceptable only been what we call ourselves? From my own experiences over time, from Don Rickles to Woody Allen to Larry David, with all sorts in between, we have never hesitated to make fun of ourselves -- except, of course, when we were making fun of others. Telushkin's collected works contain example after example of self-deprecating humor. But, we have always been sensitive to "others" making fun of us -- perhaps because we know "where that could lead. How critical to our sense of comfort are our self-censorship and the rights of free speech guaranteed us in the United States.