I just edited an answer that had the word "goyish" and replaced it with the word non Jew. I did it because I feel with deep conviction that goy and goyish are actual racist terms. I also feel some regret editing it because there isn't a policy on such words and so I stepped out of bounds by making that edit.

So I want to get the conversation started on words that have a legitimate critique of being racist, especially with racial tensions being what they are in the US right now. The question is whether terms like "goy, goyish, goyim" should be labeled as racist terms and possibly not allowed on our forum. As someone who was raised in a nonreligious Jewish family from the Middle East, I never grew up hearing the word goy, or goyim in any context. When I went to college and met other Jews this word popped up very soon and very regularly, and I immediately became uncomfortable with its usage then and to this day. My issue with this word and the possibility of it being racist was summed up nicely in this article.

“As a Jew married to a Jew by choice, I definitely see goy as a slur — seldom used as a compliment, and never used in the presence of a non-Jew,” wrote Nahma Nadich, the deputy director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. “That’s a good litmus test: if you wouldn’t use a word in the presence of someone you’re describing, good chance it’s offensive.”

Here are some contexts I have personally heard goy used: "Sure she has a boyfriend, but he's a goy so I can ask her out." "Never trust that to a goy." "A goy just can't understand the idea of worshipping Hashem." All of these remarks were made in a group where it was assumed everyone was Jewish, and like the article points out, I can't imagine anyone make such a comment if there was a non-Jew who was part of the conversation.

The article goes on to make other points that are more specifically based in Yiddish. But it's worth discussing as well.

.... the word “goy” has too much historical and linguistic baggage to be used as casually as “non-Jew” or “gentile.” It starts with the obvious slurs – like “goyishe kopf,” or gentile brains, which suggests (generously) a dullard, or “shikker iz a goy,” a gentile is a drunkard. “Goyishe naches” describes the kinds of things that a Jew mockingly presumes only a gentile would enjoy, like hunting, sailing and eating white bread.

But even in its plain sense the word is a weapon in what the Yiddishist Michael Wex calls the “vocabulary of exclusion.” “Differences between yidish and goyish, sacred and profane, proper and improper, are built into the structure of the language,” he writes, using “yidish” to mean Jewish.

So I thought I'd open up this topic for discussion and the eventual downvotes.

  • While goy isn't inherently racist, it's become used as a derogatory term, so I could see value on not using it.
    – robev
    Aug 13 '20 at 21:05
  • I had a math teacher who regularly referred to herself as a Goyim [sic].
    – Double AA Mod
    Aug 13 '20 at 21:56
  • (...not that I have a clue what it means for a word to be racist)
    – Double AA Mod
    Aug 13 '20 at 21:58
  • @DoubleAA I see that my question was marked as a duplicate which is fair. But having looked at the original question I don't understand what conclusion or policy was made?
    – Aaron
    Aug 13 '20 at 22:24
  • @Aaron when I first saw your question here it was already closed. My impression is the standing policy has roughly been in accordance with msh's answer there
    – Double AA Mod
    Aug 13 '20 at 22:26
  • @DoubleAA Well a simple search shows answers with goyim used judaism.stackexchange.com/search?q=goyim and no one editing out the term. So is the policy not enforced? Are users "just encouraged" not to use this word by having to search for the original meta post and msh's answer there?
    – Aaron
    Aug 13 '20 at 22:34
  • 1
    @Aaron, If your opinion regarding what site policy should be isn't reflected in one of the existing answers there (or indeed in current practice), you're welcome to write one. I tend to edit posts that use the term "goy" when I see them, but clearly, no one's doing a regular censorship sweep. If you're going to write an answer, I recommend emphasizing clarity, convincingness, and concision.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Aug 13 '20 at 22:38
  • @IsaacMoses I'm a bit confused by your comment. Are you saying I can write an answer that doesn't use the term goy? Or I can write a policy that will be posted somewhere?
    – Aaron
    Aug 13 '20 at 22:52
  • 1
    @Aaron. Sorry for being unclear. I mean, you can write an answer to the question that this post is a duplicate of, expressing a new policy recommendation, if you see fit. It seems that we don't have a very clear community consensus regarding this issue yet, and perhaps a convincing answer would generate one. In the mean time, given the state of the answers and voting to date, I think it's reasonable to improve posts when you see them by replacing the word "goy."
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Aug 13 '20 at 23:00
  • 2
    Forget whether it's racist or not, in general we like to use English words whenever possible. Or is the word "goy" so ubiquitous that regular English speakers are expected to know it?
    – Alex
    Aug 16 '20 at 1:58
  • @Alex I think a lot of English speakers know goy and goyim and know it as a derogatory word. Just do a youtube search of goyim and see what you get :P
    – Aaron
    Aug 17 '20 at 20:42

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