This weekend I was walking through downtown Toronto with a close non-Jewish friend.
While we were walking through Yonge-Dundas Square, a large square where various people and many proselytizers congregate, we heard a group of Christians singing some gospel tunes. We stopped and listened for a bit, but then they shifted into singing some song that repeated “ado[shem] elo[k]im”, but using the names we reserve for prayer. I told my friend “Oh no, that crosses the line,” and began to walk away.
My friend is pretty well versed in Judaism for a non-Jew. He has joined me for my pesach seder and some Shabbats and hannukah and has a pretty good eye for anti-Jewish bigotry. He’s an atheist, but isn’t militant about it. He could not understand why it bothered me. I tried to explain that it was appropriation, and that these words are sacred to us and should not be used lightly by people who aren’t Jewish.
My friend pointed out that they aren’t using them lightly–they are praying. And that Christianity already appropriated so much from Judaism, why does this cross the line?
I was stuck; those were good points. But nevertheless it felt off-side to me.
What do you think? Would hearing Christians sing those words be as offensive to your ears as they were to mine? How would you explain this to your non-Jewish friend who doesn’t “get it”? Or do you agree with my friend?