“I Am Jewish” | Facing History & Ourselves

“I Am Jewish”

Journalist Thomas Friedman reflects on his identity as he responds to the phrase "I Am Jewish."
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At a Glance

reading copy


English — US


  • Social Studies
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement

Thomas Friedman was asked what the phrase “I am Jewish” means to him. His response:


For me, the phrase “I am Jewish” means . . . a very important part of my identity, but not the only part of my identity. I see myself as an American, a journalist, a New York Times columnist, a husband, a father, a man of the world, a Jew. The last is by no means the least. My faith defines not only the pathway I choose to connect with God, but also, just as important, a big part of my cultural and communal root system. Being Jewish is a big part of my olive tree, the thing that anchors me in the world. But it is not the only root. Because being an American is also very much part of my olive tree. “American Jew,” “Jewish American,” “American Jewish writer for the New York Times,” it doesn’t matter how you put it. They all capture me, and they are all important. They all locate where I’ve been and where I’m going. 1

  • 1Thomas Friedman, “A Very Important Unit of My Identity,” in I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl, ed. Judea and Ruth Pearl (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 2004), 39.

How to Cite This Reading

Facing History & Ourselves, “'I Am Jewish,'” last updated February 21, 2018. 

This reading contains text not authored by Facing History & Ourselves. See footnotes for source information.

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