HEBREWS: ISRAELITES: JEWS
Different words must have different meanings, hence the terms Hebrews, Israelites, Jews cannot rightly be used interchangeably. Holy writ and history give the following origin and use of the terms.
Hebrew (Eber) meant originally a stranger, a foreigner. The first person so designated in Holy Writ (Gen. 14:13) was Abraham (forefather of the Israelites, who was not a Jew) because he was a foreigner in Canaan, who had come from the other side of "the great river," Euphrates. The name was later given to "the language of Canaan" (Isa. 19:18), and was applied to "Jews" who spoke the "holy language" in contrast to the Hellenic "Jews," who spoke the Greek language only.
Israelites: The term Israelites stems from Jacob, the son of Isaac, whose name God changed to Israel (Exod. 3:15). The name Israel was given at a later date to the ten northern tribes that have disappeared (1 Kings 2:28-30).
Jews: The first record of the term Jews in the Old Testament is in 4 Kings 25:25, wherein it is applied to the people of Judah, among whom it no doubt originated. It is related to a worshipper of the One True God for the first time in the Book of Esther (2:5). That was about a thousand years after Moses became the father of the religion called Judaism, through God's revelation to him of the ceremonial law on Mount Sinai, about 250 years after Jacob's name was changed to Israel.
Historically, until the advent of modernism in Jewry, the term Jews was universally applied to believers and worshippers of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob according to the Mosaic Law. The term Israelites applied to the descendants of Jacob, and to their nationality. The term Hebrew was applied to the holy language of the Jews. St. Paul understood the term Jew to apply to a person who is a Mosaist in spirit, for he said "He is not a Jew who is so outwardly; nor is that circumcision which is so outwardly in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is so inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart in the spirit, not in the letter" (Rom. 2:28-30). SO LONG AS DOCTRINAL DIVISIONS IN JEWRY CONTINUE TO EXIST, SUCH A THING AS TERMINOLOGICAL EXACTNESS IS IMPOSSIBLE. HENCE
THE WORLD WILL CONTINUE CONFUSINGLY TO USE THE TERMS HEBREWS, ISRAELITES, JEWS INTERCHANGEABLY.
Poor Sisters, they do have their troubles! One of them, we don't recall whether it was while she was stationed in Kansas City or the Bronx, employed a Jewish boy to help her take care of the chapel, with trying results, as the boy knew not the sacredness of the things in the chapel. So, while giving him instructions, the Sister said: "Jacob, you must not wash your hands in the holy water font. You must not stack your brooms and mops in the confessional; and, for mercy's sake, stop calling me Mother Shapiro."