The ‘s’ word

The ‘s’ word

I am writing in regard to your Oct. 24 article about the “‘Schlep’ to Florida,” discussing anti-Obama sentiment among many Jewish retirees in Florida.

I am aware that “shvartse” is the literal translation of the word “black” in Yiddish. In our time, the word has come to have the same reprehensible connotation that the infamous “n word” has in English, and its use is likewise despicable. I was therefore taken aback that your newspaper chose to use that term, even if it only appeared in a quote. The elderly retiree, Fred Wolff, who was quoted, indicated that he really would have preferred to use the term “shvartse.” The term is thickly laden with bigotry, especially when used by Jewish people of a certain age. Their meaning is quite clear to all of us. When Mr. Wolff, who was himself a victim of blind anti-Semitic prejudice 65 years ago, chooses to rant against those “shvartses … hiding in the bushes,” he embarrasses not only himself, but the Jewish community at large. Mr. Wolff’s biased language is appropriate at a Klan rally and does not belong in The Jewish Standard.

Don’t you think that it’s about time that the Jewish community got rid of the “s” word, just as the rest of society has made an effort to get rid of the “n” word?

The editor responds: We were as shocked as this reader at the use of the word, but felt it is important to remind our readers that this kind of feeling and the ugly words that express it still exist.

By the way, another reader left a comment on our Website (we quote it here, in part) about Wolff’s language: “I felt very sad when I read about Fred Wolff…. It was incomprehensible to me how a Holocaust survivor could go through such horror and make a decision about another person based on the color of his skin. You would think that a victim of such extreme prejudice would have come through that horrible experience with some insights into the effects of hate and racial stereotyping.”