web analytics
August 1, 2015 / 16 Av, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Time To Retire A Derogatory Term

      The other day I met a young Orthodox Jew who approached me in Manhattan to say hello. We talked about the state of Jewry and of Israel, and I gained considerable respect for his intellect and his insight.
 
      Then I asked him where he had grown up, and he told me, “In a really tough neighborhood in Brooklyn, where there is a lot of tension between the Jews and the shvartzas.” The comment broke my heart and my impression of him plummeted.
 
      A friend with whom I discussed the incident told me that I judged the young man too harshly, that he might have meant nothing by it, and that it was just an expression to which he had been acclimated. He asked that, rather than judge this student, I lend him the benefit of the doubt and attempt instead to educate him as to why the term ought never be used.
 
      I wrote a column last year about how the word “shvartza” must be retired forever (“The ‘S’ Word Has No Place In a Religious Jew’s Vocabulary,” op-ed, Feb. 2, 2007). It is an insulting, offensive, and derogatory term that has no place in the mouths of people committed to ethics. And since we Jews have a faith that demands the highest moral standards, it simply can never be part of our lexicon.
 
      In the wake of that column, I was surprised to find that a number of people – religious and secular alike – wrote that I was exaggerating. Shvartza, they said, was an innocent and benign term that simply meant “black person.”
 
      It doesn’t. It’s a pejorative, a term with a distinctly condescending connotation. My purpose in addressing this issue again is not to sound holier-than-thou or to be self-righteous. But when I hear the term, I feel pain. Pain that we Jews who have suffered so much persecution can be so callous as to speak condescendingly, however unintentionally, of other human beings. And pain that we religious Jews in particular can so betray our core values by inadvertently coming across as bigots.
 
      I once found myself in a polite argument with a fellow Orthodox Jew after I had politely shared with him why the term shvartza is offensive. “It’s OK for you to criticize, Shmuley,” he said, “because you don’t live in a neighborhood where you have to be afraid to walk the streets or where your car gets vandalized every night. We don’t mean anything bad with the term, but we are the victims here.”
 
      But why must an entire population be criminalized because of the sins of a few? And isn’t blaming an entire community not only racist but exactly the tactic used against Jews by the worst anti-Semites? How many Jew-haters harp on a few high profile white-collar criminals who are Jewish to reinforce anti-Semitic stereotypes?
 

      Jews are called by the Torah to be a light unto the nations, and it is religious Jews in particular, who live lives openly committed to Jewish ritual and values, upon whom this responsibility first devolves. But what light is it that we impart when we use a term that betrays the Torah’s most sacred value – that there is only one God in heaven who created every human being in His likeness?

 
      Just think how people who are unfamiliar with Jews must react when they hear any of us using an unpleasant expression about a fellow human being.
 
      We Jews, a righteous and generous people, whose Torah calls us to the mighty ideal of loving our neighbor as ourselves, must never speak of another person contemptuously. How much more so that Orthodox Jews in particular, who are renowned the world over for their charity, humility, and loving-kindness, must be extra vigilant never to offer even a hint of discriminatory language.
 
      Presidential hopeful Barack Obama has expressed the need for America to transcend red state and blue state divisiveness and come together for shared national purpose. But his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, has given speeches that places rifts over reconciliation and generates heat rather than healing. The same is true of Louis Farrakhan, whom Rev. Wright has praised, even though he is guilty of hate speech against Jews and Judaism.
 
      Our moral authority to condemn such insensitive and inflammatory rhetoric is dependent upon us being utterly different in thought, speech, and action.
 

      Who better than Jews and blacks know what is to suffer? And who better than Jews and blacks know that there can be no tolerance for intolerance? And who better than Jews and blacks need to come together to battle bigotry, defeat discrimination, and generate goodwill among all mankind?

 

      Rabbi Shmuley Boteach hosts a daily national radio show on “Oprah and Friends” and is the author most recently of “The Broken American Male.” Visit his website at  www.shmuley.com.

About the Author: Shmuley Boteach, whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the founder of The World Values Network and the international bestselling author of 30 books, including “The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Time To Retire A Derogatory Term”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Matt Lee of the Associated Press at the State Department press briefing.
ObameDeal Exposed: It’s not ‘Secret’ from Congress but not in Writing
Latest Indepth Stories
Silhouette of "hilltop settler."

“Yesha” and Binyamin Regional Council leaders said the attack “is not the path of Jews in Judea and Samaria.”

Schwartz-073115

The occasion? The rarely performed mitzvah of pidyon peter chamor: Redemption of a firstborn donkey.

Rabbi YY Rubinstein

American leftists have a pathological self-inflicted blindness to the dangers of political Islam

Tobin-073115

Hillary should THANK Trump; By dominating the news he’s overshadowed the implosion of her campaign

Hard to remember when Jewish youth were so hostile to their heritage as they are on campuses today.

Names of the enablers of Iran’s Nuclear weapons will be added next to Hitler’s on the list of infamy

By most accounts, the one person with the political muscle to swing enough Democratic votes to override a veto is Sen. Schumer.

The next day, in a speech in New York to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Kerry substantially upped the ante.

In Israel, the judiciary has established itself as superior to ALL other branches of the government.

The Fifteenth Day of the month of Av became a day of national rejoicing. The moment that had seemed hopeless became the moment of Redemption.

I think the melodies in our religious services have a haunting sound to them that just permeates your guts and gets into your soul. If you have any musical inclination, I think they inspire you to compose.

Cavalier analogies to the Holocaust are unacceptable, but Huckabee’s analogy was very appropriate.

Pollard was a Jewish-head-on-a-pike for all American Jews to see and to learn the explicit lesson.

If the Iran deal passes, Obama’s WH becomes world’s leading financier of terrorism against Americans

More Articles from Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Now is not the time to lay down our arms; it is the time to fight back against Israel’s demonization

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meet in the Kremlin, Nov. 20, 2013.

On the one hand, Putin has been a friend to Chabad and to Israel. On the other hand, Putin is a brutal dictator.

The gradual trickle of self-hatred into the Jewish soul is evidencing itself in the American Jewish public.

Rabbi Schochet wrote the Johannesburg Beis Din: It is totally prohibited and unacceptable to hear someone like Boteach.

If you’re feeling down, stop reading right now. You’re only going to be more depressed.

The world and the United State continue to give Rouhani a pass.

American Jews – especially those working on campus – don’t accept that we have a battle on our hands.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/time-to-retire-a-derogatory-term/2008/05/14/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: