Blatant Racism and Judgmentalism

Every store I went to today (other than the Jewish ones (and that’s a rant in and of itself)) had signs saying they accept donations for Haiti. In Canada the Canadian government is matching every donation dollar for dollar.

I am sick to my stomach and deeply ashamed of a fellow co-religionist. I was standing in line at the Walmart waiting to pay for my items, and chatting with the lady behind me, a member of the tribe. I don’t know her personally, but recognized her from “around”. When it was my turn to pay, I asked the cashier to please add a 10 dollar donation to the Red Cross to go to Haiti. The cashier thanked me very much. The MoT that was behind me came up to me and in a loud stage whisper said in a scathing tone “do you really want to give all your money to the schvartzers when there are Jews starving here at home?”

I was just so shocked and stunned that I couldn’t even think of an adequate retort. The racism shouldn’t really shock me. Unfortunately that’s something that many people in the community suffer from, and it sickens and saddens me. My children get their mouths washed out with soap if they ever say derogatory terms like that, for any ethnic group. By now, they know better. Unfortunately, a lot of their classmates do not. That being said, we are all Hashem’s creations. We are all God’s children. How dare someone say one person’s life is worth more than that of another? What ever happened to “whoever saves one life it’s as if he has saved the world?” Are people that close minded and tunnel-visioned that they don’t see this terrible Haitian disaster for what it really is – a colossal tragedy on an unimaginable scale? How can anyone judge another person for where and how they decide to give their charity? How does this woman know that I don’t support the local Jewish poor? How does she know anything about me? How can she fail to be moved by the human suffering over there? Fine, if she doesn’t want to donate, that’s totally her prerogative, but to criticize someone else?

I am beyond angry.

Please make a donation to the Canadian Red Cross, or your local aid organization. If you have any links to Jewish Organizations who are raising money, please email me or post them here in the comments.

Bookmark and Share

45 responses to “Blatant Racism and Judgmentalism

  1. I totally agree with you and am ashamed of Jewish racism.

  2. oy. terrible. unfortunately though there are like minded individuals i am sad to say they are the majority and normal rational sane human beings like your self though in good company are a shrinking minority. jews in this country have become exactly what would never have allowed us to thrive here in the first place.

  3. Someone like that is just downright miserable at the core

  4. its terrible, but doesn’t surprise me (unfortunately).

    Last year i volunteered to sell Challah at the JCC to raise money for solar cookers for people in Darfur ( People asked what the fundraising was for, and i explained. Many asked if they would be going specifically to Jewish families. When i said, its for any family that is need and as Jews, especially those who have suffered throughout the years, it is our duty to help those who suffer. Did they buy Challah? No. because it wasn’t for Jewish families.
    I was astonished. Fortunately, those who opened the hearts (and wallets) outnumbered those who walked away.

  5. Every community in the world has its racists. It is folly to believe otherwise.

    Often the act of being insular is part of the cause of such racism.

  6. its so terriebell and deadly news for me i am totally agree with you i feel the pain of the haiti i pray for all people who imjured with the haiti and i alas to all who died i am very upset to knew about haiti please i request to all pray for injured and died people and help the people of haiti

  7. Did you respond to this woman? If so, what did you say? And how did she react?

    • thank you for posting that link. Glad to see there are plenty of other Jews that are doing what they can to help.

  8. Lady Lock and Load

    Try to focus on the great kiddush Hashem that many Jews are supporting the people in Haiti. Israel set up the first functioning hospital post earthquake. They, the Israelis, delivered a baby, the mother, in gratitude, named her baby Israel.
    Maybe the woman is referring to “the poor of your city come first”. It was in poor taste for her to make this comment to you. Perhaps if you forgive her you will be zocheh to having your visas coming very soon.

    • it’s pure ignorance. I harbour no ill will towards her anymore, but unfortunately i know that there are many others like her out there. we need to counteract this kind of talk.

    • No, the woman was very likely a boorish, ignorant racist. I think Hadassah can recognize tone of voice when she hears it.

      And what the heck does forgiving this stupid woman (forgiving her for what exactly?) have to do with the visas? The visas are delayed by inordinate processing times in various USA offices and have nothing whatsoever to do with this.

  9. How stupid! I would have said something to the effect of “If it hadn’t been for those schwartzes, there might not be a State of Israel to speak of”…They were one of the few States to vote in favour of it in 1947…

  10. Do I really want to know what a schvatzer is?

    • Cam, this pains me to translate…literally it means black. it’s yiddish. The term has negative connotations, kinda like the way a KKK person might use the N word…

      • H, i don’t think though that the Yiddish S word is quite as offensive as when a KKK member says the N word b/c the S word is simply the Yiddish word for Black. i will admit though that it is generally not used favorably but not necessarily quite as hatefully as the N word IMO. i should add though that it is never used in my household by my husband, myself or any of our children b/c we try to be respectful & to treat others in the manner in which we would like to be treated.

        • I hesitated before I posted that because I knew many people would disagree. but, to me, it is just as bad and offensive.

          • It all depends on the speaker. If it’s an elderly person that speaks only Yiddish, then it’s an okay usage because there is no other way in Yiddish to say it. However when the younger folks use it with that derogatory tone behind it (like this stupid racist woman did) then it is totally unacceptable.

            • but Mark, many Chasidic individuals (of all ages) speak Yiddish as their primary language & they also will use the S word similar to the elderly man you described…truth is the terminology “African American” is simply not the vernacular in most Chassidic & Yeshivish households-that is just the way it is & has been for many years. Perhaps in more MO households the S word would not be as prevalent i would imagine.

              • if we had been conversing in yiddish i might not have been offended….but there is no excuse for a person of our generation for whom English is their conversing language to use such a word.

                • but, unfortunately it is the sad reality that many in the Yeshivish & Chasidic communities use the S word to describe black people & the terminology “African American” is just not commonplace in these communities even while conversing in English, annoying though that it may be :(. I will say that if you & i were discussing the situation in Haiti, i guarantee that you would not hear me use the S word & i as a fellow Orthodox woman would congratulate you for your generosity in helping to make a difference in the lives of the Haitians. In fact, last shabbos, the Rabbi of my shul/synagogue stressed the importance of our community’s obligation to contribute financially to the rescue efforts & NOT specifically for the sake of making a Kiddush Hashem (sanctifying G-d’s name) but just b/c it is our obligation to help people who have suffered such incomprehensible losses & devastation.

              • Batya, when it is used as a German or Yiddish word, in normal conversation in those languages, it is fine. But when it is sprinkled into English conversation and said with that oh so common derogatory tone, it is as bad as the word “nigger”. I grew up in Boro Park, so I know all about it.

        • I think if you were to ask a Jew of color what they thought about that word, they’d tell you that it is just as bad as the “N” word, and they’d be right. Seriously. It’s a horrible word. There’s no sugarcoating it.

        • Batya,

          Unfortunately, even though “schvartzer” literally means “black” or a “black man” in Yiddish, the implication is the same as the N-word. For the record, the Hebrew word “shochor” in that context is equally offensive. (I honestly did not know what the “shochors” were until I suddenly recognized the context.) I even hate it when blacks themselves use the N-word. I remember an episode of “L.A. Law” where Mario Van Peebles played a freshman lawyer who was to be terminated by the firm. He used the term “house n—–,” and Richard Dysart’s character (the head partner) said to him, “I won’t tolerate this being said about you and I won’t tolerate this being said by you!” I also seem to remember that Rabbi Shmuley Boteach had a column about the use of “schvartzer” some time ago.

          Even though we as Jews may be in the habit of using certain Yiddish terms, we should realize that the intention is often to demean the people we are describing and we should clean up our act.

          • sheldan & mark, please let me reiterate that i don’t condone the use of the S word & i NEVER use it. i’m just commenting about those who do & yes, i agree, it often is used with negative connotations. my point was that i don’t think it was AS offensive as the N word but anyone who disagrees is welcome to do so-it’s a free country :)!

            all i can do, is ensure that my family unit knows that it is unacceptable to use the S word but i don’t think i can educate the entire Ultra-Orthodox world-it’s just not possible. all i can do, is start with my own family unit as my father did with me.

            • Batya,

              Please don’t think that I believe that you condone the use of the “S-word.” You are correct that many in the “ultra-Orthodox” world and some who are not use that word, and it may be true that, since they may not speak English, they revert to Yiddish and they don’t intend to be racist, but nevertheless this is a habit we should all break.

    • Thanks for the translation.

      I don’t know if this is a comfort or not, but there are idiots in every group, ethnic or otherwise. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true.

      There are plenty of efforts going on in the GTA amongst the Jewish community. They’re loud and proud. Hopefully their activities and the ones in Montreal will make this woman hang her head in shame.

      You lead by example, love and you’re doing a great job.

  11. The OU has got a donation site set up:

    If the direct link doesn’t work, there’s a prominent link off of the main site,

  12. Lady Lock and Load

    One time my hubby was taken by ambulance to the hospital on friday night….he was in agony and they told us he had a kidney stone. We spent the whole night at the hospital and they discharged him very early shabbos morning. Of course we had nowhere to go and my hubby was still not feeling great and was very queasy from the pain meds. The doc, seeing we were Sabbath observers, called a haitian car service, La familia, and they took us home and said no problem, we’ll come later for the money. It seems they provide this service for the Jews here all the time, coming back for payment after shabbos (which means added trips for them). It is very sad what is going on over in Haiti and Orthodox and Hassidic people have responded with their support.

  13. H, you’ve no doubt noticed all of the video links i’ve posted on my fb status that LLL referred to such as the little Haitian baby named Israel who was born in a make-shift operating room & all of the absolutely astounding work that was done by the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) to help rescue the people of Haiti. i think that among every group of ppl. as Mark said above, you will find racists. that is just the way it is. there are many out there who are racist towards the Jewish people & yes there are racists among us in the Jewish community as well. such is life unfortuntely. the important thing is to do what you feel is right b/c it is a mitzvah to help save another human being, Jewish or not & to remember that your contribution to the fund was a kiddush hashem (a sanctification of G-d’s name) & the MoT’s comments were unfortuntely just the opposite.

  14. So there are stupid people out there.


    The only working operating room in Haiti is the one set up by the Israeli Army. There are 40 IDF doctors and 160 other support persons including 6 from Zakah.

    When Israel does anything wrong, it front and center AP and Reuters. CNN finally picked it up this morning followed by ABC.

    So the “unzerer” behind you passed up the opportunity to make a kiddush hashem but this may have been on her mind too.

    Doesn’t mean she wasn’t stupid.

  15. I hate racism. And yes, there is racism in every segment of society, however I see it more prevalently in Orthodox and Ultra Orthodox circles than in other segments of Jewish society. It really makes me sick, especially since Jews have been subjected to so many years of anti semitism – you would think we would be more sensitive to bias and careful about hate! Racism is simply unbefitting frum jews, it goes against everything they should stand for and, on a personal level, it makes me sick.

    My father, raised in the south, is a racist. I understand why and how he has those twisted beliefs, however, he worked very hard not to pass along his biases to his children and I really admire him for it. This cycle of hate can and should be put to an end for once and for all.

    • You should have seen the reaction I got from the right wing OJs of the family when I told them we were taking in Black foster children. Almost as appalling as this. And then we talked about the possibility of adoption. . .OMG!

  16. I am so appalled that I am speechless. Right on MLK Day no less (I know it isn’t celebrated in Canada)

  17. Just goes to show you that insensitivity and common sense are truly (and unfortunately) universal human traits. I agree with the point above, that if the speaker was either elderly or Chassidish it’s one thing to use that term. For most native-English speakers, however, it has another context.

    However, at least there are some of “our people” on the scene in Haiti who are doing a ton of great work at this very moment. Some would even say it’s disproportionately large, especially compared to many other countries’ efforts.

    I’ve written a few blogposts on the subject, covering the efforts of the IDF Medical Corps, the ZAKA search & recovery unit, and the local Chabad-Lubavitch effort from Santo Domingo.

  18. I’m sorry you ran into that. That kind of thing is horrible to encounter and it is inexcusable, period. Whether the speaker is frum or secular or whatever in the middle, there’s no place for it in the Jewish community and it shouldn’t be tolerated.

    The problem is, and I’ve had this happen, when you encounter it sometimes you’re so shocked (jaw on the ground, brain disconnected because you can’t quite comprehend that someone said that to you) you can’t think of a way to respond that makes it clear that it’s not ok. Or, really, to respond at all. I always think of something 10 minutes later.

    Thanks for blogging this and thanks for making a donation to help in that community.

  19. The comment was in bad taste but that actually is the halacha.. You have to make sure that all your “community” is taken care of before you take care of others…
    So why not make sure to give the same to your local tzedakah, tomchei shabbos .. that way you get the same for both.

  20. want more gross comments fomr pigheaded fellow tribesmen?

  21. I just read an article on that can be a rejoinder for that MOT:

    The article is called “Haiti and Israel,” by Rabbi Benjamin Blech. The subhead is “Why Israel gives humanitarian aid whether or not it is appreciated or acknowledged.”

    Here is the relevant part of the article:

    “To play devil’s advocate for a moment, why wouldn’t it be reasonable for Israel not to become involved with the justification that its own myriad problems deserve priority? Why must Israel take on the problems of others when there are so many needs at home that require attention and funds? What is the proper moral and ethical imperative for the Jewish people in terms of its relationships with ‘the others,’ the very same nations who so often have turned their backs on Jews and their concerns throughout the centuries?

    “The answer for us must come from the Torah. And it is in the Torah, as our commentators point out, that God makes clear the standards by which He judges our attempts to seek spiritual perfection.”

    I think we all need to think about that.

  22. What ever happened to “whoever saves one life it’s as if he has saved the world?”

    Actually, the Gemara says, “Whoever saves one soul of Israel it is as if he has saved an entire world.”

    Sorry, this racism is nothing new.

  23. racism is unfortunately everywhere, and its not limited to black/ w hite, its really a human tragedy, because racism negatively impacts our WHOLE society, not just the racist person.

    I was a little surprised upon reading and hearing about Jewish racism, I know many of the Jewish people in the states are White people, but i was naively led to believe they understood the plight of racism in general. I can also attest it exists among African Americans, my own ethnic group.

    I never feel comfortable around racist people, whatever their background, and i try to avoid that sort of negative energy. My boyfriend is Jewish and white and he is one of the sweetest people you coul dmeet, which is why i am a little surprised to hear this, his parents ar ealso very nice, i guess its a good thing i run into exceptions of people who are open minded, caring and kind hearted. Sure i have met racists before, i have even been called the N word, I am from the deep south so i know what racism is. but i think like this, all racists are humans but not every human is a racist.

What do YOU think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s