By Rick Press
The first time I heard the word Jew used as a verb, I was about 12, and I remember a chill rushing through me — like The Ghost of Oppressions Past had just grabbed my wrist and forced me to watch a flashback of all the hatred and prejudice Jews had endured through the years.
Ever since, I wished I had said something to that kid.
Silence in the face of bigotry only feeds the beast. I know that now.
Nearly 40 years later, I was surprised to see the toxic phrase surface again in a controversy surrounding a Fort Worth kayaking company.
Angered by customer complaints about a recent increase in rental prices, Fort Worth Kayak Adventures took to Facebook, for all the world to see, and wrote: “To all you broke-(expletive) hateful know-it-all white women and Facebook trolls that think they are going to Jew us down … (You know who you are)… The (rental) price is set in stone so stop wasting your time. This is NOT Mexico.”
But this time, before I could say a word, social media sprang into action. Legions of Facebook followers quickly heaped shame and scorn on these misguided souls.
A few days later, the city of Fort Worth issued a statement saying the city was cutting ties with Fort Worth Kayak Adventures. It would no longer be allowed to rent kayaks at the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge — or any city-owned facility, for that matter.
The owner of Fort Worth Kayak Adventures told NBC5 recently that she was sorry for the comments. “We don’t mean any harm. We’re not racist. We’re not prejudiced in any way,” said Lori Tenery, who runs the company with her husband and daughter. “We hope that you will find it in your hearts to forgive us.”
She also told NBC5 that her husband is Jewish, hoping that might buy them a bit of slack for the anti-Semitic rant.
The word “Jew” is not a verb. When it is used that way, it summons up years of ignorant stereotypes.
I wish I had said that all those years ago. But at least now when I say it, I know there will be many more people in Fort Worth saying it right along with me.