‘Jew’ is not ‘discriminatory’ word: Jewish leader criticizes German dictionary entry

In reaction to the controversy, the dictionary editors announced they are weighing a revision.

By Sharon Wrobel, The Algemeiner

The head of the Jewish community in Germany criticized a suggestion by the country’s leading dictionary to use alternative expressions for the word “Jude,” or Jew, because the term can be regarded as “discriminatory.”

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, commented on a special reference note added to the definition of the word Jew, which can be found in the online edition of “Duden,” the standard reference book of the German language.

A supplementary note added to the definition cautions: “Occasionally, the term Jew is perceived as discriminatory because of the memory of its use during the Nazi era. In these cases, formulations such as Jewish people, Jewish fellow citizens, or people of Jewish faith are usually chosen.”

“For me, the word ‘Jew’ is neither a swear word nor discriminatory,” Schuster told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, noting that the association he heads is deliberately called the Central Council of Jews, not of the “Jewish fellow citizens.”

“Even if ‘Jew’ is used in a derogatory manner in schoolyards or only hesitantly by some people, and the Duden editorial staff certainly meant well by referring to this context, everything should be done to avoid solidifying the term as discriminatory,” he maintained.

Schuster’s comments come as the German dictionary entry triggered a heated debate on social media platforms about the definition of the German words “Jude” and “Jüdin” — the masculine and feminine forms of “Jew.”

In reaction to the controversy, “Duden” editors announced that they are weighing a revision.

The dictionary’s chief editor, Kathrin Kunkel-Razum, said her team is taking the criticism and discussion surrounding the reference to discrimination — and its capacity to be viewed as discriminatory in itself, which is “not our intention” — very seriously.

The editorial team will carefully review the supplementary note to reflect the debate’s complexity, she said, adding that there are Jews who avoid the term themselves.

The note in question has been found in the “Duden” entry since 2007, and online since 2011.