German dictionary changes definition of ‘Jew’ after complaints from Jewish community
By Shira Hanau
A German dictionary entry for the word “Jew” has been changed after members of the country’s Jewish community complained that the definition was problematic.
The definition offered by the Duden Dictionary, once one of the most authoritative German dictionaries, included a note that the term is sometimes used as a derogatory slur in addition to being the simplest way to refer to Jews. But German Jews objected to the inclusion of the use of the word “Jew” as an insult, saying the term is the correct one and should be used without qualification.
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“Even if ‘Jew’ is used pejoratively in schoolyards or only hesitantly by some people, and the Duden editors are certainly well-meaning in emphasizing this context, every effort should be made to avoid solidifying the term as discriminatory. “, Joseph Schuster, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told The Associated Press.
The entry was updated on Monday and included the Central Council of Jews in Germany’s endorsement of the use of the term.
The word “Jew” has long been viewed by some, especially non-Jews, as pejorative, leading some to prefer the adjective “Jew” to the more succinct or blunt noun, “Jew.” Jewish institutions from earlier eras also adopted alternatives to the word “Jew” in their names, preferring terms like “Hebrew” and “Israelite.”
Sarah Bunin Benor, a Hebrew Union College professor who writes about Jews and language, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 2020 that people have historically avoided using the word “Jew” to avoid sounding anti-Semitic, even though the word is not inherently pejorative.
“A lot of people assume it’s an insult because they know Jews are historically a stigmatized group, so they’re afraid to use it because they don’t want to sound offensive,” she said.