Tuesday, August 16, 2005

An Important Lesson Learned

Last week, I learned an important lesson that I'd like to share with you.

A Jewish friend forwarded me an email intended as a joke. I forwarded to Jewish friends, thinking they'd find it funny. (I will not post the picture here out of respect. However, I will describe it.) It basically stated, "NEW SEAT BELT LAW.... The National Safety Council has determined that if installed properly, this new Seat Belt will decrease traffic accidents in the Jewish Community by 45%." It depicted an older couple in the car. The man is at the wheel with a smug look on his face. The wife was sitting in the passenger seat wearing her seatbelt plus another seatbelt buckled across her mouth.

My lesson began here.

A friend emailed me informing me that she found the email extremely offensive.

I got upset and concerned that I offended people which was the last thing I ever wanted to do. And, it was not intentional at all. I emailed her asking how it was offensive and that I was upset I offended people. I asked her if she could explain to me how it was offensive, knowing that a Jewish friend of mine sent it to me. I signed off with sincere apologies.

She took the time to explain to me.

Basically, it's offensive because it "supports a stereotype of Jewish women/wives as a pain in the ass, never shutting up, and having bothersome opinions. Oh, and not realizing they are so annoying and grating.It is the older version of JAP which I also find incredible anti-Semitic. There is a J in there for Jewish, not Protestant or Lutheran, ya know? And that your Jewish pal would pass it on? We all have internalized anti-whatever we are, and for me, this is an example of it. Unwittingly or not."

I asked few other Jewish women whether or not the email was offensive and how so in this email:

Was that cartoon I forwarded to you about the car accident rate offensive? If yes, why? Someone emailed me saying she found it very offensive. I got this from another Jewish woman, so I thought it would be okay to forward to others. I feel really bad about this being offensive. Not my intention at all, and the last thing I want to do is to offend anyone.

Here were their replies:

#1: I can see that people would be offended... I don't get offended that easily but I admit that I didn't find it funny. I always avoid ethnic jokes and jokes based on stereotypes. I don't tell them and I don't pass them on. I guess a rule of thumb might be that an ethnic joke can only be sent by a member of that ethnic group to a member of the same group...
but for me, I don't use them or send them. But, I personally am not upset at you.... I chalk it up to a learning experience!

#2: I just looked. It's the kind of thing that people share within a community and find funny. If your friend passed it on to you she obviously considered you very close. I know you would never offend. No problem.

#3: I can understand why someone would be offended... especially if they were a Jewish blabbermouth, but I also found it funny, I am obviously not offended.

#4: I think it's partially that - some Jews tell Jewish jokes and others don't. I have had other Jewish friends tell me that stereotypical jokes I have sent from one Jew to another weren't funny, since they were disparaging the already sensitive Jewish community. And those are jokes I would never send to non-Jews.....interesting.

The potentially offensive part is that a Jewish woman is singled out for being the problem, as opposed to all women - which is only sexist - smile.

If the word Jewish were removed and replaced with American, would it have been funny? or Black? or Arab? or Chinese?

I think we all can get sensitive.

Having seen the cartoon after I read the apology (my mail comes backwards) I did see the cartoon as deliberately targeting older Jewish women as opposed to just a silly cartoon.

And, interestingly, I did feel targeted - not by you, but by a societal sensitivity I have. It's not that I personally have suffered, but I am very aware of the mainstream (and even moreso with our current political climate) antipathy towards the Jewish community

Thanks for feeling u could trust me and ask me - smile

After emailing back and forth with several women, I decided to send out an apology to people I forwarded the email to. I did not intend to offend anyone at all. It's not in my heart and nature to do that. I appreciated people's willingness to make the time to explain and talk with me about this. I was ignorant, and I know I still have more to learn.

My Apology


Someone informed me that the email I forwarded to you (the seatbelt/accident rate one) was offensive, steretypical and anti-Semitic. Two people explained to me what kind of messages that email conveyed.

I feel very bad, pained and upset for forwarding such an offensive email to you. I thought that since my friend, who is Jewish herself, found it funny and forwarded to me, it was okay to consider it funny and pass it on to you. I was ignorant, and I have since learned what kind of messages that email conveys. And, it's not the kind of message I would share or find funny. The last thing I want to do is to offend anyone.

This has been a learning lesson for me. The last thing I want to do is to offend anyone or pass on something that is stereotypical. I am very sorry that I offended you.


People replied positively with support and understanding. Few told me to forgive myself.

#1: As I said in my other note - I know you never intended to insult or offend anyone - which is why I could respond so easily to you in the first place. Be well, sweetie.

#2: Aw hun, you are so sweet to put out such a letter. I know your heart is a good one - and that is proven here once again. Keep those jokes coming, girl.

#3: No worries. I'm glad it was a learning experience for you. God bless.

#4: Your apology is accepted and I did find it offensive but figured you didn't mean by it.

#5: No need to apologize about the cartoon you sent me. I understand you weren't aware of the negative image it portrayed.

#6: And, now forgive yourself! Join the group of us who do make mistakes once in a while! I send you a hug.