A friend of the blog passed along this gem of a news story from the great State of New Hampshire. It seems residents of Mont Vernon are having second thoughts about the name of a local pond:
Residents of a rural New Hampshire town voted Tuesday night to rename a fishing and skating spot that’s been called Jew Pond since the 1920s.
The 104-33 vote allows the board of selectmen to ask the U.S. Board of Geographic Names to officially change the Jew Pond moniker, which appears on a 1968 map but not on any town signs.
Residents debated the issue at a meeting Tuesday, with some urging that the name be changed and others saying it should be kept.
“I don’t know if it was meant to be offensive or not, but if people are offended by the name I don’t see why we shouldn’t change it,” said Bill Davidson, who has lived in Mont Vernon for 13 years.
Now, like me, you’re probably curious as to how the pond came to this moniker. Well, here’s the story:
The pond originally was named Spring Pond, said Masters, because the owners of a hotel there created it by digging up a spring to irrigate their golf course. They made clear in a brochure that Jewish guests were not welcome.
The rest of the story is a bit murky, but it’s generally believed that the body of water became Jew Pond when two Jewish businessmen from Boston bought the hotel. They intended to make the pond bigger and rename it Lake Serene, town officials say.
Mont Vernon Historical Society member Zoe Fimbel, who has lived in the town for 31 years, said there’s nothing bigoted about the Jew Pond name. She said it was more about longtime residents in the 1920s being annoyed by out-of-towners trying to turn the pond into something it was not.
“It’s too bad it’s gotten to be such an issue when it’s never even referred to or portrayed in a negative way,” she said. “It’s more like, ‘It’s the Jew’s Pond. The new man in town.’”
A comment I made on a post by the Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates prompted a bit of a discussion on what it means to be a Jew in America, and whether and to what extent Jews are viewed as a kind of integrated part of “White America”. Younger generations of Americans could be forgiven for not knowing, for example, why there are hospitals all over the country with jewish and/or hebrew names. It’s a legacy from a time when Jewish doctors were not welcome to practice in many hospitals and instead banded together to form their own. There are reminders all over the country, Jew Pond being one of them, of a time when many Americans considered Jews a people apart.