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Being Called a "Putz" Isn't a Sign of Hostility Against Jews -- It's a Sign of Hostility by Jews

(Not necessarily religiously discriminatory hostility, of course.)

From yesterday's California Court of Appeal decision in Vogelgesang v. Anaheim Ducks Hockey Club, LLC:

In addition to the claims relating to retaliation for raising the safety issues, Vogelgesang alleged he was discriminated against and subject to a hostile work environment based on his Jewish heritage.... The basis for this assertion was later determined to be a single incident where Schneider, defendants' general counsel, referred to Vogelgesang as a "'putz'" in an email. The arbitrator eventually concluded this claim was baseless:

"The single email itself does not reflect any discrimination against [Vogelgesang] based on his religious background. [Citation.] Nor was there any credible evidence that any of the [defendants] discriminated against [Vogelgesang] or other employees based on their religious beliefs or background. It is hardly credible that [defendants] would have a policy or practice of discriminating on the basis of an employee's Jewish background, when the Samuelis are not only Jewish but are active supporters of Jewish religious causes."

I think it's possible for people to discriminate against members of their own group, including their own religious group. (For instance, if a Jewish employer retaliates against a Jewish employee for eating pork at work, but doesn't do the same for non-Jewish employees who do the same, that is discrimination.) But certainly calling someone a "putz" doesn't show hostility against their being Jewish; "putz," like "schmuck" or "schlemiel" or various other such words, is a Yiddish insult, and is thus disproportionately used by Jews, but it doesn't suggest that the person being insulted is Jewish.

Terms used by a group that specifically condemn fellow certain members for the group do exist -- see, e.g., "Oreo" among some blacks, or more generally versions of "traitor to the race," or "shanda for the goyim," which is used by Jews to refer to Jews who are seen as shaming Jews as a group, especially by confirming some people's negative assumptions by Jews -- but "putz" just isn't one of them.

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  • James Pollock||

    "it doesn't suggest that the person being insulted is Jewish."

    Being called an asshole doesn't suggest that the person being insulted is Jewish, either. But if the person is being called an asshole because they are Jewish, it's still a sign of discrimination (a weak one, but not not one)

    It's all about what OTHER evidence is brought forth. Since the plaintiff doesn't always have that evidence at the time of pleading, that's why there's discovery..

  • Smooth Like a Rhapsody||

    Oy it was such a shanda. I should never buy gribenes from a mohel; it's so chewy.

  • SKofNJ||

    Mrs. Doubtfire!

  • RoyMo||

    Unfortunately this is unlikely to stop his putzing around. The putz.

  • Eddy||

    Did they convert to Judaism so that they could safely tell Jewish jokes, like that guy in Seinfeld?

  • JonFrum||

    Anti-dentite!

  • Ridgeway||

    And that guy was Brian Cranston, who went on to fame and fortune in Malcolm in the Middle, Breaking Bad and Sneaky Pete.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    But certainly calling someone a "putz" doesn't show hostility against their being Jewish; "putz," like "schmuck" or "schlemiel" or various other such words, is a Yiddish insult, and is thus disproportionately used by Jews, but it doesn't suggest that the person being insulted is Jewish.

    IANJ and never have been, so maybe I have nothing to go on. But "putz" and "schmuck" at least are common enough in my circle that I no longer think of them as Jewish or Yiddish. Like "dumbkopf" or "baka" or "loco en la cabesa" or even "cafe" or "hoser" or any number of borrowed words, they are just borrowed words.

    I would no more associate Jewishness with "putz" or "schmuck" than I would associate Normanness with "ham" or "beef".

  • Eddy||

    Yeah, it's not simply that Jews have assimiliated to America, America has assimilated to Jewishness. At least until the BDS people and other Jew-baiters get their way.

  • Krayt||

    ===America has assimilated to Jewishness===

    Quit microaggressing by assuming the melting pot is anything but a hateful, hateful identity wiper.

  • Jimmy the Dane||

    This guy seriously filed a lawsuit (and subsequent appeal only after going through arbitration) because he was so b-hurt by being called a "putz". Wow that guy really needs to discover the healing powers of bacon and bbq ribs.

  • Jimmy the Dane||

    Also this guys beef (maybe more apt to call it pork) against his old employer is going to cost him a lot. Not only was the defendant awarded arbitration costs, but also costs on appeal. Throw that on the plaintiffs legal bill and oh vey.

  • RoyMo||

    Well I think he clearly proved he is a putz.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Is the link to "shanda for the goyim" intended to provide a definition of the term or an illustration?

  • SKofNJ||

    It's a bit of dialogue from the Robin Williams movie Mrs. Doubtfire.

  • Eugene Volokh||

    Search for "shanda" on that page and you'll see the definition.

  • bernard11||

    Sounds like the description may have been accurate.

  • Ridgeway||

    This case is a uniter, not a divider

  • Bob from Ohio||

    Fun fact, "putz" and "schmuck" both refer to the same male body part.

    A few years back, a Mr. Schmuck had an obit in the local paper.

    Imagine living your life with that family name.

  • PFSchaffner||

    as does 'dork'.

  • tekcoyote||

    Some capitalize on it. See, for example, the old ads for Smucker's jams and jellies. Tagline was "With a name like Smucker's it has to be good." Pretty sure the reference was that, if that's our name and we put it on products, we have to overcome the name.

  • Ridgeway||

    In regular German it just means "jewelry" (AFAIK). Only in yiddish does it connote naught bits.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    Well, at least there are no metoo allegations. It's never wise to sink your putts on the company green.

  • JonFrum||

    "shanda for the goyim,"

    Just curious - is goyim, like gringo, given a pass because WASPs don't use it?

  • GabrielSyme||

    WASPs do use "gentiles" (though not super often) and that's a literal translation of goyim, so I dunno on that one. Goyim literally means "nations" and basically refers to all the other nations of the world besides God's Chosen.

  • bernard11||

    "Goyim" is not necessarily derogatory, though it is sometimes. It seems to me that it sort of depends on context. Referring to an individual as a goy usually, I think, is neutral and descriptive. Inflection matters.

  • SKofNJ||

    I agree completely that, by itself, the term is neutral, and, literally, just means nations, although colloquially it refers to non-Jews. In context, it can be derogatory. It is similar to the Yiddish word shvartze. That word literally means black, as in the color black. For example, shvartze ayin means black eyes. But, in context, it can be derogatory. By the way, in the biblical phrase, "Nation shall not lift sword against nation ...," the Hebrew word for nation is goy. (Goy is singular. Goyim is plural).

  • bernard11||

    Yes, it can be, and the phrase "a goyische kopf" (a gentile brain) is definitely insulting, though it is an insult normally directed at other Jews.

    You are correct that context is quite important, and often subtle.

  • James Pollock||

    "Just curious - is goyim, like gringo, given a pass because WASPs don't use it?"

    How about haolie? It just means, literally, someone who's not a native Hawaiian, right?

  • James Pollock||

    ""Being Called a "Putz" Isn't a Sign of Hostility Against Jews -- It's a Sign of Hostility by Jews"

    Respectfully... can't it be both, either, or neither, depending who's involved in the conversation?

  • Ridgeway||

    No -- you wouldn't call someone a "putz" because they are Jewish, you would call them "putz" because you think they are a putz. Putzitude transcends ethnic and religious boundaries.

  • Grumbler||

    I love Yiddish. The words sound like exactly what they mean.

  • Milhouse||

    Azey meinstu? Host eppes a musseg vos ich shraib do?

  • Milhouse||

    Someone called Birdsong sued the Ducks?!

  • Milhouse||

    For instance, if a Jewish employer retaliates against a Jewish employee for eating pork at work, but doesn't do the same for non-Jewish employees who do the same, that is discrimination

    Are you seriously saying this would be illegal? He's not discriminating against Jews, he's just expecting them to obey Jewish law. He has the same expectation of the other employees, but Jewish law allows them to eat pork. How's he different from an employer who allows workers over 21 to drink beer but not those under 21, because he expects both to obey the law?

  • Eddy||

    What if Giganticorp sent out a policy memo saying "Jewish employees who eat pork will be fired, gentile employees who eat pork will not be fired"? Also, "Employees may not eat pizza unless they are of Italian heritage."

  • David Nieporent||

    How's he different from an employer who allows workers over 21 to drink beer but not those under 21, because he expects both to obey the law?

    Uh, well, first of all anti discrimination law does not protect people under 21, so the issue is moot. Second, expecting people to obey state law is legal, while expecting people to obey Halacha is not.

  • Milhouse||

    Isn't that discrimination? A restriction of free exercise? If I, as an employer, wish to require my employees to comply with halacha (or sharia, or the Boy Scout code) as a condition of their employment, why shouldn't I? To me halacha is much more important than state law, so if I can fire someone for breaking state law how much more so I should be able to fire them for breaking halacha?

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