Did they really read my column?

Aaachh. My head hurts.
I just got off the phone with Joel Levy, the New York regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.
Mr. Levy was a gentleman.
He had very nice things to say, told me I had a “wonderful message” behind my column of two weeks ago referring to the blatant intolerance of visitors to our beautiful county and their intolerance of both our culture and our rights.
But he still disturbed me greatly.
Six people called him with complaints.
They, not Mr. Levy, branded me an anti-Semite.
An anti-Semite?
Oh, no, no, no, no, no.
If any of these people had contacted me, I would have had the opportunity to set them straight.
Instead, I jumped immediately on my e-mail to tell Mr. Levy (a Sullivan County boy by the way!) that I take that charge very seriously.
I am a lover of people – Christian or Jew, gay or straight, white, black or purple!
As my first column noted, I thumb my nose at those who would disparage anyone because of faith, race, gender… including people who have looked down their noses at me for simply being me.
But I am not sure how to convince six people who wouldn’t talk to me that I am not anti-Semitic.
I am confused, frankly.
Frequently outspoken in this very column about the dire need to protect our First Amendment rights of the freedom of speech, the press and even religion, why did these people skip right over me to call the Anti-Defamation League?
I would argue that they failed to read my column in its entirety.
I would say they read more into it than what was written in black and white on the page.
Mr. Levy and I agreed that there is an unfortunate line dividing faiths in Sullivan County – a line that darkens in the summer when the Hasidim come to represent Judaism in the minds of county residents.
It’s a line that can only be crossed by open minds and open arms.
My column of two weeks ago referred to some people identifiable as a sector of the Jewish community. It also referred to people from Long Island and New Jersey – all of these descriptions meant to show my issue was with out-of-town visitors, rather than an attack on persons of one particular faith.
Mr. Levy said that was clear to him, but not to these six readers.
For that I am sorry.
I admit readily that my column was provocative.
It was meant to create discussion, to remind people that each of the examples listed were direct from life citations of visitors behaving badly and not an indictment of groups as a whole.
I wonder if these readers stopped to consider the real-life situations that occur in Sullivan County. Did they realize, for example, that while the visitors to certain areas are predominantly Jewish, the summer population in others is not?
My references to a Long Islander who tipped poorly was taken as a slight against Jews, Mr. Levy said, by people who told him the words “Long Island” were synonymous with “Jew.”
I confess ignorance in that matter. My editor, a Long Islander, is Catholic. One of my dearest friends at college was Hindu and lived in Islip.
I didn’t know “Long Island” meant “Jew”!
So for that, I again apologize.
I told Mr. Levy that I felt the readers who called him were calling on an army to crush an ant, that someone with strong beliefs should stand up for them . . . themselves.
I confessed I didn’t intend to write a column responding to the only letter we had received here at the paper because I didn’t want to be that Army with an entire column devoted to a subject the letter writer could only cover in a 300-word note.
Then I heard that people were afraid to speak out.
I couldn’t let that stand.
As I believe I should be allowed to write columns citing examples of boorish behavior without being branded, I believe people should stand tall and strong when fighting slights – real or imagined.
So here I am, standing tall.
Please, stand with me, there’s room at my side.

Comments

  1. You know what? Some people just like to get their panties in a bunch. Screw ’em. 🙂 Love, Brooks

  2. “Their mother stands nearby, yammering in Yiddish to another woman, ignoring her offspring as they once again zoom in on your tender tendons.” Why couldn’t you just write, “a mother stands nearby talking to another woman.” Oh, because you’re not an anti – semite.”A truck driver cut off repeatedly on Route 17 by men with long curls and black hats finds himself speeding up when he sees a van on the exit ramp, his vehicle fueled by frustration.” Why couldn’t you write “cut off repeatedly by another driver?” Of course, because you’re not an anti – semite.I’m watching you slowly dig your hole bigger and bigger. “Methinks she doth protest too much comes to mind.”Can’t wait to read further articles you write on Gays, Blacks and Purples!Elizabeth LawsonHonesdale, Pa.

  3. my 7 year old must be an anti-semiteshe asks why the people discribedin this article (without reading it) are mean as she has been shoved and pushed. She turned to me to ask me who and what they were.I pooh poohed her and said that each person choose to be nice or not nice and it was not what they wear or their religion that makes them that way. She felt that I wasn’t telling her the truth she protested that they all seemed not nice to her. So maybe if I don’t push and shove and the vistors don’t push and shove little 7 year old will not learn this negative idea structure against people that look a certain way

  4. huh?

  5. So, Jeanne, you’re talking about loving the rainbow [don’t mean the trout] living among you. I really did read your original column and found it offensive to me as a Jew having grown up early in Sullivan County during the 1930’s. Some of the remarks were echoes down the halls of decades of hearing slurs and faulty stereotypes about Jews.The terrain culturally was lots different from Long Island, which was written in some kind of dialect in the column.This and other slurs and faulty innuendoes does not do justice to the dream of cultural diversity. Did you really use the term “gypped” Have you explored the derivation of the slang word ‘gyp?” Words can injure whether from ignoramuses or from wordsmithies. Apart from legalities, defamation has been part of the American nativist format for generations. BUT if everyone looks like you and everyone speaks like you and if everyone eats, etc. like you — who can you learn from and to whom can you impart knowledge? So I would suggest getting out there and doing an interview series called “Stranger in the Street.” Each week focus on people looking different on various streets in Sullivan County towns, including towns in the borscht belt. Ask the folks what it is they like about the town, what they are displeased by and whether they would ever plan to move to the town?

  6. Mr. Ferguson, Ms. Lawson, etc. I know I can’t win. Those who seek to find fault WILL ultimately find fault. The fact that everything has been picked apart – including my use of popular words like “gyp” are proof that there are people who will always assume a conspiracy is afoot. Frankly, there are words I have chosen not to use in life and words that I find offensive. But how far does it go? Should I ask that you refrain from calling the square piece of salted-carbohydrates under your slice of cheese a “cracker” because in SOME references, the word could be offensive to me as a white woman brought up in a rural area of America? No, because that would be me stepping over that line and finding fault where none exists. If you find my words offensive, as I said already, I’m sorry. But there was no reason to – as I have pointed out over and over again. I have a problem not with people of certain religions (as evidenced by my other examples) but out-of-towners who treat me and my neighbors poorly. I don’t care who you are or where you’re from. When you are visiting another’s home, you treat it with respect. And I should do the same, whether I am in Williamsburg, Brooklyn or Williamsburg, Va. Perhaps the thought police will follow me wherever I go, but I can only be content knowing that I have acted as my mother and father taught me – as a respectful, responsible adult aware of the world around me. I’m not perfect, but I can sure as heck try to mesh with the world around me. If others resist, that’s their problem! If you want to be accepted, whether as a Jew, a Christian, Muslim, whatever. . . accept accepting. The street, like tolerance, goes both ways.

  7. Ms. Sager,I didn’t have to “seek to find fault” as you said. Your feelings were there for all to see. Read my comments again in the last post, dated July 18. I specifically quoted you – and the intolerance was in your words. Obviously, you didn’t read my post in it’s entirety. (sound familiar?) Why did you use those descriptions instead of more general ones? Own up to it and learn from it. Enough already.Elizabeth Lawson

  8. Ms. Lawson, I used specific examples of specific instances. Being angry with one Jewish person does not an anti-Semite make anymore than your dislike of me makes you a member of the KKK or anyone else who has had a vendetta against a Catholic. Yes, I did read your post. And I disregarded it because you failed to zero in on my column’s assertions that my issue was with ANYONE who visits Sullivan County and acts in a disrespectful manner. That includes some pretty nasty people from all sorts of places – including some who just so happen to be Hasidic. I can dislike people for being rude, and I do. I can’t dislike them for being of another faith; and I don’t. And yes, I have had each of the examples I listed happen to me. I have had them happen OVER and OVER and OVER. Perhaps if you lived here in Sullivan County and spent as much time traveling the roads, shopping in the shops, etc. as I do – you would understand that. But as you live in Honesdale and are judging something that you can’t possibly know without living here, I would say you are the one digging the hole. I have apologized for any slights people have felt – and asserted over and over that I never intended them. So who is it that needs to decide it’s “enough already?”

  9. I was raised in Jeffersonville and my parents still live there. As a matter of fact,I was just there Tuesday. So, I am pretty familiar with Sullivan County – the positives and the negatives, summer crowds, winter lulls. I’m done. I won’t be responding anymore. Just needed to let you know, I’m a Jeff girl.

  10. You might be a “Jeff girl” but you are a pretty sad excuse for a human. Just because someone uses certain characteristics about a person in their column doesn’t mean that they are anti-Semite. It’s funny how easy that word gets thrown out, but when it comes to someone criticizing a white person, or a Baptist, it’s ok. But because someone mentions something about Jews, Oh God call the ADL and start up the fires and pitchforks because we are going to smoke out the ignorant. It’s funny in Texas they held the annual Baptist conference and there was an article in the Economist specifically about the fact that businesses hate when they come around because they don’t sell as much alcohol. Where were you Elizabeth Lawson? Oh hell I forgot these people don’t matter. Do EVERYONE a favor and stay home, don’t think for yourself, and follow what other people tell you to do. I don’t care if you are from Israel, the fact that you can’t remember that Mrs. Sager did a column about gays, means that you don’t read. Ballsy McDuff

  11. Why not post your column to this blog so we can decide? For starters, I’m originally from Long Island, bought a home here in Sullivan County and pay taxes here so I’m already offended by Ms. Sager. And I’ve spent much of the past 18 months trying to boost tourism in Sullivan. And, as someone who once worked for the ADL, I can also tell you that stereotyping ANY group is unacceptable and does great harm to all of us.

  12. Well Mr. Klein for one thing paying taxes here and living here full time are two different things.Do you live here full time or just in the summer? I’m tired of hearing I pay taxes here. That does not give you or anyone else the right to treat me like I should be GLAD you decided to stay here for the summer or that you liked it enough to buy a house here. I have lived in Sullivan County all my life and I can tell you from personal experience that we are treated poorly. Summer residents whether they own or just stay for the summer are rude. NOT all of them, but a large number of them. I’m sorry if Ms. Sager’s column upset you. If you feel that strongly just don’t read it anymore. Jennifer

  13. Mr Klein you say AND I quote “And I’ve spent much of the past 18 months trying to boost tourism in Sullivan.” Well how about a pat on the back for you because garsh darnit us hayseeds just can’t get ourselves to do nuthin’ right. Do yourself a favor check your ego at the door, we don’t need YOU to help US with your mostly lame and ineffectual ideas about “Sullivan County Tourism”. Oh and those whole 18 months you have toiled for tourism, thanks for the casinos, good job.

  14. Go Ballsy McDuff!

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  16. I applaud you Jeanne for expressing your opinion for the rest of us! I agree with what you wrote whole heartedly. Freedom to express how you are feeling and what you are thinking is part of what is great about living in this country. I’ve been pushed, shoved and just plain disgusted by seeing these guests litter and just not adore their surroundings as much as we do as full time residents. Most of us are used to being kind, friendly and respectful of those living around us. When expressing an opinion in a column devoted to just that, an opinion, it’s quite impossible to be politically correct. Rock on!

  17. Hmm.. Jeanne Sager tells someone that the Camp ma-Ho-Ge reunion story was a good one and that she’d cover it. She then finds out that the person organizing the reunion is the Jewish guy who constructively criticized her column about out of towners. Then she doesn’t cover the story. Real professional, unbiased journalism.

  18. Unfortunately Mr. Klein makes a poor public relations guru. He doesn’t do his homework before “constructively” criticizing. He posts insults on a reporter’s blog (mine), insisting that she promised coverage and didn’t supply it. I specifically told a woman attending the event that I would be out of town, only promising to ask a reporter to try to make it even though notice was very late. He also fails to mention that he made contact with my editor – who is the person at a newspaper in charge of coverage, and never specifically requested coverage. So he blames me for the event not being covered, although a public relations guru should be well aware that it’s the editor’s job at a newspaper to make assignments. Hmmm… who is being fair and balanced now?

  19. I guess you didn’t like being accused of something you didn’t do, did you? There are alot of poeple who jump to conclusions just to get some attention, or to make something seem more interesting than it really is. Perhaps you should look into the LMFD story a little more. Perhaps you are guilty of the same thing. How did you like it? You were so bothered by the reaction to your article about summer visitors, that you wrote another one to expalin yourself. Please do the same for the LMFD. They deserve it just as you thought you did. ps I am from Long Island.

  20. Articles, unlike columns, are the responsibility of the newspaper as a whole – not the writer assigned to write them. Responses to those articles should be directed toward the newspaper – via the Letters to the Editor section. They must be signed by the writer – rather than posted anonymously – and include a means the editor can use to contact the writer to ensure his/her identity is real. The ability to respond to those letters lies with the editor and publisher of the newspaper; not the reporters who are merely employed by the newspaper. Thank you!

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