(JTA) — A Tampa Bay City Council member who used the slur “we’re getting Jewed” to describe a city business deal and then apologized met with a local Jewish leader to learn why it was offensive.
Orlando Gudes was describing the high construction costs for an East Tampa community center to a Tampa Bay Times reporter late last month. He then backed off the use of the term.
“Sometimes people use the word ‘I got Jewed’ meaning by a Jewish person … And I thought, someone could take that the wrong way,” said Gudes, who is African-American. “Let’s not go down that road, OK? I’m not a racist.”
He apologized for the “distraction” at a council meeting the following day, according to the newspaper. He later said his mistake was a teachable moment.
“My goal is now to make sure I educate the community,” he said. “We can get rid of these old terms, these old adages.”
A week ago, Gudes had lunch with Joseph Probasco, president of the board of directors of the Tampa Jewish Community Centers & Federation and Rabbi Joel Simon of Congregation Schaarai Zedek. Probasco wrote about the encounter for The Tampa Bay Times.
“We had a thoughtful dialogue about how anti-Semitic language, and the normalization and ignorance of it, only further institutionalizes anti-Semitism in our society and leads to more egregious acts against our Jewish community,” he wrote. “Our message was clear — words matter. These phrases have no place in our community or our common speech. Councilman Gudes was receptive to our message.”
Probasco pointed out that the community has experienced a rise in nonviolent acts of anti-Semitism such as swastikas painted on local buildings, including a middle school.