BACKGROUND: I am reform Jewish and live in a U.S. area with a very low Jewish population. Though it’s not my main job, I’m very involved in an organization working on food policy and improving food systems.
When developing our mission statement, our organization didn’t want to refer to people as “consumers”, because we wanted to acknowledge that literally everyone eats and is therefore part of the overall food system. Instead, we picked the word “eaters” to make this connection. This is also a relatively common buzzword in a lot of the food policy/foodie circles many of our members are in – so seemed like a natural use. I don’t want to get too specific and dox myself, but the gist of the wording is that we want to create connections between producers and eaters to help benefit everyone. We’ve had the mission statement as written for over two years.
ISSUE: recently, a member (who is not Jewish) has come forward expressing an issue with the word “eaters”. They said that this word is offensive and was used by the Nazis, and it’s appalling we have it in the mission statement. Now, I’m well aware of the Nazi’s use of the phrase “useless eaters” – this connection never occurred to me because, to me, both the phrase and the context are different.
Side note, I almost never play the “Jewish” card, but when I spoke to this person through my role in the organization they started off saying “I don’t know how aware you are of history, but the Nazis blah blah blah.” They we’re quite condescending. It was very satisfying to say “as a matter of fact I’m Jewish, so I’m very familiar with that part of history.”
Our board was horrified at the possibility of accidentally using a word with Nazi connotation, but I can’t help but feel this person (who again is not Jewish) is playing up something that’s not much of an issue. They are acting as if we accidentally used a racial slur in our mission statement. The context in which we use it is about as far from Nazi ideology as you can get.
That said, I really want to know how other Jewish people feel about this? Do you find the word “eaters” offensive because the Nazis used the phrase “useless eaters”?
Thank you in advance for your input. I really love all of the fantastic discussion that goes on in this community!