(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, and later said his mistake was a teachable moment. “My goal is now to make sure I educate the community,” he said.
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. “We had a thoughtful dialogue about how antisemitic language, and the normalization and ignorance of it, only further institutionalizes antisemitism in our society and leads to more egregious acts against our Jewish community,” Probasco wrote in the Tampa Bay Times. “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 said the community has experienced a rise in nonviolent acts of antisemitism.