New York – Two days after a news story bashed a popular Chasidic singer for reportedly using a racial slur to describe President Barack Obama, controversy continues to rage about whether the statement in question was actually derogatory.
The incident in question took place on December 29th, when singer Mordechai Werdyger, known more commonly to his fans as Mordechai Ben David, appeared in a Chanukah concert at Jerusalem’s Pais Arena. As Werdyger sang the final bars of his well known song Shir Hashalom which expresses a longing for peace, he used a dramatic pause in the music to express his thoughts on the latest United Nations resolution to condemn Israel, which was backed by President Obama.
“Do you know when there will be peace?” asked Werdyger. “In a few more weeks, when there will be a new president in the United States and the ‘kushi’ will go home.”
Werdyger’s comments were greeted by thunderous applause from the crowd, which numbered in the thousands.
A news story that appeared on JTA on January 3rd categorized Werdgyer’s use of the word “kushi” as a racial slur, prompting several other news outlets to run similar articles.
The premise of the JTA article, that the word “kushi” is a racial slur, is not necessarily accurate and may be viewed very differently in Israel and in America.
Addressing the topic on his blog, Israel’s chief archivist, Yaacov Lozowick, explained the biblically the word “kushi” appears to describe people with black skin and it first appears as the name of the eldest son of Cham, the son of Noach, and later in a discussion about Tzipora, the wife of Moshe, who is described as a “Kushis.”
According to Lozowick, the word “kushi” had no negative connotations at all as late as the 1970s but as American culture began shifting towards political correctness, some in Israel followed suit, while many others did not. The result is a climate where some might view the word as an ethnic slur while others might see it as nothing more than a simple description.
In its own discussion of whether the word “kushi” is considered derogatory in Israel, the Forward concludes that although usage of the word “does not necessarily stamp one as a bigot, it is increasingly frowned upon in educated circles.”
VIN News reached out to Werdyger who declined to comment on his statement.
Correction notice: In a previous version on this article VIN news reported that a high UN diplomat slammed Ben David, after future research VIN news was not able to verify if the Twitter account linked to Keith Michael Harper the United States ambassador to the United Nations is genuine.