Columnist unrepentant after 'tight fist' joke

By Marcus Dysch, October 14, 2010

A university newspaper has apologised for printing a column featuring jokes about Jews being tight-fisted.

The launch issue of London Student, distributed to universities and colleges which are part of the University of London, included an article titled The Tight Fist – Lessons in frugality from a real Jew.

The Union of Jewish Students complained to the newspaper's editorial board that the column contained antisemitic stereotypes.

Written by an unnamed LSE PhD student, the piece included the line: "Jews such as myself possess tried and true penny-pinching strategies that have been handed down through the generations."

The newspaper's editorial board wrote to UJS apologising and offering to speak directly to Jewish students who were offended.

An apology published in the second issue stated: "It is never our intention to offend or cause offence through our publication and we would like to offer our sincere apologies to anyone who felt that we did so.

"We would not have printed the article if we had thought that it was antisemitic. It follows that we still do not feel that the article is antisemitic. We would like to state, with clarity and conviction, that we do not, and will not, tolerate any form of antisemitic content appearing in our pages."

But the student writer issued his own explanation, playing down allegations the column was antisemitic.

"One of my goals with The Tight Fist is to embrace the stereotype of Jewish frugality and wear it as a badge of honour. I seriously believe that being frugal is nothing to be ashamed of and would love to turn this into a positive stereotype.

"I had my rabbi take a look and asked if he thought it was antisemitic or in any way immoral. His answer? 'No problems, it's just funny.' Hopefully I can convince people that it is at least done with good intentions."

In a statement, UJS said: "While we understand that the author of this article had no antisemitic or malicious intent, we have made it clear to the editor how the imagery and content of the article plays on archetypal antisemitism and as such is unacceptable.

"UJS remain committed to freedom of speech and freedom of press, but recognises that with all freedoms come responsibility."

Last updated: 2:14pm, October 14 2010