the schmooze
"COASTIE"/"J.A.P." -

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

According to David Anderegg (The New York Times, 12/28/09), mentioning terms like nerd or geek perpetuates a stereotype. He says, "The words are damaging, much like racial epithets, and should be avoided."

A song and music video out of Madison, Wisconsin, about a stereotypical "coastal girl" is provoking debates in and out of "der klastsimer" (the classroom) over anti-Semitism and the boundaries of humor.

The term "J.A.P." (Jewish American Princess) has been around for years.  Now University of Wisconsin students are using a new slang term, "Coastie."  It represents an out-of-state student who wears East Coast fashion and is a "rich Jewish girl."  "Coasties" wear big sunglasses, drink Starbucks, wear Uggs, have BlackBerries, and milk their parents for every dime they can.  (FYI:  approximately 14% of the university's roughly 30,000 undergraduate students are Jewish.)

Let's examine the lyrics to the "Coastie Song," featuring students Quincy Harrison and Cliff Grefe.  They say the song was not meant to insult Jews.  Harrison said in the song that he is flirting with a good looking "coastie" that he wants to get to know better.  Greg Steinberger, executive director of Hillel at UW-Madison, a Jewish group, said it was unseemly for Harrison and Grefe to profit from a song "made to purposely make fun of and hurt their neighbors."  See if you find the lyrics to be offensive.

What's a coastie?
Black tights all day
That's a coastie
Starbucks, big shades!
She a coastie
Always blowin' daddy's money
You are a coastie
My east coast Jewish honey

What's a coastie?
White tee-v-neck
That's a coastie
She always think that she the best
She a coastie
North face with the Uggs
You are a coastie
But ima still show some love

(Quincy verse)
My Jewish American princess baby
Walks with a swag and talks so crazy
East coast accent.
East coast fashion
Black spandex wit an a-- like Bascom!
Smokin on a cig as she passin.
Blackberry messagin,
Take off the glasses,
LEmme see your face
It's a hot summer day
Still rockin North Face.
Gotta Starbucks cup.
Yeah you my Star Bucky
I know you live there but I could really get you lucky. ...
Talkin on her celly like 'girl ohh gawwwd'!
Coach bag.  Gucci shades that they daddy bought.

Before Madonna asserted herself as a "Material Girl," we had the Jewish American Princess.  Francine Klagsbrun, Editor of "Free to Be...You and Me" said, "There is nothing funny about a put-down of Jewish women that has become a generic term for materialism, self-indulgence, loudness and so on."  She asks, "Why do women label other women JAPs?  It reflects our insecurities and self-doubts.  We are selling ourselves, apart from the others and that is a form of self-hatred."

And Susan Weidman Schneider said, "There should be a distant early warning signal that warns us of incipient anti-Semitism when Jews are ineluctably connected with money and privilege, as is the case often with the JAP stereotype.

I vividly recall when Urban Outfitters sold T-shirts with the slogan, "Everybody Loves a Jewish Girl," surrounded by dollar signs and shopping bags.  (Wouldn't bagels and bialys have been better?)  After being flooded with complaints, Urban Outfitters, Inc. redesigned the T-shirt, eliminating the dollar signs and purses, an action that the store says it took out of sensitivity to the Jewish community.

Rabbi Moshe Newman (AskThe Rabbi.Org) says  in an e-mail], that "generalizations are wrong and, more importantly,  one should be very careful with one's speech not to say anything negative about another person unless it is absolutely necessary...What can we do about all this?  Each person can study the writings of the Chafetz Chaim about "Guarding Your Tongue" - they are very popular, well-written and important books about being careful to speak in accordance with Jewish law..."

Rabbi Jason A. Miller, rabbi of Tamarack Camps and who served as Associate Director of University of Michigan Hillel Foundation from 2004-2006, said in an e-mail:

"It seems to me that Coastie is merely a substitute word for JAP at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  If one regards 'JAP' as a derogatory expression for young Jewish women, then the term "Coastie" is no different.  It is a demeaning slur if it is used as a demeaning slur.  Like all stereo- typical expressions, context is everything. Two African Americans using the "N-Word" to refer to another African American is considered appropriate, whereas, a Caucasian using the "N-Word" would be considered demeaning and racist.  I suspect it is no different if two Jewish students use the term "Coastie" in casual conversation at the Univ. of Wisconsin.  It is harmless. When the term is used in a hateful way, or as graffiti on the bathroom wall, it is a different story..."

"Genug iz genug!" (Enough is enough!) The late Margaret Mead was right when she said "Instead of being presented with stereotypes by age, sex, color, class or religion, children must have the opportunity to learn that within each range, some people are loathsome and some are delightful."


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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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