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'Jew Pond' name officially changed on US maps

Garrett Brnger / AP

After a year of debate about what many viewed was an offensive name, this New Hampshire pond, pictured during winter months, has been officially renamed Carleton Pond.

Jew Pond, a small, unremarkable, yet controversial body of water in New Hampshire, has been officially renamed Carleton Pond, which many had been calling it anyway.

Residents from Mont Vernon, N.H., had pejoratively dubbed it “Jew Pond” in the 1920s after two Jewish businessmen from Boston bought a hotel there, the Los Angeles Times reported. The businessmen wanted to reopen the hotel for Jewish guests, who had been banned from the hotel – and from most hotels in New Hampshire.

(A hotel brochure, unearthed by journalist Katelyn Dobbs for a 13-minute documentary she produced, noted: “Applications from Hebrews not desired.”)

The pond had been given other names – Spring Pond and Fire Pond among them – but “Jew Pond” made its way onto federal maps in the 1960s, the Nashua Telegraph reported.

It wasn’t until 2010, when an algae bloom prompted the state to close off the lake that Jew Pond made headlines.  

“A lot of us kind of cringed that our town would be characterized as having a pond that could be offensive to people and viewed as anti-Semitic,” Rich Masters, a Mont Vernon health officer, said in Dobbs’ documentary. Masters ultimately petitioned the town to change the pond’s name because he found it disrespectful.

“We thought it wasn’t a very good name for a pond,” Masters said. “I spoke to some people with a Jewish tradition, and they were not happy about it either.”

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Jeff Fladen, director of the New Hampshire Jewish Federation, told Dobbs that hearing the name “Jew Pond” reminded him of offensive phrases such as “Jewing down the price,” or talking about a “Jew lawyer” or a “Jew politician.”

“If the name had been Jewish pond,” Fladen said, “we would not be having this conversation.”  

Jew Pond gained national attention and even Daily Show host Jon Stewart did a bit on the pond in March, suggesting, jokingly, that it might be inhabited by a mythical and neurotic creature (Woody Allen).

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But some Mont Vernon residents didn’t find the pond’s name offensive.

“As long as there are old people here we will always call it Jew Pond,” a woman identified as Mrs. Wilkins of the Historical Society told Dobbs. “In this day and age we do not consider it an insult. It’s just history.”

That said, Wilkins noted, the name “probably was an insult.”  

After a year of debate, Mont Vernon residents overwhelmingly voted to change the pond's name to Carleton Pond after George O. Carleton who donated it to the town. The U.S. Geological Survey agreed and, on Friday, officially changed its name.

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