There is a very rural New England debate raging in the small town of Mont Vernon, N.H. (pop. 2,400), this week, as residents prepare to vote over whether or not to change the name of a local, manmade body of water named "Jew Pond."
The moniker dates back to the 1920s, when "Jew Pond" first appeared on a local map. It's been known by many names over the years—Carleton Pond and Spring Pond included—but it's "Jew Pond" that has stuck, and it's what most people in the community know the "muddy, manmade body of water" by. But, as tends to happen in small New England towns with changing populations, it's no longer considered harmless by all. At today's town meeting, Mont Vernon will vote on Jew Pond's future.
Town health officer Rich Masters told the AP this week that the pond was originally built as an irrigation source for a hotel golf course that had made it clear in brochures "that Jewish guests were not welcome." They called it Spring Pond, but Jew Pond came about some time later, when "two Jewish businessmen from Boston bought the hotel" and hoped to expand the pond to call it Lake Serene. It never happened.
A few Mont Vernon residents don't understand the sudden fuss over the name. Zoe Fimbel, a member of the local Historical Society, maintained that there is "nothing bigoted" about Jew Pond:
She said it was more about long-time residents in the 1920s being annoyed by out-of-towners trying to turn the pond into something it was not.
"It's too bad it's gotten to be such an issue when it's never even referred to or portrayed in a negative way," she said. "It's more like, ‘It's the Jew's Pond. The new man in town.'"
She said she's been surprised by the flap and finds it ironic that one of the proposed alternate names, Frog Pond, could be offensive to French people.
That is true. Let's just call this thing Freedom Fry Pond and move on, New Hampshire.