By Andrew Lapin
Facing criticism about her use in 2014 of the antisemitic phrase “Jew you down,” the Republican nominee for a competitive state Senate seat in Ohio this week said she was just trying to praise Jews’ frugality.
Michele Reynolds, a business owner and former public sector employee running as the GOP candidate in the state’s 3rd Senate district, self-published a book for business owners in 2014. In it, she wrote, “I learned from other cultures on how they spend their money. Have you ever heard the term ‘Jew you down’? This culture has a reputation for not wasting resources.”
The book, “The Dreambiz Blueprint: 101 Business Tips on How to Develop and Operate Your Dream Business,” is not easily available online. The passage was reported Wednesday by Cleveland.com reporter Jake Zuckerman and publicized by the Ohio Senate Dems caucus on social media.
The Reynolds campaign’s initial response, issued to the Columbus Dispatch, said the candidate had intended to spotlight “what she learned from the wisdom of the Jewish community and how they are reputable for building successful businesses with a foundation of solid money principles.”
But by late in the day Thursday, Reynolds had issued a more straightforward apology from her Twitter account, writing, “While it was never my intent to be hurtful or disrespectful when I wrote the book in 2014, I humbly apologize to the Jewish community and anyone offended by the expression. I won’t reference this phrase again, and if the book is ever republished, I’ll make sure it is removed.”
“I realize there are better ways to express my respect for my fellow brothers and sisters in the faith,” Reynolds added.
Reynolds, who has the endorsement of mainstream Republicans and business leaders in her state, tweeted a Rosh Hashanah message last month. An online biography identifies her as “first lady and executive pastor” of Common Ground Destiny Center Church, where her husband is the lead pastor. She has previously directed Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s office of faith-based and community initiatives.
Her other previous roles include commissioner of Ohio’s Commission on Fatherhood, and working in the Akron mayor’s economic development office.
Ohio’s 3rd state Senate district includes parts of Columbus, its most populous city. The seat is currently held by a Democrat. In a previous local race, for county commission in 2018, Reynolds lost to the Democratic candidate by a wide margin.
Reynolds is not the first U.S. politician to draw fire this year for using the phrase “Jew you down,” a phrase that persists in the 21st-century American lexicon, despite repeated pleas from Jewish organizations to kill it off because of its roots in antisemitic ideas about Jewish stinginess. Two Kentucky GOP state lawmakers also used the phrase while making a joke during a meeting of the state legislature in February, before apologizing.