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A Pond Named What?
Highlighting an offensive name, a student helps get it changed

By David Brooks
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The quirkiest story to come out of New Hampshire recently was probably the debate by the town of Mont Vernon whether to rename tiny Jew Pond. Before it became fodder for Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show," it got UNH Manchester senior Katelyn Dobbs '12 into the pages of The Boston Globe and then into a newspaper reporter's job even before she graduated.

"It was such an interesting story," says Dobbs, who has lived in Mont Vernon since she was 3, and has fished and skated on Jew Pond many times.

The quarter-acre pond was created at the turn of the 20th century by the owner of the nearby Grand Hotel. When the business went bust in the mid-1920s, he sold the hotel to two Jewish lawyers from Boston who wanted to create a vacation spot for Jewish clients at a time when many locations were closed to them. (Grand Hotel itself frowned on guests "of Hebrew persuasion.") They called the pond Lake Serene, an idea that was ridiculed by some of the locals, who coined the informal name Jew Pond instead.

The hotel burned down in 1930, but the pond's nickname stuck. In the 1970s, the name Jew Pond appeared on a U.S. Geological Survey map. Yet it was still largely overlooked, appearing on no signs or nor modern-day town maps. Dobbs, like many others, thought that, as part of Carleton Park, it was called Carleton Pond.

In 2010, an algae bloom closed the pond, bringing the official name to public attention. The Nashua Telegraph ran several stories about how Jew Pond got its name, and in 2011 a local resident petitioned the USGS to change it, arguing that it was a religious slur. Mont Vernon residents began to debate the issue.

Meanwhile, Dobbs was looking for a senior project for her video production class and the issue caught her attention. "At first, I didn't think the name was a big deal," she admits, but after interviewing a number of those involved, she says she "really came to respect the issue."

She created a 13-minute documentary, plus several extra videos from 7 hours of taping. After reporters from Israel, among other places, started writing about the issue, she notified The Globe, which did a story about her documentary. It impressed The Telegraph editors so much they hired Dobbs as a reporter at the weekly Bedford Journal newspaper.

Dobbs will be honored at the annual meeting of the Jewish Federation of New Hampshire in June. As for Jew Pond, the townspeople voted 104-33 at their March meeting to rename it. After gathering a few suggestions, the town's selectmen went with Carleton Pond.

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