Because I write frequently about Jewish themes on this blog, I get my share of ravings from crazy anti-Semites. This is even more true when I write something on the Huffington Post about Jewish customs or rituals—one time those responses were so hideous that I ended up deleting the post. Growing up in Chicago and living in Los Angeles for the past 22 years, I tend to forget about all the ignorant buffoons out there who look for opportunities to spew their anti-Jewish venom. I often delete such comments—no use polluting my own site. But sometimes I’ll leave them up. After writing a post about Hitler a few years ago, I remember getting a comment from the grandson of Hitler’s ambassador to Italy who vigorously defended der Fuhrer. I think it’s important to know that there are people out there with these beliefs. But I rarely, if ever, engage these people in dialogue—I don’t have the stomach for it.
Yesterday I received a comment on an old post I wrote about Santa Claus. The person was outraged by my tongue-in-cheek criticisms of Jolly St. Nick and he tried to explain how Santa Claus is an all-important tool for parents to use, especially during tough times, so that they don’t raise spoiled little brats. Without Santa, the author of the comment claimed, these kids might become just as horrible as Jewish children:
...in times of plenty and comfort, the effect of Santa is thrown out as parents indulge their kids all year and the children lose all humility. This was the situation with the Jewish kids when I grew up. They were the spoiled ones who had everything. Their parents spoiled them to “buy” their kids love, especially the Jewish mothers. They gave their children things, but they did so only to get something in return and many Jews grew up twisted by this pulling, cloying kind of love. When Santa gives, the children aren’t obligated to him, they are obligated to be good to other people throughout the year. Sorry you have a problem with that. Do you think it’s just a coincidence that almost all the crooks on Wall Street are Jewish? In a country where they make up only 3% of the population?! Do you think having a holiday which celebrates a historical event where the Jews were able to keep, by trickery, tax revenues they had squeezed out of several provinces of non-Jews—Hannukah—is a beautiful thing?
Forgetting his crazy point that the idea of Santa Claus really does make children “good” all year long, I’m fascinated by his closing comment. Forget everything you’ve heard about Antiochus IV of Syria who looted the Temple in Jerusalem and basically condoned the wholesale slaughter of Jews in 165 B.C., the true raison d'etre of the Maccabees was a money-grubbing taxation without representation agenda. Sigh. Get a bunch of anti-Semites in a room and every Jewish holiday and event can be retold in terms of how the Jews were out to get more money. Even the Holocaust. Everything happened because of the international conspiracy of Jewish bankers, right? That’s why millions of destitute Jewish villagers had to be systematically murdered—Hitler had to root out the greedy bankers from the shtetls.
In 1938, a children’s book was published in Germany called Der Giftpilz about a little girl named Liselotte. Here is a translated excerpt from this extremely popular book:
“Tell me, mother, how does it happen that the Jews are so rich? Our teacher has told us at school that here are thousands of Jews in the world who are millionaires. And yet the Jews do not work. It is the non-Jews who must work. The Jew only trades. But one cannot become a millionaire by trading with paper, bones, old clothing and furniture!”
Mother explains how it is done.
“The Jew is quite indifferent when the cheated non-Jew goes hungry. Jews have no pity. They strive for one thing: money. They do not care two hoots how they get it.”
Liselotte asks how they can behave in this mean way. Mother answers:
“Child, one thing you must realize. The Jew is not a person like us. The Jew is a Devil. And a Devil has no sense of honor. A Devil deals only in meanness and crime. You have read your Bible, Liselotte. There it says the Jewish God once said to the Jews: ‘You must eat up the people of the earth!’ Do you know what that means? It means the Jew should destroy all other peoples. They should bleed and exploit them till they die. That is what it means.”
Liselotte tries to understand these things. Mother continues:
“Yes, my child, that’s the Jew! The God of the Jews is gold. There is no crime he would not commit to get it. He has no rest till he can sit on the top of a gold-sack. He has no rest till he has become King Money. And with this money he would make us all into slaves and destroy us. With this money he seeks to dominate the whole world.”
I first visited Germany when I was 15 years old in the mid-1970s. I was in the Black Forest region of the country, the Schwarzwald, near Baden-Baden. I remember that whenever the subject of my being Jewish came up, the awkward silence would be followed by attempts to say something “nice” about Jewish people. “They’re very good with money!” was something I heard repeated again and again. (If I hadn’t heard it with my own ears, I wouldn’t have believed it.)
I remember thinking then (and now) when I heard such a statement, “We are? I WISH!” I understand some of the historical antecedents of that stereotype—from the existence of Jewish moneylenders in the Middle Ages to the cultural tendencies among many modern Jews that place a great deal of importance on education and careers. But I was always aware that the comment was actually an indictment masked as praise. “Jews are good with money” could also be translated as “All Jews care about is money.” The subtext of the stereotype is riddled with images of greed, avarice, and ruthlessness.
Still, I used to bemoan the fact that I never got the infamous “good with money” gene. Damn it. If I had, I surely would have gone into a different line of work and I’d be rolling in it today. Like all stereotypes, I’m not saying that there isn’t some foundation to such crazy comments. I haven’t done a study of this, but I’m guessing that compared to the percentage of Jews in the general population (as my dear anti-Semitic reader points out above), there is a disproportionate number of Jewish doctors, lawyers, and accountants in this country. I remember a funny Tracy Ullmann sketch I saw once when a character played by Ullmann rushes her husband to the hospital following a heart attack. Several doctors are sent to her husband’s room to consult on his case—an African-American, an Indian, and an Asian. Eventually, Tracy runs into the hospital corridor and screams on the top of her lungs, “GET ME ANY JEW!” I bet many an anti-Semite has hired a Jewish doctor, lawyer, or accountant, thinking them superior to their Gentile colleagues.
A recent book, written by two Jews, promotes the “Jews are good with money” belief. Jewish Wisdom for Business Success: Wisdom for the Torah and Other Ancient Texts by Levi Brackman and Sam Jaffe, maintains that the reason Jews are disproportionately successful and good at business is because of the lessons, wisdom, and teachings that come from the Torah that they learn from a young age and then apply to business. Hmm.
Come to think of it, I DO believe the stereotype, and I can prove it. I just attended the 2008 Jews Are Good With Money Conference in Boca Raton, Florida, and I secretly recorded the keynote lecture by Ronald Kornblow, the World’s Most Successful Jew™. Although I’m breaking all confidentiality agreements, I’m going to share this amazing wisdom with you right now and put a quick end to the economic crisis that’s gripping this country. Hit the "play" icon on the bar below and listen very closely…