An ugly bias is back: blaming Jews for financial woes
Conspiracy claims die hard. But responsibility lies with all of us.
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Instead of teaching their children to farm or be blacksmiths, these financiers – at the time, more like glorified pawnbrokers – passed on the art of lending money. The tradition would pay off when boatloads of Central Europeans landed at Ellis Island in the 1800s.Skip to next paragraph
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Jews have historically taken advantage of the opportunities afforded them, and in those days there was hardly a better way for a poor German Jew to cut his teeth than selling cheap goods in rural America.
The story of the Lehman brothers – turning an Alabama cotton business into a global financial titan – is typical, almost a cliché, of how Jews rose from peddlers to shop owners to international financiers in the course of a few decades.
The saga of Lehman Brothers came to a sudden end Sept. 15, not coincidentally at the same time that Jews once again became the scapegoat for this country's, and the world's, economic problems.
Since then, conspiracy theorists and anti-Semites alike have been busy bombarding financial blogs, Jewish journalism outlets, and their self-serving forums with comments about how former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, Lehman Brothers, and others are orchestrating this crisis to crush the goy.
It's the same trope that's been repeated since long before the rise of the House of Rothschild: The "international Jew," as Henry Ford deemed this global tribe, starts wars and manipulates markets for self-gain and schadenfreude.
And it's just as vacuous now as it was then. Jews are certainly prominent in the US financial market, but they remain an underwhelming minority.
Time magazine's list this month of the "25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis" includes, by my count, six Jews – which means that more than 75 percent of the culpable were not Jewish. Among the blameworthy were former President Bush, disgraced subprime lender Angelo Mozilo and, ahem, the american consumer. There is little Jews can do to kill this old canard. But they can learn from the mistakes that enabled one of their own to use the communal bonds in American Jewry to orchestrate the biggest con in US history.
Though some Jewish money managers have proved to be scoundrels at best, like Shylock, it is not because they are Jewish – just as Christianity did not inspire Ken Lay to cheat Enron's shareholders. Indeed, Jews may be the easy historical target, but scapegoating misses the moral of our own failures. The real responsibility lies with all of us.
• Brad A. Greenberg, senior writer for The Jewish Journal and creator of TheGodBlog.org , is working on a book about the facts and fiction of Jewish power.