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January 10, 2009

The Ugly Stereotype Of An Ugly Stereotype?



Our grandfathers and great-grandfathers didn’t undergo pogroms and the struggle to evade conscription in the tsar’s army to come to America for their descendants to put on peach-colored pants, spiked Nike shoes and chemises Lacoste to appear on the first tee promptly at 8 a.m. A Jew should be studying, arguing, thinking, working, making money, contemplating why God has put him through so many trials. A phrase like “dogleg to the left” should never pass his lips. — From ‘Uncle Bernie’ And the Jews (Joseph Epstein/Newsweek)

Following The BAG’s boondoggle of a post at the expense of Ehud Olmert on Friday (what one reader described in an email as a self-flogging exercise), I’m thinking now that the interactive caption and photo on today’s Newsweek home page is the material I’d have been better off waiting for.

I mean, what need was there for The BAG to flame the Semitic fires by way of an arbitrary facial gesture (yes, Olmert certainly should have tucked his shirt in before heading off for the Knesset that day) when along comes Newsweek hitting Madoff in profile (“Uncle Bernie” to you, my bubbellahs) right on that big (“because air is free”) nose of his.

I’m sure the picture-and-caption people at Newsweek knew exactly what they were doing, carefully covering their visual selves and rationalizing the racial stereotype as a cute play on Mr. Epstein’s equally cute epistle on the demise of American Jewish culture. What they probably weren’t factoring in, however (at least, I hope they weren’t), was how the indelicate stereotyping of Madoff as a Jew-fleecing Jewish financier opens the associational floodgates to America’s current anger toward money lenders (which was not exactly Uncle Bernie’s line of work) and, as well, might easily draw off some heat from the roiling cauldron of world-wide upset over and toward the Jewish government’s pulverizing of Gaza.

If they had to use Photoshop to do it, still more shame. If the original photo, however, just happened to perfectly align with the arc of that big Hebrew shnozz, all the more fitting. Because the metaphor of “silver lining” is as rich here as Madoff ever was, representing the line of the olfactory organ, as well as the lining of Bernie’s pockets, as well as the under-lining of Mr. Epstein’s point, that American Jews are better off for the beating.

(image: Kelly Willens/AP)

  • cenoxo

    At some $50 billion of lost value, there’s more than a whiff of scandal here, but you don’t have to be a Jewish financier to love leverage (especially when you catch the yeasty aroma of trillions of dollars of bailout money).
    Give us this day our daily lenders.

  • AbrahamNewland

    “…compared to whom all other clowns were fools”

  • Barrrrrack

    Since when are Jews a race and not a religion?
    And wasn’t everyone a Jew before Mohammad…. Think about it. FREE BERNIE, or else your are anti semitic. And seat Burris or else you are a racist. And destroy Palestine because they are dirt. They are occupying lots of prime settlement territory. And have you looked at the nose of an American Indian lately. Back when air was both free and clean. Get you some.

  • Karen

    Screw the photo, that Newsweek article is an embarrassment for the magazine and the writer. It’s as if Epstein has a stereotypical redneck’s understanding of his own “coreligionists.” I’ve rarely seen so much media real estate donated to such emptiness and self-loathing, whining exceptionalism.

  • Johanna

    I find this less bothersome than the Olmert picture and the Bag’s post on it. Frankly, I’m pleased there hasn’t been MORE anti-semitism in the US following the Madoff case. If he plays into some pre-existing Jewish stereotype, so be it. It is far more of a stretch to portray a small nation struggling for its life as a kind of evil, Fagin type character, than to so portray Bernie Madoff.

  • jtfromBC

    caveat emptor
    Bernie remember when:
    cenoxo, great links and analysis

  • jtfromBC

    > a small nation struggling for its life..
    oh dear, oh my, please, just give us a break, Johanna

  • Johanna

    Okay, let me correct it. A huge wealthy superpower struggling to expand its already large empire. Is that better?

  • SDMike

    I share your opinion on the Gaza situation, BAG, however I thought your use of the term “Jewish government” rather than “Israeli government” was interesting. Sort of plays into the wackaloon conspiracy theorist’s ideas about a Jewish Cabal/World Government that controls the world of finance, bringing Gaza back in full circle with the Madoff op-ed piece in Newsweek.

  • Johanna

    Sharp of you to have noticed “Jewish government”, phrase not often used — but telling. Despite the claims of all the Israel bashers on this site and others that OH NO they are not anti-semites, just anti-Israel, they are stoking, and therefore joining, anti semites worldwide who are attacking Jews in the street and synagogues of Europe, once again. The Jewish woman recently beaten in Holland — was she a member of the Knesset? no, just a Jew. But carry on, and claim you are just “anti-Israel”. Nice work, BAG.

  • richard dent

    Can the Mormons secretly convert Bernie Madoff like they’ve done with many others? Or does he have to be dead first?

  • shalom, brother

    is anti-zionist and anti-semitic the same thing? I would like jews if they would act nicer. I would like brussels sprouts if they tasted better. Can you tell me why the country of Israel isn’t enough for these people? Do you have any idea how greedy and unreasonable they are viewed by the world over this insane settlement land grab. I feel like they have asked for it and they are going to get it. Watch how this turns out. A bristling little midget will be crushed by a giant easier than you think.

  • jtfromBC

    Johanna your on the right track
    As a Super Recipient Israel receives approximately one-third of the American foreign-aid budget, though it comprises just .001 of the worlds population.
    As a Member of The Super Club comprising, United States, Russia United Kingdom, France, China. India, Pakistan, and North Korea, with a policy of strategic ambiguity, Israel possesses around 75–200 nuclear weapons according to the Federation of American Scientists,
    As Super Builders, by the end of 2006, the number of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, amounted to 144, populating 475,760 Jewish settlers, and they continue as I write.
    It is a rare Senator or Congressman who vote against Israeli policies, even those in violation of international law, whoever these SUPER LOBBISTS are, they yield results unknown in other countries in the Free World. What kind of voodoo is this ?
    I hope moderate voices in Israeli will be forth coming with the same hope I have that Obama will bring to the highest office in your country.

  • Sergei Andropov

    “As a Super Recipient Israel receives approximately one-third of the American foreign-aid budget, though it comprises just .001 of the worlds population.”
    Fun fact: Ever since Israel started receiving large amounts of military aid from the US, its ability to win wars has steadily declined. I realize that much of this is because of the changing nature of warfare, but still, it’s interesting.

  • shorterm


  • jtfromBC

    Sad fact: Israels military arsenal and it ability to terrorize people and destroy property has been greatly enhanced and excessively utilized however.
    Think bunker-busters, depleted uranium ordinance and cluster bombs, a gift that never seems to stop giving.

  • joel dan walls

    The Newsweek article by Epstein unfortunately latches on to another whole set of Jewish self stereotypes. Someone explain to me why it is we have to be “studying, arguing, thinking, working, making money, contemplating why God has put [us] through so many trials” instead of playing golf. The fact is that, although I probably come close to Epstein’s ideal, it’s not because of my Jewish upbringing. I’m a fiftyish American Jew whose childhood experience of organized Judaism was this: the synagogue was a place where people showed up for services occasionally to keep up appearances; the post-service kaffee klatsch was strictly a place for women to talk to children and recipes, and men to talk business; the rabbis’ sermons were vague allusions to moral behavior and our responsibilities to each other as Jews. Nothing about matters of the spirit.
    My brothers add to Epstein’s list an occasional 18 holes. Why in the world should this matter? Why is Epstein seemingly so keen on propagating a ghetto mentality?
    I suggest that what Epstein is actually alluding to here, even if he doesn’t quite know it, is the spiritual emptiness of modern American Judaism.

  • Riggsveda

    Funny…when my husband saw this photo, he folded the paper so I couldn’t see the text, and asked who it made me think of. I said Harry Shearer in another 20 years. He said George Washington.

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