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As long as he loves his mammon
By DANNY KATZ
Thursday 13 July 2000
It's rife, it's everywhere and it's not going away. I was on a tram and this woman I was sitting next to started talking to me. She was just being friendly, telling me about her life and her family and her work, and I was going "Oh right...yeah...hmm" but I wasn't really listening; I was trying to read Who Weekly - there was a great photo of Farrah Fawcett at an airport with half her face-lift hanging off. But this woman kept talking. She was telling me about her boss and she said: "He's Jewish, you know. Those Jews love money. Money is their God."
I COULDN'T BELIEVE IT. I stopped looking at the photo of Farrah Fawcett and I looked at the woman - she was well-groomed, she seemed intelligent. Why would she say something like that? First of all, didn't she consider that I might be Jewish myself? I'm probably the most Jewish-looking person in the Asian-Pacific Rim - I look like a cross between Jerry Seinfeld, Paul Reisner, Larry Sanders and every other Jewish actor in an American sit-com from 1991 to 1999.
And secondly, that remark about money being my God was just absurd; money wasn't my God - my God was those little Caramello Koalas that now come in the handy 12-piece party pack. I said to her, "Excuse me, I find your comment extremely offensive" and she got all flustered. She said "But why?" and I said "Because I happen to be Jewish", and she said "So are you a businessman?" and I said "No, I'm of the Jewish faith, that's my religion, it's got nothing to do with money, it's about beliefs and tradition and culture", and she said "Oh right ... so you're THAT kind of Jew. My boss is the other kind".
There's always been this weird myth about Jews and money - about how we're supposed to love money, how we're supposed to LUST for money - but it's just ridiculous. I've never lusted for money, my parents have never lusted for money, no Jewish person I've ever met has ever LUSTED for money - although there was a rumor that my Uncle Nat once got caught fondling a coin behind the dresser, but I don't think he ever went past first base with it.
It's crazy that in these modern times there are still people who think the word Jewish means stingy, or greedy, or ungenerous - it doesn't make any sense, especially when there are so many Jewish people in the community who are charitable and generous, so many patrons of the arts and humanitarians. And yet you still hear people using the word in a derogatory way: every time I hear a person call someone a big Jew, I always turn around to look because I think there's going to be a 20-stone rabbi standing there - but it's just some guy getting abused for being cheap.
This Jewish money-myth has haunted me all my life, even back at school. I was the only Jewish kid in my school: there was just me and around 1800 Turks. There was Omar and Ali and Mehmet and Hussein, and there was a really scary kid called Mustafa. He was only 13 but he had a full beard, a hairy chest and hairy arms: this guy was born with puberty. Anyway, Mustafa somehow found out I was Jewish - he probably took a peek when I was at the urinal - and he started tormenting me. He used to throw a two-cent piece in front of me and say "PICK IT UP, JEWBOY", and I was scared of him so I had to pick up the two-cent piece. And then all the kids started doing it; they were throwing two-cent pieces at me, saying "PICK IT UP, JEWBOYYYY, PICK IT UP". I was clearing about $400 a day.
And it was the same at university. I was at a party with a whole bunch of university friends - these people were all educated, these people were all civilised, these people were all drunk. We'd run out of beer and we all had to chip in to buy some more, but this one guy named Geoff didn't want to chip in. His girlfriend said, "Geoff, you are such a Jew". I wasn't sure which kind of Jew she meant; I went up to her and said, "Is Geoff really Jewish?" and she said, "Oh yeah, he is SO Jewish", and I said, "Well, that's a coincidence, I am too". She just gave me a weird look - I don't think she was sure which kind of Jew I meant. She said, "Well...then...I suppose you don't have to chip in for beer, either".
It's rife, it's everywhere and it's not going away. I didn't say anything more to the woman on the tram, there was no point. I just got up and sat somewhere else. And then the funniest thing happened: the woman got off at the next stop and she saw a 20-cent piece lying on the footpath, so she bent down and picked it up. And I just waved to her from the window.
My father and brother and myself were discussing our European upbringing yesterday. Religious instruction was first up each morning at primary school. We got the lot, copped the lot, including vivid description of the practice of stoning. The teacher went to some length explaining the death by stoning process, being Reformed he knew; then we'd learn the books of the old testiment by rote. My father was the headmaster at that time and now is completely reformed too, liberated. He is appalled at the way it was then when we were children. I'm scarred but getting over it. It's taken a long time. We had to migrate to get freedom of thought, and my Jewish friends are all right. No one being stoned and the worse offenders in the mammon worship aren't them...
Being stoned in OZ means totally blind with grog....
Regards from Down Under
-- Pieter (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 12, 2000
I think this is a very important post. Can I disagree with you without being labeled as prejudiced? (not by you, but by some others?). Probably not, but fools rush in...........
Every subcategory of humanity has stereotypes. The stereotypes assigned to Jewishness are perhaps the most vicious. Certainly they are worse than Norwegian stereotypes---we are simply bumpkins (did you see the movie "Fargo"?), not greedy, shifty or murderous. But, and here is where I will get in trouble, stereotypes aren't created out of thin air and they aren't created by some Babbitty committee at the Chamber of Commerce. They arise from a kernal of truth and then get distorted by the fearful, the haters and those with agendas.
Why do you think Jewish people have this money stereotype? Historically, where did it come from? Is there any truth to it? What is the best way to deal with it?
Your post has an irony because you mention that you look Jewish. I am old enough to remember when right-thinking people wouldn't acknowledge that there was such a thing as a Jewish "look". And sure enough, not all Jewish people do "look Jewish". Goldie Hawn doesn't. But Dustin Hoffman does. And apparently Pieter from Oz does. Good, I think that is progress when we no longer feel the need to deny who we are.
I would ask the same questions about the stereotypes that exist for blacks, Italians, Chinese, disableds, gays, the sexes, Republicans, etc.
-- Lars (email@example.com), July 12, 2000.
Inadvertently I seem to have given the impression that I'm Jewish. I'm not, but my friends are and my long dead art teacher who was my earliest mentor was. It doesn't take away the core observation in this article.
This article and my comment is, I believe, relevant to forum discussion. An element of xenophobic stereo-typing is re-entering my world. It's a debate that's raging with several journalists and myself, where I take to task their comfortable assertion that things are all right, things are good. They are disturbed when I point out an issue and the return to wobbly thinking driven by a forced austerity. Suddenly I am called an ethnic, invited to address a meeting for and about multicultural problems, and this morning interviewed on ABC radio about biometrics and a new Parliamentary Bill on Electronic Transactions.
I'm told I talk in riddles when tying together such divergences. TPTB want these things further from each other. I am stereotyped, branded as a firebrand for daring to suggest that our censorial Online Services Bill 1999 and the new Broadband broadcasting debate ties in with the Electronic Transaction Bill 2000. They are data casting and profiling the tax payer and the regional rate payer. Why? The answer is revenue streaming. We have an outdated legislature that is losing out big to the dynamics of the Internet. It's a game of catch-me-up and profiling...just like in another time and place. This is conditioning the marketplace and it'll pay to start 'em young.
Suddenly, I am once again someone from elswhere with other characteristics implied as truth, just like in this article. A massive growth in routine passive data capture will lead to legislation. Some of it is genuinely legit. But your unique biometrics are issued at birth. How protected are you when you are datacast into a generic average? Can you understand the issue when the legislature articulates using data that's tainted? Can you be secure in a world trading on your features?
Regards from pigeonhole OZ
-- Pieter (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 12, 2000.
"Why do you think Jewish people have this money stereotype? Historically, where did it come from? Is there any truth to it? What is the best way to deal with it? "
If you go to your history books, you will find that the Jewish people were actually forced into the "money business" due to the edicts in the 14-17th centuries not allowing the jewish people to become tradesmen etc.
They have since excelled at what they were literally forced to do and in the ages old tradition "success draws haters" they have been pushed into the "character role" of money focused people.
Some of them are, but now it is by choice. A cross section of the Jewish people in most countries would show a wide range of occupations, not money orientated.
-- Scarlet Breasted (email@example.com), July 13, 2000.
Yeah, that was my understanding. Thanks for your thoughts.
-- Lars (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 13, 2000.
Sorry, but you lost me.
-- Lars (email@example.com), July 13, 2000.
I thought the Scottish were the cheap ones. Lars: How foolish you are. Those folks on Fargo were Swedish! [I know that because *I*'m Norwegian. (grin)] Norwegians are lushes, dontcha know? Well...at least my Uncle Ole was [along with most of the rest of my family.] Of course they had to compete with the Irish in that department, though the Scots and Germans gave them a run for their pints.
-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), July 13, 2000.
You are lost and so am I, but not quite. This is a multi-facet debate and angst is in the street. It arrives in the form of boat-people. That's what they are called. Many are arriving via the Indonesia, island hopping-n-hoping to a better live in OZ. We pick them up at Ashmore Reef and dump them at Woomera. There they vegetate and riot, Afghans and Pakistani, Arabs and Kurds.
Now the que-jumpers are being dished out to provincial OZ, including us, and we have no work for them. Arabs are rather easy to spot here. Big meeting coming and I'm involved against my better judgement. Suddenly I stand out too.
New legislation is in the second parliamentary reading here. It claims exhaustive public consultation processes etc. Nobody heard of it. It's legislation sponsored, so it claims, by the United Nations and it applies new rigor to e-commerce transactions. This is directly the result of Federal Laws that sent a lot of business off-shore, including gambling and porno-sites. Naturally the tax dollar goes off shore too and now the taxation system reckons on having a go on data flow. ISP are getting rather weary of it.
Sorry to have sound so terribly tired. The 'flu is here and everyone is drained. I'm getting it.
Scarlet, you are right in your observation. I'm having a bad time and should have stuck to the topic. Will address it next time. Feeling bloody ordinary today....blegh!
Regards from OZ
-- Pieter (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 13, 2000.
I don't actually remember a nationality mentioned in "Fargo", do you? The general target of the humor seemed to be upper-midwesterners, most of whom are Scandinavians. (Norwegians and Swedish, Finlanders are a special case). There was plenty of alcoholism to go around as I recall. Alcohol seems to be a problem in northern lattitudes worldwide. My wife was a Swede from Ironwood in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. "Yoopers", now there's a truly unique bunch.
-- Lars (email@example.com), July 13, 2000.