The New York Times Magazine “Money” issue profiles a group of Jews who manage to be simultaneously rich, materialistic, and exclusionary on a level even Hasids would find baffling, thus confirming three Jewish stereotypes all in one. They are not only corrupt financially but, as it happens, behind the Iraq war. They’re presumed to have voted for Bush in the last election because they are “hawkish on Israel and security.” Thank you, Zev Chafets. You have singled out the group that is soon to be the most-despised community in America.
I was not caught entirely unawares by this exposÃ©. As it happens, my father grew up within the geographic bounds of the profiled community, but his family, as Ashkenazim and non-oligarchs, were of course not a part of it. Plus, my grandmother was a teacher, and having a job outside the home is apparently as taboo as cheeseburgers to the Syrian Jewish community, where women are princesses. (Um, sign me up?)**
If the story of Harvard Law-educated Lance Suede, whose turn away from Tradition, Tradition! and towards the lures of the non-Jewish woman led to his being ostracized from the community, sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the Magazine‘s Sephardic sequel to Noah Feldman’s Complaint. Almost a reprint with names changed. There’s nothing different about the two stories, other than the admittedly odd intolerance in this case of even Orthodox conversion. Both stories are told from the perspective of someone who clearly puts liberalism and open-mindedness above all else. Why can’t these Jews just be like normal people, vote in ways that match the patterns of the Average American, and have attitudes about religion that in no way differ from mainstream Protestants? Sure, it’s not as if they’re burning non-believers at the stake, or forcing 12-year-olds to marry 70-year-old uncles, but they really need to learn the value of turning the other cheek. Who do they think they are?
* -Montesquieu, Lettres persanes
**I kid. Spending the weekend in an Ashkenazic frenzy of reading for grad school is far superior.