My grandmother of blessed memory, had one overwhelming concern. Other than what she’d make for dinner, it was about Jews getting in trouble with the law. In those days of Jewish thuggery as exemplified by likes of Murder Incorporated, local numbers runners and bookies, her comment of, “Iss er a Yihd?” meaning, “Is he Jewish?” was uttered each time someone was arrested. She was embarrassed by Jewish crooks. And rightly so.
But those days of Jewish criminality have gone the way of horse drawn milk wagons and ice boxes.. Rather than use a baseball bat or gun in their pursuit of crime, we now have to contend with the Jewish, clean cut, white collar types who use the stock market, banking fraud and business schemes to defraud the gullible out of billions of dollars. “Gullible” may seem too harsh a description of some of the victims of financial fraud but they usually fall victim by ignoring caution, believing that something too good to be true is true. Con guys thrive on those who suspend disbelief when it comes to greed. And unfortunately, for the Jewish community and reputation, we have a disproportionate number of our people involved in schemes to defraud others.
Stephen Hoffenberg, (1992), “Mikey” Milken (1988), Ivan Boesky (1988), Barry Minkow (2014) , Bernie Cornfeld (1970, and of course, Bernie Madoff (2010) are but a few of the Jewish criminals whose genius was misdirected to conniving and fraud leading to the destruction of many families who fell prey to their sales pitches. A murderer may spend a lifetime behind bars for his crime but criminals of the financial genre often are penalized by huge fines and a paltry few years behind bars. Jewish thugs no longer kill for a living, rather they bamboozle others to give them their money willingly with promises of easy wealth.
This is a problem for the Jewish community. We are painted, as European Jews were by our enemies, as tawdry money merchants, lenders, and conniving thieves. The road to commerce at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution was greased by money. Those who handled monetary affairs on the Continent had to be literate and financially astute. It was not commonplace in the early 1700’s to find many who could count and understand the banking business. Jews, who were forbidden to farm had to become merchants in the big cities. They were self educated in trade and financial matters and were capable of reading and speaking many languages. Commerce was their field and it coincided with the huge growth in manufacturing and international trade. Enter the Jewish financier, banker, merchant and businessman.
After WWII, many of our boys returning home took advantage of GI loans to be the first in their families to attend college. They avoided following their parents into the shipping rooms, tailoring departments and the neighborhood market businesses. They became lawyers, doctors and teachers. Professionals earning salaries their parents never dreamed of. They rocketed into the upper middle class. And with that their educations some branched out into the investment houses no Jews had ever been permitted to enter. They began handling other people’s money. They had connections to the marketing, entertainment and energy industry, publishing and international markets. They became wheelers and dealers. They dabbled in big finance.
And the roads they traveled were wide enough to permit some of them to become criminals. They were bright enough to concoct schemes to defraud others of their money. They became con men. The few bad Jewish apples in the basket were poster boys for Jew haters to label the entire community as greedy, Shylock type money lenders as portrayed in Shakespeare’s, The Merchant of Venice.
When Lehman Brothers, an upstanding financial institution in this country since 1850, declared bankruptcy the Arab press jumped on the “Corrupt” Jewish financial institutions including Lehman and Goldman Sachs to convince the world that Jewish money controls the world. It was a shot in the arm for the Jew haters.
We Jews have got to keep our house in order. We have the responsibility, in these tumultuous times of animosity against Israel and the European Jewish population, to convince our younger generation that the Jew haters are all too willing to magnify each and every indiscretion we Jews make in order to fuel the Muslim attacks on our credibility and intentions. We cannot emulate a Marc Rich, the now deceased Jewish trader and financier who fled this country to avoid a jail term for his criminality. Our people cannot afford such miscreants to tarnish our image in the world. We must, sadly enough, be more pure than our neighbors and enemies. Again, referring to the idioms of my grandmother, “Siss schware zu zein a Yid!” “It’s tough to be a Jew!”