Courtesy of some fine fellows over at the Economist’s online side, the internet net now has a nifty graphic on Judaism. Who knew the U.S. was the second-favorite spot of Jews?
I was aware of this actually.
Not to sound bigoted but I had no idea the United States was home to so many. They are the ultra ‘example minority.’
I’ve spent some time studying it. They are amazingly influential for being an overall small percentage of the nation’s populous. I did know there has been a migration of sorts to the US because of the large scale antisemitic persecutions in Europe over the last century or so.
I’m interested to know, why do you think they’ve been so influential?
I don’t think there is a clear cut answer to that question. It’s like asking, ‘why do Asians excel in math and science?’ The question itself almost sounds racist (and no, I am not inferring that you in anyway sound racist asking me the question). My understanding of it is based on a mixture of studying economics, history, and religious studies. From what I have read there were biblical laws forbidding Christians from lending money to fellow Christians and charging interest. I believe the Talmud has a similar law, but it is acceptable to loan money to a stranger (Gentiles) and charge interest. As we both know, it is hugely profitable to charge money at interest and so the Jewish community filled a need that helped their communities to prosper. These counting houses, as I believe they were called, were the beginning of our modern day fractional reserve banking system. You seem well studied, so I am sure you are aware of all of this already. I wrote about my thoughts on our modern monetary system in a post that can explain it better than I can in a single comment. This post is partially about an ongoing fantasy I had about my Economic’s teacher and the topic we are discussing here.
Back to your original question. Being that our modern day financial system grew out of the counting house of the Jewish communities, it should be no surprise why so many banks are or were run by influential Jewish families. It is postulated that the Jewish community largely controls the banks both here in the US and in Europe. If that is in fact true, then the reason for this would be because they controlled the businesses that the modern day banks grew out of. So although their number maybe small per capita, their per capita is pretty influential because of the industries they have historically been successful at growing. This has of course contributed more to the ever prevalent antisemitism that never really seems to go away.
I will definitely check it out, and thank you for your carefully considered comment. I would warn you about assuming! As smarter and more authoritative writers have said, the more I know about everything the less I know about anything. Jewish Americans and traditions are a blank spot on my map of knowledge.
Your comment does raise some interesting points about the connection between antiSemetism and banking. I wonder if bankers would be more or less vilified if they were historically, say, ultra-orthodox Protestants? I wonder, regardless of the answer, what that says about Protestants.
I have thought often on this question. Why is the Jewish community so vilified? I have spoken with my husband about it. Again, it is hard to consider each of the answers (stereotypes really) without sounding bigoted, but I will attempt to do so. I would rather be accused of possibly being a bigot, then a complacent nonthinker. He has brought up the idea that the Jews consider themselves ‘the chosen people’ and that this does not sit right with others. But doesn’t every group do this? Our way is the way and yours is not. I don’t think the Jews are guilty of this anymore than any other religious group. Perhaps it is because of the sibling rivalry that grows out of the Brothers of the Book. Islam and Christianity are off shoots of Judaism. My husband also mentioned the separatist mentality within the Jewish community. But don’t you see the same mentality amongst groups of Hindus? Hindus want Hindus to intermarry with other Hindus. I don’t really have an answer to the question. The Jewish community is largely influential within the financial sector. If you ever pull up the SEC fillings for newspapers and such they are all owned by the banks. It is postulated that the financial industry and the media is largely controlled by individuals of Jewish origin. And yet only 2% of the population is Jewish, Perhaps the other 98% of non-Jewish individuals do not care for this. It is something I have started looking into more in depth in the last year. Like I said, I don’t have a real answer to the question. I only have observations. I think antisemitism is wrong.
Also without fact checking, I believe Jewish individuals took on positions of tax collectors predating the counting houses. If memory serves me, they took the jobs Christians would not because it was a shitty job (excuse the language, please). I am sure there is more to the story.
I did always find it interesting how difficult it seemed to convert to Judaism, if it is really possible at all. I can answer the door one day, be greeted by some Protestants of this group or that group, the find ,yield on the fast track to salvation before vespers. I don’t know of a Judaic opposite. I’ve thought about that a lot.
What is a difference between Hindusand Jews? Hm. Maybe the answer is there? Maybe it’s simply a matter of geography and how unlucky is it for Jews, then, to have been born near the Roman Empire!
I feel that these questions have no answer, and we’ll both end up frying our brains if we look for one.
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