privilege changes Jewish identity

on 17 Comments

Jeff Greene is a self-made businessman with a yacht, a Jewish guy who grew up poor, now running for Senate in Florida, and his intolerance re the mosque shows to me how privilege and power have transformed Jewish identity.

“President Obama has this all wrong,” said Jeff Greene, who is running for U.S. Senate. “Freedom of religion might provide the right to build the mosque in the shadow of ground zero, but common sense and respect for those who lost their lives and loved ones gives sensible reason to build the mosque someplace else.”

The only tolerant person in that article is Charlie Crist. Jews used to be outsiders in American politics, liberals. But privilege changes things. I believe that Milton Himmelfarb’s old formulation, that Jews live like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans, is changing; a lot of them vote like Episcopalians now. I saw this during the Julian Assange wikileaks story. The Assange role used to be a Jewish role. It was played by Daniel Ellsberg during the last big disastrous war, and Ellsberg was a Jewish hero for taking on the establishment. This time around you have insiders like Richard Holbrooke trashing Assange and access journalists like Andrea Mitchell reporting on him. And the Curtis LeMay role, it’s now played by Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer.

17 Responses

  1. Citizen
    August 15, 2010, 11:03 am

    Loved your succinct concluding paragraph, Phil. Lots about Green in the local papers here. Additionally, his employees and former employees all state he’s the last boss anyone would want to have; a real arrogant and demeaning prick who bullies and short-changes those beneath him in his realm. His yacht has been a regular sleazy love boat–or even more perverted and trashy if you believe what Mike Tyson has to say about his experiences on it. Green denies it and says, when he sailed to Romania, for example, he only took his son on a tour of Jewish sites there and attended Temple each Friday. OTH his political opponents are standard-issue BS status quo here in lame Florida.

  2. DICKERSON3870
    August 15, 2010, 11:38 am

    RE: “privilege changes…identity” – Weiss
    MY COMMENT: Yes, inevitably!

  3. ehrens
    August 15, 2010, 11:38 am

    I still think that the Magnes Zionist said it best when addressing the “sensitivity” of the Cordoba Center and highlighting, even obliquely, why Jews like Greene might see it differently if privilege had not dulled their sensibilities:

    “Perhaps some Christians are offended when those they consider to ‘Christ killers’ wish to build a synagogue nearby? This sort of sensitivity we have to pay attention to? ”

    link to

  4. lysias
    August 15, 2010, 12:10 pm

    Because I’ve set myself as a project to study the German dialects, I’ve been plowing through Rabbi Benjamin Blech’s Complete Idiot’s Guide to Learning Yiddish the past month or two. (Turns out Yiddish is a South German dialect, which shares a lot of features with Alsatian and Swiss German — and, I assume, Swabian, which I have not yet gotten to.)

    Even though Rabbi Blech would appear from his other writings to be a true believer in Israel as the Jewish state, his Yiddish book is not heavy-handed at all, rather, an extremely funny book, which is most unusual for a language primer.l

    Because most of the non-German words in Yiddish are Hebrew, I decided to bone up on my Hebrew as well, to have a chance of memorizing those non-German words in Yiddish. So I ordered a used copy of Hebrew for Dummies, by Jill Suzanne Jacobs, to also skim through. Turns out Jacobs’s book is absolutely humorless, pretty much only concerned with creature comforts and consumerism.

    I fear the Jews lost a lot when they abandoned Yiddish.

    • LanceThruster
      August 15, 2010, 3:12 pm

      My exposure to Yiddish was through a Foreign Phrases dictionary, but I found it distasteful that so many of the terms were put-downs.

      • Mooser
        August 17, 2010, 9:00 am

        “My exposure to Yiddish was through a Foreign Phrases dictionary, but I found it distasteful that so many of the terms were put-downs.”

        What you are seeing in that Phrases dictionary is the remains of Yiddish. At one time Yiddish was a complete and living language, with newspapers, poetry, literature and theatre.
        It didn’t occur to you that the Phrases dictionary was what the author(s) of the dictionary wanted you to know about Yiddish, and nothing more?

    • Antidote
      August 15, 2010, 3:26 pm

      lysias – perhaps the Germans lost a lot when they abandoned Swabian – which, had it not been for the disintegration of the Staufer-dynasty/empire, the Hanseatic League, the impact of Luther’s Bible trl (he also started the capitalization of nouns) and the rise of Prussia, the Staufer-dialect may well have become the dominant German language.

    • RoHa
      August 16, 2010, 6:55 am

      Interesting that Yiddish and Hebrew are presented as if they were the only “Jewish Languages”. There are actually quite a few.

      link to

      Judeo-Arabic and Ladino were particularly important, but they were the languages of the wrong sort of Jews,

      link to

      so they don’t get much attention.

      • lysias
        August 16, 2010, 1:50 pm

        Actually, I recently bought a copy of Marie-Christine Varol’s Manual of Judeo-Spanish, which is said to be the best manual of Ladino, from Amazon. As someone who already has a smattering of Spanish, Turkish, and Hebrew, and who has actually heard Ladino spoken during my time in Istanbul, I have long had an interest in Ladino.

        However, it will be some time before I get around to studying it. It will be after I go through all the German dialects (among which I include Dutch for my purposes).

      • Mooser
        August 17, 2010, 9:02 am

        Thanks, RoHa. I’ve been told that even in Yiddish there are people who speak such different versions it would be hard for them to understand each other.

      • hophmi
        August 17, 2010, 9:16 am

        “Interesting that Yiddish and Hebrew are presented as if they were the only “Jewish Languages”. There are actually quite a few.

        Judeo-Arabic and Ladino were particularly important, but they were the languages of the wrong sort of Jews, so they don’t get much attention. ”

        I have never heard anyone suggest that Yiddish and Hebrew were the only “Jewish” languages, and it’s not true the others do not get much attention.

        Ladino, a gorgeous-sounding combination of Hebrew and Spanish, gets quite a bit of attention. Yiddish happens to be more widely spoken today and there have been significant efforts to preserve it, so we hear more about it.

        I have no idea where the writer of this blog gets the idea that there is some kind of hatred directed at Sephardic Jews by Eastern European Jews in the New World. It’s simply not true.

  5. yourstruly
    August 15, 2010, 2:12 pm

    With privilege there’s a tendency for one to absorb the mind-set of whatever the privileged status one finds oneself in. Invariably said mind-set includes a belief that by dint of superior qualities (inheritance, smarts, work ethics, etc.) one deserves to be privileged, whereas, on the other hand, for lack of these same positive qualities, the underprivileged too, have “earned” their inferior status. It’s an enticingly convenient way to rationalize one’s conversion from, say, an egalitarian to an elitist outlook – whether one is a rags to riches business person in America or a Jewish settler in the colonial state Israel.

    • rmokhtar
      August 16, 2010, 8:02 am

      “whether one is a rags to riches business person in America or a Jewish settler in the colonial state Israel” or a rich business dynasty in the Arab world.

      “The Qatar Investment Authority and the Olayan Group of Saudi Arabia have joined forces with a prominent Israeli conglomerate to invest together in an emerging markets fund.”

      link to

      There isn’t much difference. One is always capable of becoming a elitist snob.

  6. hophmi
    August 16, 2010, 12:36 pm

    See Phil, this is what drives me nuts about you. You read an article quoting one Jew who is running from the Senate, and you use this to make far reaching statements about the Jewish community. Yeah, Kristol and Krauthammer write very conservative political columns. But since when are two newspaper columnists representative of an entire community?

    It is just total bull. Have you done a poll of where Jews stand on this issue? The American Jewish Committee, one of the largest American Jewish organizations, came out in favor of the mosque.

    Mike Bloomberg (did you forget that he’s Jewish too?) gave what is perhaps the most public and impassioned defense of the mosque. Would you say he’s “privileged?” Is the richest man in NY good enough for you?

    “a lot of them vote like Episcopalians now”

    Really? Then how come 80 percent of them voted for Obama?

    • Philip Weiss
      August 16, 2010, 12:51 pm

      why is obama veering right on foreign policy

      • hophmi
        August 16, 2010, 3:44 pm

        What is your point? That it’s the fault of the Jews?

        What is this right-wing shift in foreign policy that you speak of, exactly? The guy was never a leftist on foreign policy to begin with. He’s a realist. And how is this tautological, exactly? Because you believe it? That’s pretty arrogant. Like the whole post, it’s just extremely lazy reasoning.

        And again, now that I’ve questioned your assertions, you’re ignoring that you made them in the first place. You took a statement that a Senate candidate who happens to be Jewish made about the mosque and drew from that a conclusion about how Jewish privilege has changed Jewish identity when the fact is that not only do you have no idea what Jews think of the mosque as a whole, but you ignore the fact that a major organization like the AJC supports it, as does, most ironically given your argument, that Jew of great privilege, Mike Bloomberg.

      • Mooser
        August 17, 2010, 9:05 am

        Yeah Phil, Hophmi is so right. If you can find one decent Jew, it makes up for all the others.
        So I guess as long as I’m around, we’re all safe from the pillar-of-salt syndrome. You oughta get down on your knobby Jewish knees and thank me, Hophmi.
        If it was up to you we would all rain when it pours.

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