Last weekend we ran two posts about the Jewish presence in the Establishment. Scott McConnell wrote a piece saying that it is fitting that the Atlantic Magazine site runs articles about the Jewish National Fund in Israel because the Eastern seaboard elite is now more Jewish than it is any other religious flavor. And I wrote a piece saying that American Jews tend to maintain a false consciousness about the endurance of anti-Semitism; in fact Jews are incredibly empowered in our society.
Well right on time– on 60 Minutes Sunday, virtually the entire show was devoted to powerful Jews.
Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, who grew up in South Carolina the grandson of immigrants, was on talking about the disparity between the rich and the poor. And Mark Zuckerberg was on for the remaining two segments, talking about Facebook, to Lesley Stahl (who is herself Jewish). When I pointed out the Jewishness of the show to the friend I was watching with, he shrugged. “Jews are smart and creative,” he said.
There are a number of potential lessons here, including that these are surely two of the most powerful men in American society and that Americans are quite sophisticated about the Jewish contribution to our society. There is an awareness of exceptional Jewish achievement, for whatever reason (I think there’s a cultural basis); and the fact that Zuckerberg is insincere and self-involved doesn’t weigh against Jews, while the fact that Bernanke is sincerely concerned about inequity in our society shows how stupid are stereotypes about Jewish bankers.
The main lesson for me of the 60 Minutes show, though, is that this is no aberration; it is a reflection of the prominence of Jews inside the U.S. establishment– we are the new WASPs, a media friend has put it to me– and those who go around talking about anti-semitism ought to acknowledge these fact and celebrate them. A little self-awareness, please, about our place in American society; we are agents not just in the decisions affecting our lives, but many others’.