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Biden says Jewish ‘influence’ behind American cultural politics is ‘immense… immense’

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Joe Biden gave a speech to a Jewish group Tuesday night at which he said that the Jewish influence “behind” American culture is “immense.” Praising a Jewish audience, he spoke of the prominent roles Jews had played in transforming American attitudes toward civil rights, feminism, and gay rights. The loquacious veep struck a high-water mark in philosemitism:
You make up 11 percent of the seats in the United States Congress. You make up one-third of all Nobel laureates. So many notions that are embraced by this nation that particularly emanate from over 5,000 years of Jewish history, tradition and culture: independence, individualism, fairness, decency, justice, charity. 
The speech, which is up at Politico, had a political dimension: it was delivered at a Jewish American Heritage Month reception hosted by the Democratic National Committee. More from Jennifer Epstein’s coverage:

“You can’t talk about the civil rights movement in this country without talking about Jewish freedom riders and Jack Greenberg,” he said, telling a story about seeing a group of Jewish activists at a segregated movie theater in Delaware. “You can’t talk about the women’s movement without talking about Betty Friedan” or American advances in science and technology without mentioning Einstein and Carl Sagan, or music and Gershwin, Bob Dylan and “so, so, so many other people.”

“I believe what affects the movements in America, what affects our attitudes in America are as much the culture and the arts as anything else,” he said. That’s why he spoke out on gay marriage “apparently a little ahead of time.”

“It wasn’t anything we legislatively did. It was ‘Will and Grace,’ it was the social media. Literally. That’s what changed peoples’ attitudes. That’s why I was so certain that the vast majority of people would embrace and rapidly embrace” gay marriage, Biden said.

“Think behind of all that, I bet you 85 percent of those changes, whether it’s in Hollywood or social media are a consequence of Jewish leaders in the industry. The influence is immense, the influence is immense. And, I might add, it is all to the good,” he said.

Jews have also been key to the evolution of American jurisprudence, he continued, namedropping Brandeis, Fortas, Frankfurter, Cardozo, Ginsberg, Breyer, Kagan. “You literally can’t. You can’t talk about the recognition of … rights in the Constitution without looking at these incredible jurists that we’ve had.”

“Jewish heritage has shaped who we are – all of us, us, me – as much or more than any other factor in the last 223 years. And that’s a fact,” he said.

It’s been picked up by the Times of Israel and Haaretz, the latter saying that Biden praised Jewish leaders for helping change American attitudes about gay marriage.

Writes Bruce Wolman:

Guess who is running for President? This is about the worst pandering I’ve ever seen. Gays didn’t drive gay marriage, Jews in Hollywood and on the internet did. Is Joe sacrificing the Orthodox vote?
Of course, some of those Jews are gay themselves. I tend to agree somewhat with the vice president: Jewish cultural/political influence has been staggering (and matriarchal culture suited us to play an important role in the women’s movement). And Biden has opened a door, even with his use of the prepositional phrase “behind all that.” Behind is about quiet influence. And if we’re so influential, doesn’t that give people the right to discuss that influence– say in the instance of the lobby, the Jewish marriage to Zionism and the effect of that collision on US policy in the Middle East? Of course. (It also opens the door on Jewish exceptionalism, certainly a core belief of my upbringing….)

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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57 Responses

  1. Citizen on May 22, 2013, 10:44 am

    Didn’t Beiden effectively say, at the last AIPAC conference, that we must rubber-stamp Israel, continue to pour endless US $, blood, sweat, n tears into Israel, because Israel is the only safe haven from latent goy anti-semitism around the world, including in America, which is 98% goy? Yes he did. BTW, David Duke and S MacDonald would agree with Beiden on the very disproportionate influence of our 2% of Jews on America’s values, and goals. They just disagree it’s always “all to the good.”

    Good for whom?
    I mean, besides Beiden’s political career and Israel?
    The guy is just an absolute toady to AIPAC.
    Hair implant renewals and chiclet teeth renewals are expensive.
    Has Beiden ever considered the former Irish Troubles analogue to the I-P Conflict problem? Has he ever talked about the Palestinian plight, in terms of US values?

    • lysias on May 22, 2013, 6:56 pm

      On Biden, read The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins by former Biden aide (and fellow Irish-American) Jeff Connaughton. With Biden, it’s all about advancing his own career.

  2. Dan Crowther on May 22, 2013, 10:54 am

    Hey, what about me?

    – Red Auerbach (from beyond)

    • marc b. on May 22, 2013, 1:07 pm

      Hey, what about me?

      – Jeremy Jacobs (from Buffalo, NY)

      • Dan Crowther on May 22, 2013, 8:18 pm

        I know me and marc were both half kidding, but all jokes aside, you could make an argument for Sandy Koufax being really high on the all time list of “influential” American Jews, jewish ball players had to have had an effect on attitudes – and koufax was an all timer, legit handsome AND sat out on yom kippur, and was by all accounts a real mensch, every left handed kid wanted to be Koufax; not to sound like Walter Sobjcak from The Big Lebowski, but I gotta go Koufax…

      • marc b. on May 23, 2013, 7:53 am

        i’m with you on Koufax. the only smart thing Jacobs ever did was to hire chiarelli and neely.

  3. Ecru on May 22, 2013, 10:56 am

    Call me cynical but didn’t Jews benefit from the Civil Rights Movement too?

  4. biorabbi on May 22, 2013, 11:06 am

    I believe if you add in half-Jews, the nobel laureates inches up to 50 %.

    • libra on May 22, 2013, 4:07 pm

      biorabbi, did you add them in as full laureates or just half-laureates?

    • lysias on May 22, 2013, 7:03 pm

      That may be changing. Of the 13 Nobel laureates in physics from 2008 on, four have been East Asian (2 from Japan, 1 an American born in Japan, and 1 from Hong Kong).

      • Woody Tanaka on May 23, 2013, 8:58 am

        “That may be changing.”

        Of course it’s changing. Being a Nobel laureate is as much about the circumstances one finds him or herself in, than anything innate. It rewards people who are attracted to specific disciplines in states that have a certain level of industrial sophistication and economic success to support those disciplines. And it so happens that historical forces have led people in the Jewish community to partake of those disciplines in high numbers so one would expect that result. To be proud of that fact is silly, like a Canadian being proud of the fact that more Canadians than Jamaicans have their names on the Stanley Cup.

        As countries in East Asia (many of whom were among the most poverty stricken places on the planet less than a century ago) reach the level of societal sophistication and success, the awards will follow.

        It’s a great insult to those people whose individual efforts gained them those awards to lump them together with non-achievers who are of the same group. It’s as if biorabbi wants some of the credit for the Nobel prize winners’ successes, when he doesn’t have the ability to achieve that success himself.

    • Don on May 22, 2013, 7:45 pm

      Half Jews? Half Jews?

      My goodness, Biorabbi, do you mean…
      A Mischling of the first degree, or half-Jew, was a person with two Jewish grandparents who did not belong to the Jewish religion or who was not
      married to a Jew as of September 15, 1935. (Nazi definition)

      From the Holocuast Resource Center of Yad Vashem

      Geezus, man…

      • marc b. on May 24, 2013, 8:31 am

        Half Jews? Half Jews?

        My goodness, Biorabbi, do you mean…

        right on, don. these are the real self-haters. bio can’t imagine a ‘jewish identity’ that isn’t consistent with the racial ideologies of the german national socialists or ‘white’ identity movements. that’s why they have such an easy affinity with the religious fundamentalist nuts in this country, who believe that there is something inherently evil in people who don’t embrace their version of Christianity.

  5. Les on May 22, 2013, 11:19 am

    The only real industry that matters in this case is our big print and broadcast media. Everything else pales in comparison.

  6. biorabbi on May 22, 2013, 11:22 am

    “And if we’re so influential, doesn’t that give people the right to discuss that influence– say in the instance of the lobby, the Jewish marriage to Zionism and the effect of that collision on US policy in the Middle East? Of course.”

    Phil, there is a right which gives people the right to discuss that influence. You may have missed Youtube and the numerous individuals and groups who devote all of their talent and energy to discussing said influence. Free speech also allows individuals the right to defend Jews who are vilified for success, influence, support for Israel for our one friend in the Middle East. Free speech also allows us to respond to haters. Sadly, numerical success in the arts, commerce, and medicine does not always turn into happy endings. Of course.

    • Woody Tanaka on May 22, 2013, 2:17 pm

      “support for Israel for our one friend in the Middle East”

      Funny, though. Before we supported israel, we had many friends in the Middle East…

      • marc b. on May 22, 2013, 4:07 pm

        Before we supported Israel

        precisely woody. but Israel is a jealous type. that’s the part biohazard left out. Israel insists on being ‘our one [and only] friend’, there can be no others, otherwise madame Israel pitches a fit, throwing her perfume bottles against the wall, threatening to release details of the whole sordid affair to the world.

      • Citizen on May 23, 2013, 12:58 am
      • miriam6 on May 24, 2013, 12:56 pm

        Funny, though. Before we supported israel, we had many friends in the Middle East…

      • Woody Tanaka on May 24, 2013, 3:13 pm

        You’re learning! There may be hope for you yet.

  7. frankier on May 22, 2013, 11:40 am

    Jewish : 11% of seats in Congress vs 1.7% of the population…
    Black : 9% vs. 13%
    Hispanic : 4% vs. 4% (actual population is 14% but voting are 4%)
    Asian / Pacific : 1% vs. 2%

    I’d say that the Jewish population is over represented (and this without counting the lobbying efforts).

    • Citizen on May 23, 2013, 10:52 am

      @ frankier
      When that Jewish 11% acts as one regarding anything even distantly related to Israel, and they do in Congress, (as in the general Jewish Establishment outside Congress), their force is multiplied many times as the Gentiles seldom have a single issue on which they all unite. The legislative Barter is thus always lop-sided.

  8. dannymac on May 22, 2013, 11:53 am

    If Jewish Americans are responsible for all this progress then why is Europe considerable more progressive on everyone of these issues. This is not to say though that Jewish people do have alot to be proud of for the part they played in the civil rights movement.

    • Woody Tanaka on May 22, 2013, 2:28 pm

      Because it had nothing to do with their Jewishness, per se. It had to do with the culture they grew up in. American Jewish culture (save on the Palestine question) is very liberal on civil rights. israeli Jewish culture is very reactionary on civil rights.

      The other think that Biden’s ass-kissing horseshit overlooks is the fact that the contributions he cites were done by individuals. If progress in women’s right, for example, is a credit to Jews and Judaism because of Jews who participated in it, then would not Jews and Judaism also be responsible for oppressing women because there are Jews who spit on girls, segregate religious ceremonies, and so forth?

      And this is absolutely vile:

      “So many notions that are embraced by this nation that particularly emanate from over 5,000 years of Jewish history, tradition and culture: independence, individualism, fairness, decency, justice, charity.”

      The notion that common virtues such as these “particularly emanate” from Jewish culture is, frankly, racist to the core. Someone needs to tell this pandering boob that these are not Jewish notions, but human ones, which Jewish culture has, like all cultures, reflected and dealt with, to greater or lesser degrees.

      • ritzl on May 22, 2013, 2:58 pm

        Great comment, WT.

      • wondering jew on May 22, 2013, 3:38 pm

        The Jewish identity of the Jews who immigrated to the US from Eastern Europe between 1881 and 1920 is the essential question here. They were escaping from repression from the Czars and the rabbis and their attitude of rebelliousness and starting anew mingled with Americanism to create this liberal tendency among Jewish voters on questions of personal freedom.

      • marc b. on May 23, 2013, 7:42 am

        jews escaping from their rabbis? oh, my.

      • Woody Tanaka on May 23, 2013, 9:26 am

        “The Jewish identity of the Jews who immigrated to the US from Eastern Europe between 1881 and 1920 is the essential question here. They were escaping from repression from the Czars and the rabbis and their attitude of rebelliousness and starting anew mingled with Americanism to create this liberal tendency among Jewish voters on questions of personal freedom.”

        And there is nothing in that action which is quintessentially Jewish. Many of the immigrants to the US, from that time period and others, did so to escape oppression and to start life anew in freedom. As I noted, these are human attributes, and were very common among many of the immigrant communities throughout American history. Not only the Jews, but the Italians, Poles, Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Irish, Cubans, and among those oppressed who were not part of the immigrant communities of the 19th-20th C, such as African Americans, Native Americans and working people of all races.

        That’s what’s so offensive about Biden’s bigoted statements: these attributes — independence, individualism, fairness, decency, justice, charity — are not attributes which “particularly emanated” from Jewish culture. They were attributes which particularly emanated from the movement of all people who wished to make a better world and a better society for themselves and their fellow man. In the US experience, the Jews certainly had a part in that movement, but it was not their movement. It was everyone’s movement.

      • Ecru on May 23, 2013, 8:12 am

        American Jewish culture……is very liberal on civil rights…

        I’d say that’s true only as long as it benefits American Jews. When those same rights threaten Jewish hegemony, for example in Israel, that commitment goes out the window at light speed.

      • Woody Tanaka on May 24, 2013, 1:15 am

        “I’d say that’s true only as long as it benefits American Jews. ”

        Ecru, I disagree. I find US Jews to be generally liberal, even on issues that don’t directly affect that community. It seems to me only on the issue of Palestine that it’s liberalism falls apart.

  9. David Doppler on May 22, 2013, 12:06 pm

    How does this pandering play among his audience? It’s obvious he believes his pandering will be appreciated and rewarded, but isn’t there open rebellion against AIPAC among Jews in the Democratic National Committee? Isn’t there growing recognition that tough love is what Israel needs from the US, not more enabling and empowering of Apartheid? Having the Vice President stroke you indiscriminately as a generalized people about your immense influence (which depends in crucial part in remaining at least partially hidden), and assumes a collective intent to influence, a collective responsibility for the results of that influence, should be a clear signal that collective hubris and its consequences are at hand. What would a poll among those who listened to this talk have shown, on a scale from strong satisfaction through neutrality to disapproval and unease?

    • Woody Tanaka on May 22, 2013, 2:29 pm

      “How does this pandering play among his audience?”

      I, for one, find myself hard pressed to justify a vote for Biden, in light of his rabid zionism. This is even worse.

    • American on May 22, 2013, 4:43 pm

      What Joe is really saying is ….GIVE US THE MONEY, GIVE US THE MONEY.. the 2014 elections are comming!….”‘ Ive told you you’re beautful, you’re wonderful, the fairest in the world…now fork it over…the donkey is getting tired.’

  10. Bruce Wolman on May 22, 2013, 12:52 pm

    I must protest.

    African Americans en masse drove the Civil Rights movement, often putting themselves, their children and their communities at great risk. While American Jews and upper middle class women ended up the greatest beneficiaries of the legal changes, with a few exceptions they mostly stayed on the sidelines during the conflict.

    Brandeis, Fortas, Frankfurter, Cardozo, Ginsberg, Breyer and Kagan. Only Brandeis and Cardozo distinguished themselves, Fortas resigned in scandal. Frankfurter was a member of the path-breaking Warren Court, which reached its historic decisions with a broad cross-section of Americans on its bench.

    • dbroncos on May 22, 2013, 9:55 pm


      “African Americans en masse drove the Civil Rights movement, often putting themselves, their children and their communities at great risk.”

      I agree. To suggest that the civil rights movement was anything other than a herculian triumph on the part of black Americans, with Jews and others in nothing more than a supporting role, is nonsense.

    • biorabbi on May 22, 2013, 10:00 pm

      I guess the Jewish boys murdered in Mississippi for marching in the civil rights movement or Rabbi Heschel did a bit more than stayed on the sidelines.

      • Bruce Wolman on May 23, 2013, 3:37 am


        Were the Jewish boys murdered in Mississippi welcomed or supported by the Jews of Mississippi (or the rest of the South)? Quite the opposite, they were asked to go back home.

        Although there were exceptions, the Jewish community by and large stayed on the sidelines. Jewish institutions were divided and most Jews joined the white flight to the suburbs. Sammy Davis, Jr. couldn’t get married in his Hollywood Temple.

      • tree on May 23, 2013, 5:35 am

        It is mistaken to claim that “Jews were at the forefront of the civil rights movement” as if all or even most Jews were involved. Goodman and Schwerner were just two individuals. Viola Liuzzo was also a civil rights activist murdered in Alabama. She was a woman and a Unitarian, and yet no one insists that white women (or Unitarians) as a group were at the forefront of the movement because she gave her life.

        There MAY have been a greater percentage of Jews involved than other religious adherents, but the numbers any non-black group involved in the movement were all very small, including the percentage of Jews. Its one of those instances where its considered acceptable to credit an entire group with the acts of a few individuals, but in other cases, its considered anti-semitic to the same thing. Individual Jews were communists in greater percentages than other ethno-religious groups, even though the aggregate numbers of communists among Jewish individuals were still quite small. Its considered acceptable to claim Jewish group credit for Goodman and Schwerner, but anti-semitic to do the same for Boesky, Milken and Madoff. In reality taking group credit for either set of individuals is an error.

      • Cliff on May 23, 2013, 4:21 am


        You say Jewish boys in Miss. Were there millions of Jewish boys murdered in Miss.? Because if not, then yes, Jews still stayed on the side-lines. I’m sure there were other people murdered other than Jews.

        Being murdered doesn’t put you at the forefront of anything except your own story.

        Then you name a Rabbi.

        This is about numbers and unless there were equal amount of Jews working to end segregation and discrimination as there were Blacks doing so, then you have no argument.

        But predictably, you resort to the same kind of superficial point-scoring that makes it seem as if no one cares about the act in and of itself (of murdered Jewish boys).

        It must be a cultural thing, this kind of dishonesty that Zionist Jews express so effortlessly.

  11. rsmatesic on May 22, 2013, 1:00 pm

    The problem with Philo-anygroup is that no collection of human beings constitutes an unqualified good, given that human beings are by their very nature flawed, corrupt, and corruptible. So if we feel compelled to attribute to the humans of Group A certain virtues, what then are their vices?

  12. Pamela Olson on May 22, 2013, 1:15 pm

    As a lover of science, and especially physics, I grew up with Jewish heroes. It was staggering to me, for example, how many of the “founding fathers” of chaos theory were Jewish — and in fact, how many were Holocaust survivors. When I read that, it brought the Holocaust home in a whole new way. How many scientific theories were lost in those chambers?

    Credit where credit is due — Jewish influence on science and culture is staggering, and I, for one, am immensely grateful for it.

    But when assholes who didn’t invent a damn thing use that sparkling history to justify ethnic cleansing, oppression, and killing, it makes my blood boil all the hotter because it disrespects all the fine Jewish people I grew up admiring.

    • RoHa on May 22, 2013, 9:14 pm

      “Jewish influence on science and culture is staggering…”

      What is it that makes it Jewish?

      • Pamela Olson on May 23, 2013, 2:48 pm

        People of Jewish descent, culture, and/or religion have done, discovered, and written about tremendously influential things in the area of science and culture — pretty far outsized for their relatively small numbers. I don’t think there’s any controversy about this.

        The Greeks can be thought of similarly, though they’ve somewhat fallen off the Western science and culture radar in recent centuries.

        None of it gives anyone a “right” to violate international law, discriminate against others, or deny basic human rights to anyone.

      • marc b. on May 23, 2013, 3:39 pm

        but Pamela, why is it permissible (or to judge by biden’s slobbering, required) to acknowledge uniquely ‘jewish’ contributions to the arts and sciences, for example, but impermissible to talk about the ‘golden age’ of jewish pornographers or ecstasy traffickers or mortgage underwriters, or to point out that many institutions, including government and scientific research, both of which we’re told have outsize ‘jewish’ representation, are at historic levels of corruption and dysfunction? i personally don’t have a satisfactory answer to this problem, but it’s not logically consistent to permit praise of uniquely jewish contributions without also permitting criticism of uniquely jewish defects.

      • MHughes976 on May 23, 2013, 4:14 pm

        But the influence of Jewish people on science, making important discoveries and so on, is surely not the same as an influence on science from Jewish religion or culture? I don’t mean that there’s no such thing as an influence of that kind – Newton’s fundamentalist Christianity perhaps had its influence here and there but on the whole his work flows from observations and calculations that belong to all of us (not that I can do them). Freud, when writing directly about religion, is expressing a decided preference for Jewish over Christian theology, though he’s drawing on Christian sources – but that sort of thing is rather the exception in the realm of science, just because religion is its subject.
        I do think that Jewish people played a special part in intellectual history because as an outside group they were more ready to challenge accepted ideas. I would hope that the need for an outside group to fulfill this role has morphed into a new situation where all individuals feel more free to question things.
        My real faith is that there’s only one human race and that over the whole range of moral and intellectual abilities the human race is one.
        Still hoping you’re going to extend your promotional tour to this side of the ocean.

      • RoHa on May 23, 2013, 9:19 pm

        Exactly. What is about the contributions of German/Dutch/Welsh Jews that makes their contribution Jewish rather than German/Dutch/Welsh?

      • Citizen on May 24, 2013, 6:14 am

        @ Pamela Olson
        Which should be obvious to anyone by looking at Germany’s history in the last few centuries.

  13. marc b. on May 22, 2013, 1:24 pm

    I tend to agree somewhat with the vice president: Jewish cultural/political influence has been staggering

    staggering. perhaps you could detail some areas of jewish influence on American culture that are staggeringly negative. and i’m not talking about generalized descriptions of stereotypical traits associated with etc. etc. etc. be specific.

  14. Light on May 22, 2013, 4:44 pm

    So many notions that are embraced by this nation that particularly emanate from over 5,000 years of Jewish history,

    Now its 5000 years? That’s even longer than what Netanyahu claims.

  15. yourstruly on May 22, 2013, 6:35 pm

    What, is Biden setting up Jews for recrimination, because there’s liable to be a backlash at all this fawning over the contribution of individual Jews to science and culture. He’s coming mighty close to applying the label ubermensch to all Jews, something the public could take note of, any time a Jew (Bernard Madoff?) falls off the pedestal of supposed greatness. Remember, ubermensch implies that there are untermensch, so for a people to rise from having been designated untermensch by the Nazis to essentially being called ubermensch by the vice-president of the U. S. of A, only emphasizes the fact that, beware, what goes up may come down.

  16. atime forpeace on May 22, 2013, 6:49 pm

    Maybe if President Obama gets impeached then Joe Biden can be the next Israel firster jewish pandering president.

  17. RoHa on May 22, 2013, 9:13 pm

    Hold on!

    “…or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective—especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”

    Joe Biden is an anti-Semite!

  18. biorabbi on May 22, 2013, 10:04 pm

    Phil, I wonder if the ‘youth’ who beheaded that British soldier in London today was philosemitic or just anglophobic? or should we move right along(nothing much to see there).

    • Donald on May 23, 2013, 8:04 am

      According to the NYT, the Muslim groups in Great Britain immediately condemned the murder. Anyway, your comment was a complete non sequitur, almost like the actions of a troll.

    • Citizen on May 24, 2013, 6:19 am

      @ biorabbi
      The beheader guy explained on camera why he did what he did. You don’t have to wonder. Google it, don’t watch TV Cable News as none of those shows gave its audience the full message, which was short anyway.

  19. frankier on May 22, 2013, 10:29 pm

    Is Biden de facto saying that Jews are smarter than anyone else? Now believing that (like most people in Israel do) would really be racist…

  20. seafoid on May 24, 2013, 10:04 am

    “independence, individualism, fairness, decency, justice, charity.”

    Fairness, decency, justice and charity- it is incredible that these thrive in the US and died in Israel. Zionism kidnapped judaism and drove her down a one way street with a cliff at the end.

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