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Jewish success– is it ever a story?

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This morning National Public Radio aired a story on the rivalry between Lawrence Summers and Janet Yellen to be the next Fed chairperson, succeeding Ben Bernanke. All three of these economists are Jewish. It is plain evidence of the fact that Jews make up a large segment of the new Establishment, if not the leading segment.

I had the same impression Friday night, when the nightly news was also filled with Jews. The sex scandals involving San Diego mayor Bob Filner and would-be New York Mayor Anthony Weiner– their pictures opened the NBC news. Then the lead story was food safety, and Nancy Snyderman was interviewing FDA head Margaret Hamburg, then Andrea Mitchell, who is married to a former chair of the Fed, was interviewing Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post about the sex scandals, and at the end of the broadcast they teased David Gregory’s interview on Meet the Press of Jack Lew, Treasury Secretary. All these folks are Jewish or have some Jewish background. They’re all in the center ring.

In recent months, I’ve heard Peter Beinart, Lester Crown, Jane Eisner, and Jeffrey Goldberg exclaim over Jewish success. Crown said that the acceptance of Jews “in almost everything is unbelievable, just remarkable, every place.” But it seems to me that Jews in the media have largely avoided dealing with the implications of our success. They’re embarrassed about it. Or they fear anti-Semitic riots if they say openly what everyone knows. The exception is Marc Ellis, who writes openly about Empire Jews.

This lack of reflection is unacceptable. Elites are traditionally criticized in the American discourse. It’s the price. David Brooks’s book about the “new upper class” is filled with slams of the previous order, the “WASPs,” but has nothing to say about Jews. Nick Lemann wrote a highly-acclaimed book on the meritocracy that described the last ruling elite in religious terms– as “the Episcopacy”– and said that the folks in it got there by birth. It seems to me that the Jewish presence in the establishment merits some scrutiny: what is the role of birth in awarding place in the U.S.? What is the role of social kinship networks? What is the extent of Zionist ideology in the Jewish establishment? And how do successful Zionist Jews justify adherence to an ideology based on separation/colonization when they have done so well here? I’m a liberal and I trust Americans to have this conversation. I don’t remember pogroms against the WASPs.

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38 Responses

  1. Walker
    July 30, 2013, 1:30 pm

    This subject flashed through my mind as I read today’s front page article U.S. Balancing Act With Egypt Grows Trickier in the New York Times.

    The story is about the American response to the Egyptian generals’ repression. It has a strong focus on how Israel’s pro-general viewpoint conditions American options. …The main source is an unnamed “senior administration official”, but reporter quotes four other sources. They are: Dennis Ross (!), Daniel Kurtzer (!), Tamara Cofman Wittes of the Saban Center, and Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress. At least three of these sources are Jewish; I’m not sure about Mr Katulis.

    Public discussion of I/P has almost become a dialogue among Jews, with a resulting impoverishment of points of view. That’s also true even of dissent from mainstream policies. I don’t think it’s easy for Philip Weiss to have this site, but a non-Jewish site with such candor would be totally anathematized. There are (or were) plenty of non-Jews who know the region and have intelligent contributions to make to the discussion, but they’re not granted standing.

  2. Fredman
    July 30, 2013, 1:58 pm

    I’m glad you brought this up. I was also struck by the fact that if the three economists were Muslims, we can be sure that someone in the mainstream press would mention it 1oo times a day.

    Some tribal affiliations are more equal than others.

    • James Canning
      James Canning
      July 30, 2013, 6:46 pm

      @Fredman – – Isn’t William Hague’s chief of staff a Muslim? This fact gets no attention in US news media.

  3. American
    July 30, 2013, 3:11 pm

    ‘It seems to me that the Jewish presence in the establishment merits some scrutiny: what is the role of birth in awarding place in the U.S.? What is the role of social kinship networks? What is the extent of Zionist ideology in the Jewish establishment? And how do successful Zionist Jews justify adherence to an ideology based on separation/colonization when they have done so well here? I’m a liberal and I trust Americans to have this conversation. I don’t remember pogroms against the WASPs.”….Phil

    Some help with your questons:

    1)Do you see any succesful Jews in the US Political establishment that aren’t Zionist?
    2) Do you see any successful Jews in the Media establishment that aren’t Zionist?

    The Zionist are a cult, they help grease the wheels for fellow Zionist to get into Government, WS, Media, Academica, etc..
    Picture them as a alien criminal version of the college boys Skulls & Bones fellowship.
    Cults ‘justify” any hypocritical stands because cults believe they are something that others arent and know things other dont that and that specialness justifies any of what others would see as hypocrtical.
    Zionist get a foot in the door, then hire zionist, promote zionist, recommend zionist and so forth….their success is not a mystery nor is it a meritocracy.
    The WASP did the same thing except none of them went so far as to minipulate or endanger the nation because of a loyalty to a foreign country.

    Every dog has it’s day, this too will pass. Society giveth and society taketh away.

    • yrn
      July 30, 2013, 4:50 pm

      “The Zionist are a cult, they help grease the wheels for fellow Zionist to get into Government, WS, Media, Academica, etc..”

      mmmmm Sounds like the octopus in the protocols……………..

      • Keith
        July 30, 2013, 5:52 pm

        YRN- “mmmmm Sounds like the octopus in the protocols….”

        I suppose it is to be expected that you would attempt to evade the issue and denigrate the comment by your predictable libelous reference to the Protocols. Yet another example of knee-jerk defense of the tribe from any and all criticism, containing more than a hint of anti-Gentile chauvinism. You are aware, I assume, that your comment is an unwarranted de facto accusation of anti-Semitism? One, I might add, which you make rather casually.

      • marc b.
        marc b.
        July 31, 2013, 9:56 am

        keith, yern is just one of the schizophrenics who haunt this site forever warning about the impending return of annihilationist anti-semitism, while simultaneously slicing up the world into tranches of racial categories. theirs is a cartoon world, with every gentile always pouring over the biologically embedded copy of the ‘protocols’, consciously or not, jews the interminable victims, two of whom would never stoop so low as to consider cooperating in a plan to prevent the next holocaust or promote a family member or coreligionist for something as crass as personal financial gain. oh, woe to yern, destined to play the janus role of ubermensch/victim for eternity.

      • Xpat
        July 30, 2013, 5:53 pm

        American wrote:
        “1)Do you see any succesful Jews in the US Political establishment that aren’t Zionist?
        2) Do you see any successful Jews in the Media establishment that aren’t Zionist?”

        Your accusation of anti-semitism would be justified if he had written, instead:

        “1)Do you see any succesful Zionists n the US Political establishment that aren’t Jewish?
        2) Do you see any successful Zionists in the Media establishment that aren’t Jewish.
        The Jews are a cult, they help grease the wheels for fellow Jews to get into Government, WS, Media, Academica, etc..”

        But he didn’t.

      • American
        July 31, 2013, 11:24 am


        What I said is perfectly correct.
        Can you name any Jews among the elite or the various establishment(s), political, media , academica, financially sucessful, that arent zoinist, including liberal zionist and pro Israel or I-Firsters?
        Only one I can think of is Soros and he’s not really ‘in’ any of the establishments…more of a lone wolf, wealth and politically wise.
        If any Jew has ambitions to be successful, as in the 1% elite–whether in WS financially elite or politically or in whatever career in the US he has to ‘join the I-club’ to get in the door and get the tribal help in being successful.
        We could use this whole thread listing Jews shot down, marginlized, threatened, and /or ruined financially and career wise because they wouldn ‘t join the Zio club.

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        August 3, 2013, 2:41 pm

        @American – – Do we know Haim Saban’s actual personal views on Israel/Palestine?

      • American
        August 3, 2013, 3:28 pm

        @ James

        Yea, we know his views. He is a Zionist and a typcal Z-mafia thug.

        Haim the Israel Lobby
        Bob Dreyfuss on May 11, 2010 – 2:07 PM ET

        If you’d like to get an unvarnished look at the Israel lobby in action, go no further than the May 10 edition of The New Yorker, and read Connie Bruck’s painful portrait of Haim Saban, the Israeli billionaire who is probably the single most important person in The Lobby in the entire United States. “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel,” says Saban.
        My favorite juxtaposition in the article: at one point, Saban says that he gave a U.S. official “my two cents” about U.S. policy concerning Israel, whereas in fact Saban has given countless millions of dollars to American politicians, including $7 million all at once to the Democratic National Committee.

        And Saban, who wanted his own thinktank, got one: he created the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, housed at the Brookings Institution. (Saban forked over $13 million to Brookings for the center, which Brookings gratefully named after him.)

        In the New Yorker piece, Saban comes across as a political thug, a wheeler dealer and a tax cheat, a billionaire (net worth: $3.3 billion, according to Forbes) who throws his money around for explicitly political and pro-Israel causes, a tough-talking womanizer who once had thirty-nine girlfriends all at once, a sleazy businessmen who has left a trail of angry and bitter associates in his wake, and more. If you don’t believe me, read the whole article.

        Some key points:

        Saban says in the article that he’s desperately in search of buying media outlets that he can transform into overtly pro-Israel mouthpieces. He’s tried to buy the New York Times, Time, and Newsweek, and now that Newsweek is for sale, he might get his wish. He’s tried repeatedly to purchase the Los Angeles Time. Reports Bruck:
        “In targeting media properties, Saban frankly acknowledges his political agenda. He has tried repeatedly to buy the Los Angeles Times, because, he said, ‘I thought it was time that it turn from a pro-Palestinian paper into a balanced paper.’ He went on, ‘During the period of the second intifada, Jews were being killed every day over there, and this paper was publishing images of a Palestinian woman sitting with her dead child, and, on the Israeli side, a destroyed house. I got sick of it.’”

        Bruch describes how unhappy Saban was when Barack Obama refused to echo Hillary Clinton’s call to “obliterate” Iran if Iran attacked Israel. When Saban sought Obama out, the Obama campaign stiff-armed him, to their everlasting credit, and Saban has held a grudge against Obama ever since. As Bruck reports:
        “His [Saban’s] voice grew louder. ‘I need to understand what that means. So I had a list of questions like that. And Chicago’—Obama campaign headquarters—‘could not organize that meeting. … I was ready and willing to be helpful, but ‘helpful’ is not to write a check for two thousand three hundred dollars. It’s to raise millions, which I am fully capable of doing. But Chicago wasn’t able to deliver the meeting, so I couldn’t get on board.’
        “Saban offered to fly his group of Hillary supporters to meet with Obama anywhere in the country, but he was told that it couldn’t be arranged. ‘Haim understands message—Obama didn’t have time for him,’ a close adviser said. ‘After that, he met with McCain. It went that far. But, ultimately, he felt he could not abandon the Democratic Party, even though he did not like its candidate.’

        “He has not spoken with Obama since he became President, Saban said, ‘because he has no need to speak to me—or, at least, he thinks he has no need to.’ He has refused on two occasions to co-chair fund-raising dinners for the President.

        “Saban called Hillary’s defeat ‘my biggest loss—and not only mine. I’ll leave it at that.’”

        Bruck’s piece is brilliant and devastating.

        And there’s plenty more where this came from.

  4. American
    July 30, 2013, 3:19 pm

    I don’t remember pogroms against the WASPs.”….Phil

    Now or in the old centuries? ASs were pretty good at doing pogroms on each other over lands, kings and countries.

    • tree
      July 30, 2013, 4:47 pm

      I think Phil is talking strictly about the US here.

      Of course if we are talking about Europe, then France’s history for one is a prime example of pogroms against the Protestants (Huguenots), and against the Catholics during the later French Revolution.

      The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre is but one incident, albeit by far the worst single incident.

      The St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre (Massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy in French) in 1572 was a targeted group of assassinations, followed by a wave of Roman Catholic mob violence, both directed against the Huguenots (French Calvinist Protestants), during the French Wars of Religion. Traditionally believed to have been instigated by Catherine de’ Medici, the mother of King Charles IX, the massacre took place four days after the wedding of the king’s sister Margaret to the Protestant Henry III of Navarre (the future Henry IV of France). This marriage was an occasion for which many of the most wealthy and prominent Huguenots had gathered in largely Catholic Paris.

      The massacre began on 23 August 1572 (the eve of the feast of Bartholomew the Apostle), two days after the attempted assassination of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, the military and political leader of the Huguenots. The king ordered the killing of a group of Huguenot leaders, including Coligny, and the slaughter spread throughout Paris. Lasting several weeks, the massacre expanded outward to other urban centres and the countryside. Modern estimates for the number of dead vary widely, from 5,000 to 30,000.

      Jewish history tends to focus on pogroms against Jews, with the implication that only Jews suffered from them. It’s clearly a mistaken implication.

      • Xpat
        July 30, 2013, 6:09 pm

        I was raised in an all-Jewish environment and was inculcated in the Jewish history you describe…I wonder if there are any comparative studies of massacres that would put the Jewish reading of Jewish history in context of the times.
        It also seems to me, that, at least in Central and Western Europe and in the U.S., Jews in the 19th century embraced the unprecedented opportunities with great optimism. Am hypothesizing that had it not been for Lueger, Wagner, the Russian progroms thru the Nazis and the destruction of European Jewry, the story of Jewish history today might be less focussed on Jews’ unique tale of woe.

      • Daniel Rich
        Daniel Rich
        July 30, 2013, 6:36 pm

        @ Elliot,

        If history is anything to go by… A History of the Jews, a list of expulsions for 2000 years .

        I think the ‘we’ versus ‘them’ doctrine is the surest thing to go down the path of self-destruction. But then again, what do I know? I seem to hate myself…

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        July 30, 2013, 6:44 pm

        @Ellott – – Yes, rather a fluke of history. Sad one, of course. (Destruction of much of European Jewry.)

      • Stephen Shenfield
        Stephen Shenfield
        July 30, 2013, 6:57 pm

        Look at what happened to the Cathars in the 13th century. They were wiped out.

        Look at all the people burned at the stake as heretics or “witches” after denunciation by the Inquisition.

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        July 30, 2013, 7:13 pm

        And half a million Huguenots fled the country (France). They were important element in forces that defeated Louis XIV.

  5. Daniel Rich
    Daniel Rich
    July 30, 2013, 6:26 pm

    Does that explain Jews DO control the media?

    Too bad the author didn’t tener cojones to use his/her real name. What’s the forum’s opinion about this article [being a bit confused myself]?

  6. James Canning
    James Canning
    July 30, 2013, 6:42 pm

    Bravo. “Jews” clearly are the richest and most powerful people in the US. A remarkable achievement.

  7. James Canning
    James Canning
    July 30, 2013, 6:54 pm

    Perhaps one should note here that prescient rich, well-established Jews in England, prior to the First World War, warned that the Zionist movement would endanger the very successful Jewish communities in Germany and other countries.

    • wondering jew
      wondering jew
      July 31, 2013, 7:54 am

      James Canning- They were prescient except for one intervening event that you and I will not mention, huh?

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        August 3, 2013, 2:53 pm

        yonah – – Jewish upper class in England opposed Zionism prior to First World War.
        And English upper-class Jews saw himself or herself as English. But Jewish by religion.
        Catastrophe of Second World War was direct result in many ways of earlier catastrtophe of First WW.

  8. James Canning
    James Canning
    July 30, 2013, 7:06 pm

    How could David Brooks write a book about the “new upper class” and not mention Jews? Astounding. Or should be.

  9. James Canning
    James Canning
    July 30, 2013, 7:07 pm

    Those interested in the Jewish upper class in America a century ago should read “Our Crowd”, by Stephen Birmingham.

  10. joer
    July 31, 2013, 2:24 am

    I have issues with Lawrence Summers, Ben Bernake and some of the others you mention not because they are Jewish but because they help perprtrate a system where so many live in poverty and so many others are struggling to stay out of poverty. Most of the people you mention are really paid functionaries, front men, or propagandists for the very rich. And some of the very rich are also Jewish, Phil may note also. But a lot more aren’t. And to pick a few extremely successful people and say they are typical of all Jews is just as silly as saying Einstein had the typical intellegence of a Jew. This ethnocentricism is really a distraction and in bad taste. It would be like if a UN reporter started writing about the breast size of the female diplomats-it has nothing to do with anything important.

    • philweiss
      July 31, 2013, 4:32 am

      You are a materialist Joer and im a cultural anthropologist here. we’re talking past one another. I’m largely indifferent to materialism, you seem indifferent to cultural analysis. as a materialist, you are surely aware that ranked by religion, Jews are the richest group in America. We replaced Protestants in that category. This has had a tremendous effect on Jewish culture, and surely affected American leadership culture too. Three Jews on the Supreme Court, where there used to be many WASPs, and are now none. To say to me that I have picked out some aberrations is an effort at obfuscation. There must be something culturally typical about these very successful people. Jeff Goldberg said earlier this month that there were 3 million Jews at the Aspen Ideas Festival. So he seems to agree with me about the elite. Russ Feingold once told a listener on CSpan, when asked why there were so many Jews on the network, that we are good at talking. I would say, from my formerly superior point of view, that People of the Book is a meaningful descriptor, and it gave us an advantage in the modern age. See Slezkine’s The Jewish Century, which said that a culture of merchants and priests was better suited to modernity than one of princes and peasants. Tiger Mom Amy Chua is about to make more vulgar and commercial declarations about Jews, one of whom she’s married to… I say formerly superior because I think the advantage is now being destroyed by the success, and by Zionism. Supporting neoliberalism and occupation has made us tough and stupid.

      • seanmcbride
        July 31, 2013, 8:08 am


        You may be missing an important factor here:

        WASP ethnocentrism and ethnic nationalism have been demonized and criminalized in contemporary America as an expression of evil racism that must be entirely eradicated.

        Jewish ethnocentrism and ethnic nationalism, on the other hand, have been elevated to the status of a holy and sacred religion (literally in many cases) — a noble cause.

        Jews can openly engage in the promotion of their ethnic interests through dozens of organizations — WASPs can’t — their hands are tied behind their backs. No wonder they are sinking fast.

        Jews and WASPs are playing by very different rules in contemporary America — certainly not on a level playing field. If WASPs were permitted to indulge in identity politics with the same intensity as Jews, the situation would be quite different.

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        August 3, 2013, 2:55 pm

        @Sean – – I remember when WASP indicated “high-status” Episcopalians, Presbyterians, etc.

        “People Like Us”, as in the book by Stephen Birmingham.

      • joer
        July 31, 2013, 11:26 am

        Phil-Thank you for reading my comment and taking time to reply. I’m not really sure what a materialist is in this context, and I’m not trying to talk past you. First of all, at this point I am not sure who is even considered a Jew anymore. There are family members who I am not sure if they are officially Jewish or not. I don’t even know if I am considered officially Jewish. I don’t think I have any papers. They probably got lost over the years. So first of all I don’t know who you are considering to be a member of this very influential group.
        Also, you imply that the only Jewish people who count are the ones who live a statistically typical existence. This absolutely typical Jew is as mythical as the typical suburban family with 2.5 children. And anyway, it’s not the typical people that really matter-it’s what’s going on around the edges where change is first noticeable.
        Finally, there is a lot that the statistics you rely on for your argument leave out. Jews may not be quite so remarkable as some of us think. While Jewish income may be marginally higher on average while compared with the national average, it would be interesting to see what happens to that margin if only other white people were included in the sample. Also wouldn’t the few extremely successful Jews bring up the general income average for the mass of Jewish wage earners, thus skewing the numbers higher. Finally, many ethnic groups have followed a similar path-start poor, work your way up, then try to balance a liberal viewpoint with being invested in the system.

  11. Kate
    July 31, 2013, 11:50 am

    @James Canning “Isn’t William Hague’s chief of staff a Muslim? This fact gets no attention in US news media.”

    Yes, but she’s a Bosnian – usually regarded as the most ‘harmless’ kind of Muslim by Islamophobes.

  12. James Canning
    James Canning
    July 31, 2013, 1:37 pm

    Bravo, Phil. And how astounding, frankly, that there are no WASPS on the Supreme Court. What a comment on our times!

  13. American
    July 31, 2013, 5:56 pm

    The US Census says Asians are the richest group on the US by income.
    Jews are lumped in with whites so someone would have to take the Jewish population, the non Jewish white population, then take the various income levels of all whites and then somehow find the exact portion or income held by Jews within to see if there is enough that the total for whites it is dragged down by the lowest levels of white income or wealth holdings. You also have to take the total Asian population, which is much smaller into consideration as to how they are beating out the white wealth even with Jewish wealth added into. That would be a huge statistician task that no one has done yet that I know of.

    Also a surprise I am sure to some, is income by region:
    Over 100,000 per yr:
    Northeast- 4,454,000
    West -4,956,000
    Midwest -4,160,000
    South – 6,583,000

    Not surprising is that Calif is the state with the highest wealth holders- a combination of RE values and Hollywood, beating out NY WStreeters.
    Scary however, and worth understanding is that most wealth held by the top individuals or families is in Stock holdings, not cash or hard assets–in fact most wealth even excluding the top 1 % in the US is in stock holdings…retirement, pensions and savings. So as goes the market so goes the majority of wealth and money in the US.

    Meanwhile this is why David Brooks is all freaked out in his freaky NYT columns.–every religion except Jewish gained from 1990 to 2008 according to the US Religious Census:
    Christian went from 175,440,000 to 228,182,000
    Muslims went from 527,000 to 1,349,000 in 2008
    Native American Indian religion went from 47,000 to 186,000
    Buddhist went from 404,000 to 1,890,000
    Jews declined from 3,100,000 to 2,680,000.
    *Since Catholics come under Christian I am guessing that the rise in the hispanic population has contributed to the rise in christian numbers.

    The Census doesnt do individuals or group wealth by religions so I am assuming anything like that is done by private polling groups.

    Lot of interesting stuff in the Census if you’ve got some time to spend to on going thru it –lot of US corporations use it instead of having to do more extensive polling and studies of their own to determine what to market where and to whom.

  14. James Canning
    James Canning
    August 3, 2013, 2:34 pm

    @American – – I seem to recall reading a survey of Americans, by income, by group, in the 1960s, in which Jews were credited with an income 15% above that of other whites. My guess is today the figure would be 200% higher.

    • American
      August 3, 2013, 3:40 pm

      @ James

      All I go by is what the US Census says.
      And as I said it doesnt do income by religion, only ethnics and Jews are lumped with whites.
      If you have a link to whatever survey it was or who did I’d be interested.

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