Of course they do! Note that I said “they” and not we, even though I am certainly proud to count myself as a member of the Jewish people. But using the word “we” in response to the question of who controls Hollywood creates the false impression, as the ADL’s Abe Foxman has pointed out, that ” Jews meet at Canter’s Deli (in LA) on Friday mornings to decide what’s best for the Jews.” “We” don’t. Not that it might not be tempting to have that kind of control, but there is no “we Jews” or “the Jews”. At least not in that sense.
Joel Stein writes in the LA Times that both Foxman and I are wrong. He says about his own research on this topic: “The Jews are so dominant; I had to scour the trades to come up with six Gentiles in high positions at entertainment companies.” That may be true, but it in no way justifies Steins use of “The” Jews, to describe what some Jews are doing. But it brings to mind a joke from Nazi Germany which may explain how Jewish Joe Stein takes pride in a classically anti-Semitic canard.
The joke tells of two Jews riding a train across Poland in the late 30′s. One is reading a Yiddish paper as his fellow passenger peruses Der Sturmer (a Nazi publication). Passenger number one is deeply troubles by this but says nothing for hours. Finally, unable to control his horror, he says to passenger two, “how can you read that vile rag?”
The second passenger retorts, “And why not? In your paper, the world is collapsing, we are in danger and there is nothing we can do about it. But in my paper, we control the banks, the press, and the entire world! What’s not to love?” Joel Stein is simply a contemporary version of Passenger two.
But given that this is not Nazi-occupied Europe, that the Jewish people enjoys greater freedom, power and affluence than any time in our collective history, it does make one wonder why his greatest experience of Jewish pride is to imagine the veracity of a Jew-hating fabrication.
I guess when there is no real content underlying your pride in who you are, there is nothing left but to mirror the same ethnocentric pathologies and sick fantasies of domination which those who hate you use against you. Not surprisingly, two groups which imagine themselves as diametrically opposed are in fact, remarkably alike.
Of course, Foxman’s claim that the grossly disproportionate number of Jews who have powerful positions in Hollywood is merely a matter of coincidence is also a bit silly. Ironically, like Stein’s claim, it is born of the inability to measure anything other than pride or hate. Jewishness for Foxman, like for Stein, at least in this instance has no content.
He is unable to point to anything in 3,000 years of cultural, intellectual, spiritual, or political history that might contribute to this demographic anomaly. That’s pretty sad for a man who is often touted as one of America’s most important Jewish leaders.
I appreciate that if you spend most of your time looking for anti-Semites, there is little available capacity to articulate anything positive about Judaism and/or Jewish experience that might contribute to our success in certain areas of endeavor. But perhaps that should caution us against spending that much time, energy and money fighting those who hate us.
Do Jew-haters exist? Certainly. And those that do, need to be fought. But if you don’t know why you are worth loving, or at least respecting, is it really worth fighting those who hate you? Better to just vanish and make the whole problem of being hated disappear along with you.
Let’s see if next time around Stein can integrate some of Foxman’s facts and Foxman can help Stein to articulate something sufficiently positive about being Jewish that it makes sense to fight those who hate Jews.