Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors

Is Maureen Dowd an Anti-Semite?

The short answer is almost certainly not. But after yesterday’s column in the New York Times, many people are asking, and not without some justification. In writing about Goldman Sachs, the famously/infamously successful investment bank, Dowd dredged up ancient and dangerous motifs which have inspired hatred of Jews for two thousand years.
Comparing the employees of Goldman Sachs to “the same self-interested sorts Jesus threw out of the temple”, and also linking blood lust and GS bankers’ lust for money, Ms. Dowd stepped over a very important line — one which when crossed in the past cost thousands, if not millions of lives. At the very least she demonstrated how deeply the metaphors of hate are rooted even in the lives of some well meaning people, and that alone is deeply disturbing.
The story of Jesus driving the money changers, all presumed to be Jewish, out of the Temple was used for centuries to justify the pernicious linkage of Jews and money, and helped Christians to kill Jews with precisely the glee Ms. Dowd ascribes to Goldman CEO, Lloyd Blankfein’s approach to making money. It was also used to justify driving Jews from their homes since, like the money changers in Jerusalem, they had no place in God’s house or, as the interpretation ran, in any decent house.


The idea that Jews had a special taste for blood, especially in sacred rituals including the preparation of Matzah, was a perverse twist on the Christian Eucharist. Quite possibly, this deadly lie was rooted in the need to deflect the obvious interest among early Christians in consuming blood, at least metaphorically.
But whatever the cause, the Jewish taste for blood was perhaps the most enduring and ugly idea used by Christians to justify not only the hatred of Jews but also the mass murder of Jews. Why in the world would anyone, including Maureen Dowd, need to make their point by going there?
Admittedly, the rage at Goldman Sachs is real and in some cases and to some degree, understandable, if not justifiable. We are living through a weird kind of recovery in which Wall Street is booming and many on Main Street are worrying about where their next meal is coming from.
With a job market worse than any time in almost 40 years, this is not the time for anyone to look at profits alone as their bottom line. That is something which Mr. Blankfein should consider carefully, but failing to do so should not lead to a theological justification of dehumanizing him, should it?
When Mr. Blankfein referred to Goldman Sachs doing “God’s work”, as he did in a recent Sunday Times of London interview by John Aldridge, he too made a mistake. But as offensive as that line may be to some, as insensitive as it may be to invoke God at such a moment, especially given that he would not have said God was punishing GS if they were having a bad year, it’s simply not a claim dripping in blood.
The claims made by Maureen Dowd are, and one hopes that she will address that issue with as much vigor and passion as she did her assault on Goldman Sachs. Hopefully though, with fewer historically dangerous and ugly metaphors.

  • Ant. C.

    “If you are looking for an insult, you will surely find one.”
    A wonderful article by Maureen Dowd. Thank you for bringng it my attention Rabbi.



  • Heisenberg

    I agree with Ant C.
    If you’ve been following the story, you already knew that it is Blankfien who chose to invoke religion and Dowd is responding to his very tactless choice.
    After Blankfien all but called himself a Diety, I thought Dowd’s money changer analogy was fairly toothless. Lloyd is our real President and it seems he’s a fairly severe personality disorder.

  • dpkjj

    To say that Maureen Dowd’s reference to the money-changers was anti-Semitic because the money changers were presumably Jewish (what else would they be?) is really stretching it. Jesus – a Jew whom Dowd most likely acknowledges as the Christ – railed against greed, hypocrisy, and self-righteousness. Was Jesus an anti-Semite? Puh – leez.

  • Scott R.

    Was Jesus an anti-Semite?
    As portrayed in the “gospels”? Most definitely. He’s barely Jewish at all.
    A horrible myth used to inspire the death of millions.

  • praesta

    Maureen Dowd is an equal opportunity offender. Just a few weeks ago she did a hatchet job on Catholicism: She’s not adverse to making outrageous statements about different groups including her own religious background.
    Still, I think Ms. Dowd went over the line, especially with the “moneychangers” comment. Her veiled or not so veiled recalls of Jewish stereotypes are hurtful and gratuitous. I agree with Rabbi Brad that these comments are also indicative of how deeply certain anti-Semitic stereotypes are rooted in Christian discourse. Yet Ms. Dowd is known for pugnacious journalism. The best anyone can do is ignore her or challenge her in editorials. Fuming at her provocative statements is counterproductive.

  • Eytan

    Dowd, Blankfien, etc. who really cares about these people? How talking about them will make us better people today? How does it bring us closer to Hashem? It doesn’t!
    Let’s focus on what really counts my friends.

  • Jordan Hirsch

    The comparison of Goldman Sachs to blood sucking vampires was not Dowd’s originally, it was from a piece about them by Matt Taibbi that ran in Rolling Stone.
    Look, it’s not necessary for Dowd or anyone else for that matter to be Anti-Semitic for them to use Anti Semitic imagery. And it is not hysterical for us to point it out. Sensitizing others to language or behavior that even unwittingly can be hurtful or create a dangerous atmosphere is merely acting like a friend.

  • Josh

    Good Lord. The lady refers to the self-interested, which is an understatement to say the very least, and from the conversation here you would think she was plotting the Holocaust. The whole world does not, believe it or not, revolve around Jews–but if your world does, why not find a way to turn the comment into a positive rather than all this self-important hysteria?

  • terry m

    hate to say it, but Jewish readers ought to consider that Ms. Dowd was (is) an Irish Catholic, and as such, her reading of the New Testament would have centered a lot less on Jews than on Christian teachings. as an Irish catholic myself, i can say that Jewish culture is fairly remote – yes, our passion story had the jews as stock enemies, but it wasn’t taken seriously or with real venom.

  • Gil

    Dowd has used many anti semitic references in her columns – Pharisees, money changers, blood suckers,etc. She attended Catholic school and certainly heard these gems as well as read them in the New Testament. As educated and civil individuals we the reader have a right to complain. No it is not being hypersensitive. One would think that anti- anyone terms which we heard and read as a child would be questioned as a sentient adult. That is not to say that everyone has some prejudice streak in them. A writer of Ms Dowd’s credentials should exhibit a more intelligent approach in her use of invectives. It is unfortunate that many terms that refer to Jews are down right disgusting.

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    The author establishes that the arguments and findings of revisionist scholars are substantive, and deserve serious consideration. He points out, for example, that even the eminent Jewish Holocaust scholar Raul Hilberg acknowledged that there was no budget, plan or order by Hitler for a World War II program to exterminate Europe’s Jews.
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  • Dave

    A couple of comments here make the case that because Dowd was raised Catholic, she was somehow fed a diet of anti-Semitism while growing up.
    I feel the need to echo Terry M’s comment — I was also raised Catholic in New York (although I am not Irish) and there was never any animosity toward Jewish people, nor were there any suggestions that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus.
    In fact, quite the opposite: The crucifixion of Christ was seen as the failure of all people, and Catholic tradition heavily emphasizes the fact that Christ himself was a Jew. Never once do I remember a mass, CCD class, or church activity that put Jewish people in a bad light.
    Perhaps people should be less quick to judgment when it comes to things they don’t understand, because I don’t appreciate the suggestion that Catholic communities are these hateful dens of anti-Semitism aimed at breeding ignorants.
    And while I’m at it, the Rabbi’s subtle jab at “the obvious interest among early Christians in consuming blood, at least metaphorically,” was a bit uncalled for as well. That’s the most sacred Catholic tradition right there, and you make it sound like the kind of thing vampire enthusiasts would do.

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