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Tuesday, April 03, 2018


Many years ago, I was watching the news on TV with my father-in-law when there was a report about an insider trading scandal involving Ivan Boesky. Clearly agitated, my father-in-law asked, “He’s a Jew?” I said that I thought so.  “Ah-ha. This is the way they start.”

It occurred to me that on its face, the comment might have sounded anti-Semitic: “they” meaning “those crooked Jews.” But my father-in-law was a Polish Jew, a holocaust survivor who had lived through the era when Jews were made scapegoats for all the ills of Europe. He had witnessed the escalation of grumbling: whispers that led to graffiti, to beatings, then to pogroms, and eventually, to disaster. But it began with the anecdotal accusations, one person’s wrongdoing being attributed to all.

Years later, I heard the same complaints from black acquaintances about stories accusing Michal Jackson and O.J. Simpson of crimes. The first response was to deny, to attribute the charges to racism. “They always want to knock down the uppity Negroes,” the wise old heads shook. “As soon as we make it, they will go after us.”

 (In the lily-white golf community, the fall of Tiger Woods was seen as comeuppance that was inevitable: “Of course, he cheats on his (white) wife.” The fact that Woods avoided identifying with any racial causes (which annoyed some in the black community) did not deter white haters from enjoying his downfall, or most blacks from bemoaning it.) 

It hurts, it really hurts bad when something happens that seems to confirm the beliefs of the haters about you. You can almost hear them saying to each other, “I told you so, you can’t trust those people.”

As a Jew, I’m forced to be aware of the image I project to the world. I try to avoid all the stereotypes that sting. For example, I pick up the checks at lunch so that I won’t be called “cheap.” (I had a Scots-Irish friend who teased me: “We Scots are thrifty, you Jews are cheap.”)

Money dealings of all kinds are the traditional subjects for ugly anti-Semitic mumbling. The Nazis were not the first, nor the last, to demonize Jews as the bankers and financiers who are supposedly responsible for every ill from economic recessions to world wars.

So, Ivan Boesky was accused of cheating on stock deals. That doesn’t mean all Jews are cheats. Fine. So, what about Michael Milken, and then what about Bernie Madoff?

Well, in truth, stock swindles and Ponzi schemes are common crimes that have been repeated often without involvement of any Jews. In fact, the alleged victims in the Boesky, Milken and Madoff cases were often Jews, investors who trusted the men to be honest and wise. (Sadly and predictably, this fact, too, is fodder for haters: “the Jews who got fleeced were too greedy.”)

Powerful men in various fields have recently been accused of sexual misconduct. The first of these to be widely exposed in the media were in the movie business. This led to other entertainment forms, including the opera, ballet, television, and sports. Then it spread to the workplaces of other businesses, to the offices of politicians, and then to schools, judge’s chambers, the armed services, and so on and on.

Yet, it seems to me that the names most prominently mentioned by the media include a disproportionate number of people of Jewish descent, including: Harvey Weinstein, James Levine, Al Franken, Andrew Kreisberg, Louis C. K. (Szekely), Brett Ratner, Dustin Hoffman, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Jeremy Piven, Mark Halperin, James Toback, Bob Weinstein.

(BTW, as a Jew and a lawyer, I am doubly offended by the Michael Cohens of the world who allegedly cover up the crimes of Trump and others by using their skills and wits to devise unbreakable nondisclosure agreements and pressure emotionally fragile victims to accept them.)

Of course, there are many others caught up in these scandals who are not Jews, but the ones who stand out to me are all too Jewish. Frankly, some of them even “look Jewish.” I mean, to be honest, Harvey Weinstein looks like a Nazi stereotype of the “Jew predator”: balding, somewhat obese, jowly and squinty-eyed, a bit slovenly in appearance.

There is a certain nasty snicker effect added to the stereotype. Jewish men supposedly have multiple sexual hang-ups. Comics like Woody Allen and Garry Shandling have traded on these foibles for ages. Now, we are fed Weinstein’s alleged habit of luring aspiring actresses to his hotel rooms so that he might masturbate in front of them. (This apparently was the favorite way that Louis C. K. allegedly would get off as well).

This revelation was a shock to me. It seems such an odd thing to do! I mean, if you need to jerk off, why go to so much trouble? Why bring in an innocent witness? If that is your thing, why not hire a sex worker to cheer you on? You’ve got the money, and they won’t complain.

The answer, of course, is that—just like rape—this particular perversion is hardly about sex; it is mostly about power, raw brutal power. Watching the victim squirm uncomfortably with no means of escape is what keeps his dick hard. He knows she can’t complain because he can ruin her chances at a career, can even use his resources to accuse her of seducing him. People are all too willing to believe a girl will do anything to be in show business, aren’t they?

The fact that so many of Weinstein’s crimes follow the common M.O. of entertainment executives throughout the ages is also troubling. It recalls the painful clichés of the so-called golden era of Hollywood’s movie factories, in which the “casting couch” was common. The culprits then were the studio moguls, who, coincidentally, also happened to be predominantly Jewish. Put a photo of Harry Cohn, head of Columbia at the time, next to that of Harvey Weinstein and their multiple victims would have a hard time choosing between them.

Actually, these culprits do have things in common that account for their crimes other than the fact that one or more of their parents happen to have been labeled as Jews. They are all men who hold power.

(Sports figures who violently abuse women exert power of another kind; physical dominance over their prey. The business types exert a more subtle form of power, inciting fear by threat to career or reputation, in addition to the frequent fear of physical harm.)

I suspect that of the two factors, the most important one is power. While it is true that men are guilty of abuse far more often than women (and that includes abuse by men of boys) that may not always be the case.

As more women enter the upper regions of power in business and the professions, there are certain to be more instances of abuse of that power. While sexual predation is a crime that is traditionally attributed to males, the temptations of power accompanied by our enlightened society’s loosening of sexual restraints might well lead to more instances of abuse by women.

I wonder whether abuses committed by women against males are under-reported, just as incidences of rape by men of females are. Traditional male self-image would tend to deter boys or men from complaining that their teacher, or aunt, or superior at work had fondled them, propositioned them, or made sexually insensitive remarks.

What boy is likely to complain to his parents about that sort of thing? He is more likely to fantasize hopefully about the possibility, to read any provocative gesture by a woman as an invitation. Men in the workplace, moreover, are subject to the same pressures as women vis-à-vis a superior’s approval.

Can’t you imagine an angry boss who is female joking in the not-too distant future about a subordinate’s masculinity, say, in conversation with other women executives over drinks?

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