I’m a firm believer of all stereotypes being based on some type of statistical or historical information.  White people have generally been at the top of government and industry giving the appearance they are in control of the world, an increasing number of Indians are entering the medical schools of the US giving the appearance they’re all smart, Irish and German people love a good beer and a history of brewing places them as drunks, a disproportionate amount of African-Americans live in underprivileged areas leading to a higher crime rate and prison occupancy, and the Jewish people control our money.

Sometimes, some Jewish people control our money to such an extent that they break the law.  This has lead to a stereotype of Jews being corrupt and share in their Protestant comrades in controlling the world.  But why did we associate Jewish people with money in the first place?  First let’s learn a little more about God’s chosen people.

They’ve never really had a good life.  The ancestors of the modern Jewish person served as slaves to the ancient Egyptians.  They were lead by Moses to a “safe place” which is today Israel.  Hardly safe, in Israel Jewish combated the ancestors of Islam over the area (yes this is a multi-millennial war) and faced an occupation by Rome.  Things didn’t really improve after the whole Jesus incident.  Once the Christian’s spiritually conquered Rome, the Jewish population spread out.  In Europe they were again persecuted on a regular basis.

In Christian beliefs one can not loan money to another and charge interest.  This is known as usury.  In fact, the whole idea of working with money for a living was the equivalent of something Mike Rowe might have done back when the world was flat.  Society looked down on tax collectors, currency exchangers, and any other types of people that worked with money.  Jewish people similarly couldn’t lend money due to their views of usury, with a catch.  They couldn’t charge interest to other Jews, but they didn’t have much of a problem charging interest to anyone else.  As banking took off in Europe some Jewish folks were there to finance everything from wars to explorations to something called “the new world”.  Banking became important to society.  Over time Christians came around to the whole charging interest thing as well.  Public opinion of Jewish people didn’t really change until after the Holocaust, but the stereotypes remain.

Flash forward to modern times and you see an overwhelming representation of Jewish people within industries that revolve around the exchange of money.  Without doing much research on the matter I am left to speculate as to why they are still involved with money.  Jews are tight.  They marry eachother, keep traditions close, and keep it in the family.  Being so tight creates a powerful social network that even Harvard Business School grads would die for.  They employ eachother and help eachother out.  This isn’t discriminating against other religions, it’s a classic case of how well networking works.  This would account for why they have centralized around certain industries and not much has changed over time.

Today many Jewish people are captains of business.  Not only have they dominated finance, but they have some serious representation in technology and entertainment.  As a result of rising to such prominent positions within American society Jewish people get much more scrutiny than their relatively small population would normally account for.  Depending on how you count they’re about 2% of the population in the US.  It just so happens that when something happens to someone involving money we actively seek out to see if they were Jewish.  I admit that when I first heard about Bernie Madoff one of the first things I clung to was the fact that he is Jewish.

However thanks to the social network, a strong work ethic, and perhaps a little divine restitution Jewish people as a whole are a successful population.  It is unfortunate that the likes of Bernie Madoff and the recent news of a Rabbis laundering money as a part of a huge crackdown in New Jersey and New-York that continue to associate Jews not just with money, but with corruption and greed.  Stereotypes form based on history and statistics, but in order to survive they must be regularly reinforced.  You shame your proud people when you do this, you’re the scum of an entire religion.

Full disclosure: though religion is not a topic I like to discuss much I felt it important to clarify that I am not Jewish.  I firmly respect everyone’s rights to practice a religion of their preference so long as they do not disrupt other people’s private lives.  Additionally, though stereotypes are identified in this post I strongly believe you should judge people individually and not based on the color of their skin, religion, country of origin, gender, or even alcoholic beverage of choice (that’s the important one).  Finally, I understand “Jew” to be a preferred term by the people however in recent years it has become somewhat derogatory and so if a representative of the faith were to contact me and provide an alternative term I will incorporate it as well.

Oh and the picture does not reflect any opinion, it’s simply hilarious.

categories: banking, business, economics, investing