By Rabbi Dov Fischer, The American Spectator
My readers know that I do not whine. When I write about anti-Semitism, I am not wringing my hands or asking to change school curricula to teach tolerance nor to complain about “systemic this” or “systemic that.” That is not my cadence. I do not visit Holocaust museums or former Nazi death camps. That somehow resonates for others, not for me.
My attitude is that anti-Semites are evil and must be crushed. I do not imagine that, after 3,300 years of Jew-hatred, anything will bring it to an end, but it can be deterred by a generation, here or there. It will always be there. Nevertheless, when a Stalin or a Hitler is crushed, that is a good thing. When a Father Coughlin or a Louis Farrakhan or a “Black Lives Matter” is reduced dramatically in influence, that is a good thing.
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Non-Jews make the mistake of their lifetimes when they ignore anti-Semitism. The hatred of Jews is different from all other forms of hate, and its proliferation augurs impending disaster for non-Jews, too. First, it has been going on for so long that it is part of the global Earth experience. Blacks are not hated as Blacks in Africa. Chinese are not hated as Chinese in China. Because Jews did not have a sovereign land these past 2,000 years, that contributed to anti-Semitism becoming global and planet-defining.
Beyond that, there is a certain objective craziness that comes with anti-Semitism. Talk to a right-wing Jew-hater, and he will tell you he hates us because all or most Jews are communists. But talk to a left-wing hater, and he will tell you he hates because all Jews are Wall Street capitalists. Renters complain about Jewish landlords, and landlords complain about their Jewish tenants. There is no rhyme or reason. They talk about Jews wanting to save money and looking for a bargain, but when I lived in Kentucky for a year and traveled through other American states with very minimal Jewish populations I still regularly saw TV commercials for storewide sales that aimed to draw the non-Jewish populations in for bargains.
Jews are what we are because of anti-Semitism. I am unusually straightforward and honest, no baloney from me or hiding the ball. So I call ’em as I see ’em. If the world had left Jews alone, we either would have disappeared by now or just blended in as farmers. We would be farmers and coal miners like everyone else. But everywhere we went, we ran into craziness and eventually got expelled from countries — England in 1290, France in 1306 (by Philip the Fair!), Spain 1492, Portugal in 1497, the entire Arab Muslim world in the 1940s and 1950s. When a people get expelled often enough from enough countries, they eventually figure out that the stupidest thing they can do is to become farmers because, if there eventually is an expulsion, they won’t be able to take their assets with them. You can’t check in a farm as extra baggage at the airport. So that anti-Semitism made Jews into doctors and teachers because you can carry knowledge with you when they throw you out. It made Jews into diamond merchants and jewelers because, while you cannot carry a farm when expelled, you can carry some diamonds to the next country. It got Jews into international finance because, if you have a Rothschild here and a Rothschild there — thus Mayer Rothschild sent his five sons to five different cities: Vienna, Naples, London, Paris, and Frankfurt — one can move the money out of the country expelling the Jews over to another country welcoming Jews. Jews went into money-lending because Christian Europe in the Middle Ages banned Christians from lending money on interest to other Christians as per a law in the Torah (Exodus 22:24), but the economies still needed financing of and lending to businesses. Accordingly, the governments allowed Christians to lend on interest to Jews, and they compelled wealthier Jews to lend on interest to Christians.
When Jews came to America, mostly between 1881 and 1914, they had to find work as does everyone else. But there was enormous low-key subtle anti-Semitism (“Gentleman’s Agreements”) keeping Jews out of whole fields of endeavor. Hospitals would not allow Jewish doctors admittance privileges. Serious major law firms would not allow Jews, even Harvard and Yale law graduates, to practice in any area other than bankruptcy law. They did not want Jews at all, but they did need bankruptcy attorneys to represent their corporate clients’ interests as creditors or debtors, and the field of bankruptcy was deemed too unseemly for respectable Big Firm attorneys to touch, so they let Jews in for that. For that reason, there was a time that almost all bankruptcy court judges in certain cities were Jews. Likewise, Jews could not get serious jobs in banks. So newly immigrating Jews went into fields and industries that were newly emerging, that did not require immediate English fluency, and that offered enough jobs in manufacture and production, distribution, wholesaling, and retailing that they could employ parents, their sons, the fellows marrying the daughters and sisters, the uncles and aunts.
Now it starts to make sense. Jews went to Hollywood because silent pictures were a new thing, and no one else had cornered the market to keep Jews out. Moreover, since the pictures were silent, audiences would not hear the Yiddish accents that would render gorgeous actresses and strikingly handsome male actors less sexy. To enhance the myth, Jews changed their names so that no one would know. Betty Perske became Lauren Bacall. Bernie Schwartz became Tony Curtis. Szmuel, Hirsz, and Aaron Wonsal became Sam, Harry, and Albert Warner. Jack rounded out the Warner brothers. Szmuel Gelbfisz became Sam Goldwyn, and he linked with Louis Mayer. (MGM’s Leo the Lion never changed his name.) Moses Harry Horwitz became Moe Howard; Louis Feinberg became Larry Fine; and with Moe’s brothers alternating between Samuel (Shemp) and Jerry (Curly), they became the Three Stooges. If not for anti-Semitism, they all probably would have become farmers.
Jews went into distilling bourbon because the Scots in Kentucky’s back hills did not aim to corner the market, as the German immigrants had cornered beer. Jews went into finance because, even though J. P. Morgan had no need for us, it was a field where any person with a good head for investing, and who had been excused from attending “woke math” classes, could open his own business, be weak in English but good with numbers, and do well.
So much of today’s American Jewish presence is traceable to the genteel Gentile anti-Semitism that forced entrepreneurial Jews into untested waters. No one before ever had made comic books, so some Jews went into that business and basically created and ran the comic book industry. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Jews out of Cleveland, created Superman; Robert Kahn changed to “Bob Kane” and gave us Batman, and Stanley Martin Lieber covered his tracks by using the name “Stan Lee.” Same with much of the premium ice cream business. Reuben and Rose Mattus created Häagen-Dazs. Häagen-Dazs is not a city in Denmark or Iceland; it was a basement in the Bronx. Ben and Jerry did it in Vermont. Burt Baskin married Shirley Robbins, and he went into ice cream with her brother, Irv, in California. That’s how it worked. If American non-Jews had been more uniformly open, who knows? They all might have been farmers.
But that also is America’s greatness. This always has been a land of opportunity. It’s like a board game. The rules close off certain easy options, but you still can win if you get creative and think outside the box. You just have to aim for Park Place and Boardwalk and avoid getting sucked into Mediterranean and Baltic Avenues.
Isaac Wolfe Bernheim was a bookkeeper at a Paducah, Kentucky, whiskey distillery and figured out how they make the product. So he opened his own distillery and brought in other Jews. He figured the anti-Semites won’t buy bourbon called “Isaac W. Bernheim,” so he named it “I. W. Harper” for a Louisville horse trainer named John Harper. The five Shapira brothers — David, Ed, Gary, George, and Mose — saw it was a good business, so they opened their distillery. They knew the Jew-haters would not buy “Shapira Bourbon,” so they built on myths about a Protestant Pastor Craig who supposedly distilled bourbon and a Catholic guy. For the Protestants, they labeled some bourbon bottles “Elijah Craig,” and for the Catholics they labeled other bottles “Old Fitzgerald.” For Kentuckians in their locale, they played on a legend of supposedly the first man who ever distilled bourbon, and they slapped on labels that said “Evan Williams.” And then they covered all bases by labeling other of their product “Heaven Hill.” And to play it safe, they hired as their master distiller a guy named Joe Beam, Jim’s cousin.
The point is that all or a bunch of these guys would have been farmers if regular jobs had been open to them. Instead, just as so many Irish went into policing, and as Italians went into their fields, Jews found their way around because, like everyone else, they had families to support, and a century ago the government did not coddle anyone with welfare, food stamps, reparations, critical ethnic studies, woke math, or even social security.
The thing about anti-Semitism, though, goes even deeper. Jews are society’s “canary in the coal mine.” We just are. It is not an honor we covet; it just is what it is. We would be quite happy for someone to play that role. Coal miners would bring a canary into the mine with them because if oxygen would run perilously low in the mine, and if methane gas or carbon monoxide was rising perilously high, the itsy-bitsy canary would die in time for the unsuspecting miners to see and realize they better get out fast. That’s Jews. When people come after us, yes, they are focused on us. But that methane of Jew-hatred never stops with us. How many millions of Christians died as Hitler got his system for us in operation? World War II killed 70 million people. If they had dealt with Hitler in the mid-1930s, when he could have been crushed, that’s a bunch of lives and pain and destruction that could have been avoided. But people did not grasp that, even as Hitler busily was going after the Jews, it was like the methane going for the canary, and everyone else in the mine was next. And they sure were. Same with Stalin.
Same with Arab terrorism. When people saw Arab Muslim terrorists hijack an Israeli plane back in the 1970s, they felt bad for Israel. Poor Israel. Tsk-tsk-tsk. But they did not realize that they were next: “Uh-oh, there’s methane in the mine, and we better act quickly.” So they did not unite to stop Arab terrorism at its gestation. They still don’t get it, and they never will. If Israel under Menachem Begin had not taken out Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, Project Desert Storm and so much else would have been different and bad. If Iran ever gets the nuclear bomb, which would not have happened under Trump but definitely can happen under the policies of Obama and Biden, those weapons will not be aimed only at Israel but also at America and all of Europe. Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other Arab contributions to the world of terrorism may have begun as targeting the Jewish canaries, but give a kiss to Yasser Arafat the next time you are on a 45-minute TSA line at the airport because it starts by targeting Jews but never — ever — ends with that.
Today’s concerns include the occasional right-wing haters, like the ones who desecrated Jewish houses of worship on Sabbaths in Pittsburgh and Poway, California. Had Jesus been alive, he would have been in such a structure and would have been shot, too. But the much more despicable sickness of hate today in America stems from the progressive Democrats — the Anti-Semite of Color (AOC) from Queens, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Cori Bush, and Ayanna Pressley — and their enablers, the apostate Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota’s Betty McCollum, and two or three others. When they go after Israel, know that they are not going after Israel but after Jews. You can tell by the absurd double standards they impose on Israel that they impose nowhere else. And if and when they ever finish with Israel, their next target is America. As with Hitler, they can walk and chew gum at the same time, even if AOC is uniquely ignorant as grown-ups go. They now are working to take down and deconstruct our America, too — to defund the police, dissolve the southern border, destroy our education system, divide the country by racial identities, even as they simultaneously go after the Jews.
Do you smell the methane? Probably not. That’s why it takes a canary. Jews are the canary. I am a Jew. Take it from me: our America that we so dearly love, and that has given all of us opportunities unknown previously in human history, is filling up with methane.