Foreword by Paul Volcker
“Jews and Money” – a provocative title for a provocative book. Abe Foxman wants your attention!
As Director over many years of the Anti-Defamation League, he has a strong sense of mission, fighting bigotry in all its forms, and most particularly in lingering anti-Semitism.
The word “lingering” is mine, not Abe Foxman’s. My sense is that the stereotype of the avaricious Jew, isolated and insulated from the broader society, has been substantially reduced over my now long lifetime. That is a genuine achievement of an open and tolerant American society.
But Abe is a concerned man. “Lingering” doesn’t mean absence. Stereotypes are hard to kill. The devastating financial crisis – the sense of unfairness, of loss of control, of lost hopes – provides fertile ground for anger, for scapegoating, for renewing ancient prejudices. And when a few highly publicized miscreants - Mr. Madoff as one prime example – can be identified by a particular religious affiliation and practice, the potential for reinforcing a stereotype is real.
“Jews and Money” is an eloquent plea to understand the danger - to resist that temptation to associate a complicated, agonizing and hard to understand financial crisis with a specific ethnic group, however unfounded the relationship.
Foxman is forceful and convincing in setting the record straight, reaching back in history to identify the sources of anti-Semitic instincts, the twisting and manipulation of Jewish history and traditions.
In my view, he may underplay the progress that has been made, at least in this country, in ameliorating old social and religious prejudices and shibboleths. Three Jewish members of the Supreme Court, admired leaders of the financial world, prominent politicians, widely influential writers and intellectuals all taken for granted.
But I also realize I am not directly “in the line of fire.” Foxman has plenty of evidence from the long history of prejudice to justify his sensitivities and forebodings. The battle for tolerance and understanding is never really over, and never will be in the absence of vigilance.
In his forceful writing, Foxman brings a unique and convincing perspective to that effort. We need to remain on guard to understand and to respond to his concerns. That provocative title will demand attention!
Federal Reserve Board