From Haaretz in Israel:
After years of focusing on anti-Semitism, more and more historians are daring to deal with a subject long considered untouchable
Ofri Ilany Feb 14, 2018 9:35 PM
… This anecdote exemplifies the centuries-old stereotype according to which the Jews have an innate knack for dealing with money. It’s an image that clung to the Jews even when they were paupers.
The original title for the blockbuster Fiddler on the Roof showstopper song “If I Were a Rich Man” was “If I Were a Rothschild.” After Fiddler, Harnick and Bock created the musical The Rothschilds, which was something of a hit at the time around 1970 but has mostly been forgotten.
Evidently, you could make a lot more money telling Jews they were poor than telling Jews they were rich.
… But today it is perfectly clear that the “Jew and money” stereotype is almost as potent as it was a century ago. Suffice it to recall President Donald Trump’s remark to Jewish leaders during the election campaign, “You’re not going to support me, because I don’t want your money.”
Considering the dark history of the subject of the connection between Jews and money, the actual economic history of the Jews is a highly sensitive issue. Jewish history has been described as “a head without a body.” As the historian Jonathan Karp notes, the character of Shylock – the notorious usurer in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” – has cast “a long shadow of defensiveness over Jewish self-perceptions.” Nevertheless, over the past decade, historians have been increasingly focusing on the economic life of the Jews and trying to dispel the mystery and the myths that envelop the subject. Karp has termed this an “economic turn” in the field of Jewish studies.
Until not long ago, most historians preferred to delve deeply into the history of anti-Semitism, or to study the origins of kabbala or analyze Jewish philosophy – and not dwell, for example, on the story of the Jewish trading and banking empires. That subject was largely neglected by Jewish historians themselves; they left it for thinkers who possessed anti-Semitic inclinations.
A striking example is German sociologist Werner Sombart, who in 1911 published the influential book “The Jews and Modern Capitalism” (English edition, 2001, translated by M. Epstein). In response to sociologist Max Weber, Sombart argued that it was the Jews, not the Protestants, who invented capitalism. The Jews’ compatibility with capitalism, he thought, was related to substantive traits in Judaism, which, from the dawn of history, trained the Jews in “the subjugation of the merely animal instincts in man.” …
Actually, Jewish scholars have often sought to emphasize the socialist elements of their culture, a tendency that was consistent with the leftist bent of many Jewish intellectuals in the mid-20th century. But that situation seems to be changing. Not a few contemporary Jewish intellectuals have embraced capitalism as a legitimate economic approach, and are not ashamed of it. As such, they are proud to present their co-religionists as pioneers of capitalism.
One of the latter group is the historian Jerry Z. Muller. In his 2010 book “Capitalism and the Jews,” Muller homes in on the Jewish financiers who established the Deutsche Bank and the Dresdner Bank. A similar approach is taken in “The Chosen Few” (2012), by Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein. Their book describes usurious moneylending as a Jewish trade, one in which Jews specialized of their own volition, in order to exploit their relative advantages over the uneducated general population. In this way, the authors maintain, the Jews brought prosperity to the countries in which they were active.
The past decade has also seen the publication of many studies that promote less sweeping claims, but describe global networks of commerce in which the Jews played a crucial role throughout the modern era. …
UC Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine’s book The Jewish Century, which springs from his mother’s side of the family’s experience working for the Bolshevik state, argues that Jews were attracted to Marxism because they were discriminated against because of religion, nationality, and that they were good at capitalism. So, get rid of religion, nations, and capitalism and no more discrimination against Jews! What could possibly go wrong?