This is bad...Anti-Semitism is still in play...

So, I've been thinking about posting this for a few days now...you know how the news on outgoing Gov. Spitzer broke on Monday?  Well, in December 2004, I posted this on my blog.

Obviously, said post wasn't getting that many visits to my blog until this past week.  Anyway, it's garnered roughly 40 comments or so...most of which are anti-Semitic in nature and I'm disturbed by the anti-Semitism directed at not just a Jewish governor but Jewish people, like myself, in general.

It was not fun reading some of these comments, which have led to two people being banned, including the one that commented that they were glad that Tom Lantos died.  WTF?

Here's a recent article in the Forward about Spitzer and his being Jewish:

In the last statewide public opinion poll taken before news broke of Eliot Spitzer's involvement in a high-priced prostitution ring, the New York governor's approval rating was below 50% for every major demographic group, except one: his fellow Jews.

For much of his career, Spitzer was a source of great pride to Jews, with some supporters referring to him as having the potential to become the first Jewish president. In the blogosphere, that closeness was portrayed as simple ethnic pride; when the scandal broke, the Web site Gawker proclaimed it a "Shanda fur die Goyim."

And yet, while Spitzer may have been of the Jews, in many ways he did not come across as particularly Jewish. He never projected the folksy charm of Joe Lieberman, not to mention the Connecticut senator's religious observance. Nor did the former governor seem as comfortable among Jews as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- who, like Spitzer, moves in well-heeled circles and is not religiously observant. Even Mario Cuomo, the long-serving Italian American governor of New York, projected an ethnic credibility that was almost more overtly Jewish than Spitzer's persona.

"He was more WASP than he was Jew," said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political consultant who worked on several of Spitzer's campaigns. "He was much more comfortable in Princeton than in an Orthodox synagogue."

So why, then, was he embraced as a favorite Jewish son? According to some observers, the hopes invested by Jews in Spitzer, and the corresponding heartbreak over his fall, point to a far deeper and more complicated bond than simple ethnic solidarity. Spitzer was caught by the push and pull of two strains of Jewish politics. On the one hand, he seemed uncomfortable with the clannishness of retail Jewish politicking and appears not to have felt a part of that clan at all. But he also embodied the streak of reform-minded liberalism that has been the backbone of Jewish politics for more than a century. Despite his privileged background, he kept an outsider's zeal for purging corruption from the political system. Though some Jews were alienated by his refusal to offer them special attention, far more were attracted by that same rectitude. Spitzer's high-mindedness held the loyalty of Jewish voters even when the rest of his support had abandoned him.

To speak of Spitzer's "Jewishness" is to wade into murky territory. On the one hand, Spitzer's background presents all the familiar signifiers of a traditional Jewish family. His father, Bernard, grew up in a tenement on Manhattan's Lower East Side; he met his wife, Anne, in the Catskills and graduated from City College. Then Bernard went into real estate, where he made a fortune, and Anne became a teacher.

But their children were raised in a different world. The New York Times reported that Spitzer did not have a religiously observant upbringing, nor did he have a bar mitzvah. He attended the tony Horace Mann School, and from there went on to Princeton and then to Harvard Law School. After he married, he and his non-Jewish wife, Silda Wall, raised their family in a Fifth Avenue apartment owned by Spitzer's parents.[...]

Perhaps as a result of this distinction, Spitzer sometimes seemed to approach Jewish issues almost as an outsider, fascinated by the clannish concerns of other Jews. William Rapfogel, executive director of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty and a member of Spitzer's transition team, said that before traveling to Israel, Spitzer questioned him about the Jewish connection to the Jewish state.

"He was interested in how the Jewish community related so intensely. It was not a part of his upbringing," Rapfogel said. "There was a real, genuine curiosity."[...]

That uncertain relationship between Spitzer and his Jewishness made it difficult for some to pin down precisely how he was Jewish at all.

"He couldn't run away from being a Jew -- his name was Eliot Spitzer," Assemblyman Dov Hikind told the Forward. "That might've been the most Jewish thing about him."

Tags: anti-Semitism, Eliot Spitzer (all tags)

Comments

11 Comments

Re: This is bad, Anti-Semitism in play

Anti-Semitism is deplorable any way you look at it. I looked upon Spitzer as a flawed human being, not as a Jew. This is all too sad.

by Nobama 2008-03-15 07:31PM | 0 recs
Ugh

I'm Jewish and I live in the South too. I live in East Tennessee in an area with very few Jewish people. Fortunately, one of the most popular people in this area is an openly religious Jew - Bruce Pearl, Coach of the University of Tennessee Men's Basketball team.  He's a great inspiration for me and many other Jews in this area who live in relative anonymity regarding our faith (though Oak Ridge has a sizable Jewish community).

Anyway, the anti-Semitic comments are disgusting but they're a product of the internet, where thugs lurk.  I don't read much into it.

As for Spitzer, he brings up the old conundrum among Jews. "How could a Jew ever do so wrong?" I don't see Spitzer as a "sell-out." I do see him as self-righteous and unnecessarily combative. In fact, I saw him as a more liberal version of Rudi Giuliani.

Jews can be "tribal" or "cosmopolitan" or anywhere in between. I'm more on the cosmo side - I married a Catholic woman and we actually attend a Unitarian church together. We celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas, Passover and Easter.

Where do you live in KY, by the way? I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on the Bluegrass region during the Civil War, so I spent quite a bit of time in Louisville, Lexington, Danville and Frankfurt. It's a beautiful state - but not as beautiful as Tennessee :)

by elrod 2008-03-15 07:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Ughhh!

It really makes me sick.

If his name were Eliot Rosati would people say the same things about Italians?

Some of this parallels what Obama has faced.
Either they are too Jewish/black or not Jewish/black enough.
But always "other".

I had a student a few years ago who was first-generation Kashmiri American.  He told me that after 9-11 he could hardly go out in public; yet, when he went back to Kashmir to visit his grandparents he was viewed as a tainted American.  He was smart, engaged, and unfairly weighted down.  We stayed in touch by e-mail for a few years.  I tried to encourage him to see himself as a bridge rather than as someone asea.

Still, it is more than a little distressing to see how easily we judge people using ugly, old stereotypes and hatreds - oft times disguised with humor or sarcasm.

Thanks for the diary.

by johnnygunn 2008-03-15 08:18PM | 0 recs
Re: This is bad...Anti-Semitism is still in play..

I prefer to judge the good people of KY by the fact that they sent a fine MOT to Congress in 2006!

by Steve M 2008-03-15 08:34PM | 0 recs
Who?

Are you thinking of Steve Cohen? He's from Memphis. Tennessee.

by elrod 2008-03-15 10:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Who?

I am thinking of this guy!

by Steve M 2008-03-16 05:07AM | 0 recs
Re: This is bad...Anti-Semitism is
Ugh. The comments on your blog are repulsive. Those people are disgusting. And the whole Spitzer thing is depressing to me. He struck me as a promising politician, and I was blown away when I found out what happened. His failings have nothing to do with the fact that he's Jewish, though. It's just an unfortunate situation all around.
by sricki 2008-03-15 08:37PM | 0 recs
Re: This is bad...Anti-Semitism is still in play..

Is anyone really surprised that the Internet brings out the crazies?

I live in one of the most Democrat-heavy areas in the country, and our local newspaper's online comment boards STILL bring out a slew of insane mutterings from the racists, homophobes, misogynists, nativists, etc.

Saying bad things on teh internets is awesome!!11!1!!

by Johnny Gentle Famous Crooner 2008-03-15 09:52PM | 0 recs
It is alive and kicking

As a Jew I am repulsed by those comments.  Anti-Semitism has a long, dark history, but I must admit at least this is good old fashioned, honest anti-semitism.  no bullshit.  Today, in blogs/internet, universities, some places of worship, anti-semitism is masked in anti-zionism and anti Israel.  It's the politically safe code words anti-semites congragate around.  You replace the word 'Zionists' for 'Jew' and the essays or speeches are straight out of the 1930's.  Not all anti-zionists are anti-semetic, but all anti-semites are anti-zionist.  It's their haven where they can hate Jews for all grief and evil in the world and pretend to not be anti-semetic.

You see this in some bloggers right here at mydd.

Thanks for this post.

by oc 2008-03-15 10:35PM | 0 recs
There are anti-Semitic Zionists

Actually there are many Zionists who are anti-Semitic. They're the creepy Christian Zionists like John Hagee who want us to go to Israel so the apocalypse will come and we'll get sent to hell.

by elrod 2008-03-15 10:57PM | 0 recs
Re: There are anti-Semitic Zionists

Very true and good point. The 'all-praise-the-coming-apocalypse' christian crowd, where Jews receive there final punishment, are very honest with their jew hate.  not much code-speak there. they don't disguise their anti-semitism as much as the anti-semetic anti-zionist club.  

by oc 2008-03-15 11:15PM | 0 recs

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