Urgent News Bulletin: Old Jews are Still Racist!

From the New York Times:

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — At the Aberdeen Golf and Country Club on Sunday, the fountains were burbling, the man-made lakes were shining, and Shirley Weitz and Ruth Grossman were debating why Jews in this gated neighborhood of airy retirement homes feel so much trepidation about Senator Barack Obama.

“The people here, liberal people, will not vote for Obama because of his attitude towards Israel,” Ms. Weitz, 83, said, lingering over brunch.

“They’re going to vote for McCain,” she said.

Ms. Grossman, 80, agreed with her friend’s conclusion, but not her reasoning.

“They’ll pick on the minister thing, they’ll pick on the wife, but the major issue is color,” she said, quietly fingering a coffee cup.

(via Athena’s Mom)

Not all of the article is devoted to discussing why Jews are afraid to vote for a black man, but there’s still enough to make me roll my eyes. Like this, for instance:

Some of the resistance to Mr. Obama’s candidacy seems just as rooted in anxiety about race as in anxiety about Israel. At brunch in Boynton Beach, Bob Welstein, who said he was in his 80s, said so bluntly. “Am I semi-racist? Yes,” he said.

Decades earlier, on the west side of Chicago, his mother was mugged and beaten by a black assailant, he said. It was “a beautiful Jewish neighborhood” — until black residents moved in, he said.

Yes, it’s true that many elderly Jews are racist. But it’s also true that elderly whites are racist. So why the emphasis on Jews? It seems the reporter was primarily interested in proving that the old stereotype of the bitter PoC-hating Holocaust survivor is very, very real. I suppose there might also be some interest in showing that one minority can hate another minority – how novel! And with the current election angle, no less! – but, again, why the focus on Jews? If you went looking for any group X disliking group Y, you’d come up with just as much material. American minorities are people, not mystical enlightened beings, and Jews don’t have a monopoly on prejudice. So why is this even newsworthy?

Well, the plot thickens:

On Thursday, Mr. Obama will court Jewish voters with an appearance at a synagogue in Boca Raton, Fla. A longtime Democratic constituency with a consistently high turnout rate, Jews are important to his general election hopes, particularly in New York, which he expects to win; in California and New Jersey, which he must keep out of Republican hands; and, most crucially, here in Florida, where Jews make up around 5 percent of voters.

This is the most haunted state on the electoral college map for Democrats, the one they lost by hundreds of votes and a Supreme Court decision in 2000, and again in 2004.

“The fate of the world for the next four years,” mused Rabbi Ruvi New as his Sunday morning Kabbalah & Coffee class dispersed in East Boca Raton.

“It’s all going to boil down to a few old Jews in Century Village,” he added, referring to a nearby retirement community.

The fate of the world is in the hands of the Jews. The Protocols are true! And the Elders won’t vote for the Black guy!

Okay, okay, I’ll tone down the snark. Look, I know the reporter is kind of in an impossible position here; the point of the article is that this particular demographic is important to the election, and Obama has to win them back from the Right. Whenever you mention any Jews having any power or influence at all, you risk inadvertently sliding into the myth of Jews secretly ruling the world (which is part of the point of the myth, I suppose: provoking suspicion whenever a Jew gains prominence, so that all Jews can be scapegoated if things go wrong). I just wish the reporter had tread more carefully here.

Of course, she does acknowledge that Jews are just one of several demographics that are critical to the presidential race… but that doesn’t quite negate her inclusion of the “fate of the world” comment.

Finally, I love how the beginning of the article focuses on the opulence of the country club where Weitz and Grossman were interviewed. The man-made lakes, the burbling fountains! Gated, of course, to keep out the hooligans. This is what rich Jews do with their rich Jewish money.

In short: Ugh.

ADDENDUM: Forgot to mention that, in addition to painting all elderly Jews as suspicious racists, this article completely erases Black Jews. Okay, carry on.

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3 Responses

  1. A lot of people have been complaining about this article, so maybe I’m in the wrong, but I don’t think it’s that objectionable or exceptional. During an election, it’s pretty common to focus on the demographic groups—Jews, Catholics, racial minorities—that will be important in November; there actually have been articles pointing out that “elderly whites are racist,” as well as “rural whites,” “working-class whites,” etc. The uniqueness of Obama’s impending nomination, plus the obstacles that his race may pose to winning some traditionally Democratic voters, makes this newsworthy, in my view.

    On the other hand, I totally agree with you about the lameness of the “scene-setting” details, which usually involve layering the stereotypes. Writing about what black voters think about Obama? Go to a Harlem barbershop. Writing about what Florida Jews think? Go to a gated retirement community. It’s like the reporter has to prove that he or she really did visit with this mysterious tribe of people in their native habitat.

  2. And just about all gated retirement communities in Florida can be described with “man made lakes” and “burbling fountains”. Hello- it’s swamp land- lakes and fountains are easy.

    But I really am tired of the “everybody who doesn’t vote for Obama is a racist” line. I do wonder how many interviews the reporter had to do before someone mentioned color?

  3. girl detective, i love it when you say what i wanted to say but never actually sat down and articulated.

    my extended family circulated the nytimes article, wondering if we should go knock on mezuzahed doors during the general election. i was very pleased to send them a link to your view.

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