Anti-Semitic tropes are back on stage again | Dave Rich
〇Of all the stereotypes about Jews in the anti-Semitic dictionary, none are more commonplace or enduring than those about Jews and money. From Shylock and Fagin to Joe Rogan’s podcasts and TikTok videos about the Rothschild family, the idea that Jews have a peculiar taste for acquiring wealth is something that people “know” about them. But this historical anti-Semitic trope seems to hide in plain sight in the most surprising places.
lehmann trilogyBack on the London stage, tells the story of Lehman Brothers Bank, from its origins as a fabric store in Alabama to its collapse in the 2008 financial crisis, the ultimate symbol of chaotic and out-of-control banking. I’m here. This award-winning, critically acclaimed play is a charming piece of theater with five-star reviews and a clutch of Tony Awards. Unfortunately, it’s also deeply rooted anti-Semitism. Not in broad terms – clumsy phrasing here, harsh stereotypes – but in its most profound essence, presenting contemporary audiences with the viciousness of Jews and money buried deep in Western thought. What’s most striking is that no one responsible for writing, acting, directing, or producing this play seems to be remotely aware, and most reviews miss it entirely. I’m willing to accept that none of them are antisemitic, but the idea that Jews love money and power seems priced, to use the proper term. .
lehmann trilogy On one level, it’s a moral tale about modern capitalism, a tale of greed and financial machinations that have made countless ordinary people impoverished or homeless. At the outset, Henry Lehman is said to be a “circumcised Jew.”brothers cry again and again “Baruch Hashem” (“Blessed God”) is when they build their fortunes. They “sit on Shiva” when someone dies, pray, quote the Talmud, and dream about Jewish festivals. When Philip Liman chooses a bride, he assigns each of the twelve candidates a Hebrew month name. Some of my classmates naturally bear the names of other famous Jewish bankers. It goes far beyond what is needed to convey the biographical fact that Riemann was Jewish, and it is unjustified and overwhelming. It makes me feel that this is not only a play about a Jewish banker, but a play about a Jewish banker. And what does that tell us about these Jews?
Mostly, they love money and will do anything to get more of it. “We are money merchants,” says Philip Lehmann. “We spend money to make more money.” Mayer Lehman isn’t just a billionaire, he’s a “Jewish billionaire.” Emmanuel Lehman woos his bride by claiming, “I am one of the richest Jews in New York.” Bobby Lehman declares: They buy instinctively. ” And if this happens: “We will be in all power.” It is Jews, money and power, over and over again. This should sound alarm bells for anyone with even the slightest knowledge of anti-Semitic stereotypes.
In an early scene set in 1853, we first see the cold and greedy nature of the Lehmans when they run a small store in Montgomery selling agricultural supplies. As the brothers light candles for Hanukkah and chant the appropriate Hebrew blessing, they discover that all the plantations around them are on fire. All cotton, the basis of Alabama’s economy, will be destroyed. It’s a catastrophe, but not for Lehman. A miracle, at least for these three Jews of his. Because Lehman smells economic opportunity where others suffer devastation. They become middlemen, inserting themselves as intermediaries between cotton buyers and sellers, making a profit in the process. lead the way to And once a plan is formed in the minds of the three brothers, they repeat the blessings of Hanukkah for the Festival of Lights. It seems that instead of celebrating the gentle flames of Hanukkah this time, they are celebrating the raging flames outside. It is drawn through
Lehman Brothers did not invent the role of the middleman or broker, and it is not alone in this role. The charge that Jews are economic parasites, generating unproductive profits from the honest labor of others, has been a staple of anti-Semitic propaganda for centuries.
When Europe emerged from the Middle Ages and the stock market began to open in its principal trading centers, the whole world of money, stocks, interest and material values, in contrast to the realms of Christian spirit and mercy, began to emerge. The idea of being “Jewish” spread. and love. How to control this dramatic spread of “Jewish” practices in Christian society became a pressing question for some of Europe’s greatest thinkers. According to historian David Nirenberg, “It is difficult to think of any financial innovation, practice, or crisis from the nineteenth century to his early twentieth century that has not been discussed in terms of Judaism.”Karl Marx, in an 1844 essay on the Jewish questionmoney became the “worldly god” of the Jews, through the Jews “money became the power of the world, the actual Jewish spirit became the actual spirit of the Christian nations…the Jewish God Secularized and made into the god of the world, the bill of exchange is the true god of the Jews.”
Coincidentally, 1844 was also the year Henry Lehman, the eldest of the original three brothers, first set foot in America, a moment immortalized in the play’s opening scene. The play depicts a family’s gradual secularization and growing economic ambitions as religious practices decline. Their secularization trajectory is interrupted in the final scene of Lehman Brothers finally shutting down completely in his September 2008. The brothers gather on stage to recite the Kadish memorial prayers that are performed at every Jewish funeral, but they are not praying for their lives. Or lament the global financial collapse they caused. Kadish is a prayer for the dead, only their banks who have passed away. There is reasoning that the banks themselves, this gigantic institution that caused the economic catastrophe through its reckless greed, were Jewish. It’s a scene that vividly revives Marx’s anti-Semitic maxim that for secularized Jews, the “true god” of money has replaced Hashem as the focus of their faith. And these Jews are making money as “gods of the world.”
This is the real anti-Semitic place lehmann trilogy lie. Not because it shows Lehmans was Jewish, but because the forms of banking that reward greed and exploitation are Jewish in both origin and character, and the way Jews relate to money shapes our world. revive this old belief that
While it is inevitable that writers will portray Jews and finance in an anti-Semitic way, this framing has been criticized by some of our greatest thinkers over the centuries, and by our It is readily available to those unfamiliar with what is woven into the understanding of these concepts among the most famous. literature. lehmann trilogy In part, it works so well as a play because it fits squarely into the tradition of European thought, which is imbued with a “Jewish” essence in the exchange of money and abstract values. It provides a modern continuation of this very old anti-Semitic slander, showing that 34% of her 18- to 24-year-olds in this country said that “Jews are making the world’s banking system unsound.” We do so when we believe that we are in control. ”. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
I’m not interested in calling for the theater to be canceled or people to condemn it.This play was not written by a group of anti-Semites, it was written by thoughtful people, it reflects some of the most powerful beliefs our world is built on, and it is anti-Semitic. It tells us something important about how it works. lehmann trilogy nationally theater The website warns that the play contains “rare mentions of death, war and slavery,” but frequently cites one of the oldest anti-Semitic stereotypes of them all. I am struck by how few reviews, either in the UK or the US, mention this aspect of the play. The relevance of Jews, money and power is very It’s familiar, and audiences resonate without realizing it. All I’m asking is that more people are starting to realize it doesn’t seem like a big deal.
Author Dave Rich Everyday Hate: How Anti-Semitism Is Built Into Our World And How We Can Change It (byte back)
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/feb/26/antisemitic-tropes-are-back-on-stage-again Anti-Semitic tropes are back on stage again | Dave Rich