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January 29, 2010 3:55 pm

Leave Limbaugh Alone

avatar by Dovid Efune

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Rush Limbaugh. Photo: wikipedia.org

Following Republican Scott Brown’s recent upset victory in the U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts, conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh landed himself in hot water with the Anti-Defamation League for remarks on Jews and the banking industry.

Limbaugh wondered if Jews – nearly 80 percent of who backed Barack Obama in 2008 – were having second thoughts about the president. “To some people, ‘banker’ is code word for Jewish; and guess who Obama is assaulting?” Limbaugh asked, “He’s assaulting bankers. He’s assaulting money people. And a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish. So I wonder if there’s – if there’s starting to be some buyer’s remorse there.”

This comment was sharply rebuked by the ADL, and national Director Abraham Foxman called for an apology saying; “Limbaugh’s references to Jews and money in a discussion of Massachusetts politics were offensive and inappropriate. While the age-old stereotype about Jews and money has a long and sordid history, it also remains one of the main pillars of anti-Semitism and is widely accepted by many Americans. His notion that Jews vote based on their religion, rather than on their interests as Americans, plays into the hands of anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists. When he comes to understand why his words were so offensive and unacceptable, Limbaugh should apologize.”

The ironic thing is that facts on the ground seem to indicate that Jews typically have had a greater ratio of financial success than the rest of the population. Skimming through the first 24 names on the 2009 Forbes 400 Richest Americans list, I was not surprised to discover that no less than 10 of them are Jewish, a remarkable 41.6%, a considerable statistic when keeping in mind that Jews make up approximately only 1.9% of the American population.

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In Vanity Fair’s annual list of what it calls The New Establishment, the 100 most powerful, most influential people in American society, there is a consistent and considerable showing by members of the tribe, at times even topping 50%.

The reason for this unprecedented Jewish success is open to speculation, but what is most baffling is why the Jewish establishment is determined to call out those that make reference to these achievements even if done so in a non-derogatory fashion. Why is there an institutionalized opposition to Jews being labeled as wealthy or powerful when in fact it certainly seems to be quite true that a higher percentile of Jews fit the bill? Limbaugh’s statement is actually praiseworthy of Jewish achievement and status, while at the same time he questions Jewish political leanings.

If Jews have seen financial success, or any other success for that matter, we should wear it as a badge of pride, as with any overall achievement of any ethnic or religious group that recognizably stands out from the general populace.

Jews are proud of the high percentage of Jewish Nobel Prize winners, of Jewish contributions in medicine and of the Israeli high tech boom, so why is there a desire to shove our contributions towards overall economic prosperity in this country under the carpet?

Sure, there will always be those vile voices that will jump on any opportunity to blame Jews for all of the world’s ills, but bigots really need no reason for their venomous hatred, and we certainly shouldn’t allow their warped intentions to dampen our Jewish self-regard.

Furthermore Foxman’s insistence that the “notion that Jews vote based on their religion, rather than on their interests as Americans, plays into the hands of anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists” is perplexing.

Isn’t religion, and freedom of religion a foundational element of American life and society? Isn’t it a fundamental, constitutional American right to vote however you like, including with religious influences, so what precisely would the problem be if Jews did vote “based on their religion”?

In truth, as Jews we do have many real battles to fight, and to achieve successes we will need to be focused and committed, as a consequence we must choose the causes that we pioneer very carefully. It seems that making a foe out of Rush Limbaugh simply amounts to misdirected energy and resources.

Perhaps if we carried ourselves with more dignity and pride for our collective achievements we would be more respected by the nations of the world. Instead of nitpicking and finger pointing ad-nausea at such references that could be twisted and abused by haters. Let us accept our triumphs with open arms and recognize wholeheartedly that yes we are different, and our generation of American Jews has much to be proud of.  Let us welcome such recognition from observers and analysts, and focus our energies only on those that really wish to cause us harm.

The Author is the director of the Algemeiner and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at defune@gjcf.com

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