I remain concerned about the influence of Jews in America. They occupy senior positions in the financial industry and politics far in excess of their proportion of the population. The first big influx of Jews to America came around the 1888s. The Jewish population of American then about doubled between 1910 and 1930, from around two million to about four million, according to the Jewish Virtual Library. The Jewish population did not grow significantly again until the 2000s, when it grew to around seven million in a total population of about 300 million, about two or three percent. Of the top ten richest Americans 50% are Jewish. Ten of the 100 senators, ten percent, are Jewish.
My Jewish Learning says there were three waves of Jewish immigration to the US: Sephardic Jews who came from Brazil during the colonial era, Ashkenazi Jews who came from Germany from the 1840s to around World War I, and Eastern European Jews who came after 1880 from socialist and communist political backgrounds in Eastern Europe and Russia. Relatively few Jews came to the US around World War II because of immigration restrictions.
A number of prominent Jews are first or second generation immigrants. Michael Bloomberg’s grandparents were born in Russia. George Soros was born in Hungary. Chuck Schumer’s grandparents were born in Russia, Poland, Austria and the US. Steve Mnuchin’s great-grandfather, who was Russian, arrived in the US in 1916, bringing his family from Belgium, including Mnuchin’s grandfather. The father of Google’s Sergey Brin brought his family from the Soviet Union. Sheldon Adelson was born in Boston of parents who emigrated from Russia. Steve Balmer;s Jewish mother was born in Belarus; his father was Swiss. Number 22 on the Forbes list of richest Americans, Len Blavatnik is a Jew born in Ukraine. Forbes number 174, Isaac Perlmutter, immigrated from Israel. Bernie Sanders’ father was born in Poland, as were his mother’s parents., Paul Krugman’s father’s parents were born in Poland. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’ grandparents came to the US around 1920 from Poland, Russia, Austria, and Bulgaria, Wolf Blitzer was born in Germany of parents who were Auschwitz survivors.
The fact that so many Jewish families who came from Russia and Eastern Europe in the early 1900s when Socialism and Communism were becoming so popular may explain why so many Jews are liberals. For example, Trotsky was a leader of the Communist movement in Russia. Almost uniformly, Jewish anchors and commentators on TV are liberal, tending to work for liberal networks like CNN and MSNBC. However, there are exceptions; Sheldon Adelman is certainly not a liberal, despite the fact that his family came from Russia. At the New York Times, the leading Jewish columnists -- David Brooks, Paul Krugman, and Tom Friedman -- have so far not been able to accept Donald Trump’s election as President. Krugman in particular is outraged, calling Trump “vile” in a tweet.
But I don’t have much insight into the Jewish community, and particularly Trump’s interaction with the Jewish community. I was struck by how strongly the elite Jewish community -- the Jewish politicians and bankers -- supported Hillary Clinton, who is not Jewish, although I think that Hillary and Bill more or less pledged themselves to support the Jewish community while Bill was President, and that connection carried over to Hillary. But of course, Bernie Sanders is Jewish and supported the liberal policies that the liberal Jews of Russian origin should have liked. It seems to be that Trump has succeeded in a profession that should be dominated by Jews, Manhattan real estate. Is he one of the gang of Jewish real estate speculators, or is he a disliked competitor who makes his Jewish rivals jealous. In addition his daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism when she married the Jewish son of another New York real estate magnate, Kushner. Does Jared Kushner give Donald an in with the Jewish community, or is he a trusted Trump adviser despite opposition from his Jewish cohorts. In addition, Trump has named Jews to his cabinet, including to Treasury, and he has named a very pro-Israel Jew as Ambassador to Israel. On the other hand, Trump has been outspoken about saying, “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays,” and he has talked about America’s Christianity, winning over a lot of unhappy white men in the process.
I don’t know, but I think there is a Jewish-Gentile split in America, perhaps not as serious as the white-black split, but there nevertheless. As a white man, I see some of the animosity coming from the Jewish side. Jews have reason to be concerned about discrimination, based on their history of persecution, long before the Holocaust. I think that is one reason, they support “diversity.” They support organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center, because they believe that if they can make discrimination against blacks a major issue, then surely Jews, who look like whites, will be protected from discrimination. For them, promoting diversity is a form of self-preservation. Ironically, if Jews chose to assimilate, it would be almost impossible to discriminate against them, since they look just like white Western Europeans. However, if they choose not to assimilate, which is perfectly legitimate, they should not complain when Gentiles identify them as Jews.
We’ll see what happens. I think that if this country seriously attacked the issue of income inequality, that would take care of many of my concerns about Jews tending to run the country. Or maybe not, maybe more Jews would go into politics. Maybe they would move to another country where they felt more welcome. Already, almost every American Jew is entitled to an Israeli passport and can easily go to Israel if he wants to. Another of my concerns is the huge support of American Jews for Israel. At one time, the US-Britain linkage may have been as strong, but it no longer is. Israel is certainly the first among all foreign countries, and the US would go to almost any lengths to protect Israel, mostly because of pressure from Jews through AIPAC and other Jewish organizations, but also because of support from some fundamentalist Christians, and some Gentile politicians, like John McCain. Obama wanted to focus his foreign policy on Asia, but our involvement in the Middle East made that impossible. I worry that it was Jewish pressure to focus always on the Middle East that made the Asian initiative fail, and it also influences other foreign policy choices. This is where I see the outsized Jewish influence as a potential problem. The US may support Israel to the detriment of America’s own political and security interests. It will be interesting to see how Trump handles the pressure from the Jewish lobbies. Is he inclined to give them whatever they want, or will he be more concerned about protecting America’s self-interests than his predecessors have been. It’s interesting that Henry Kissinger, a Jew, but one who was more even-handed toward Israel than many of his Gentile counterparts, thinks that Trump could be a “very considerable President.” Trump will certainly bring a different perspective to the job than his predecessors.