Study: 25% Blame Jews for Financial Crisis


jews-financial-crisisThe media coverage of the Bernard Madoff scandal made extensive reference to Madoff’s ethnic and religious background and his prominent role in the Jewish community. Because the scandal broke at a time of great public outcry against financial institutions, some, including Brad Greenberg in The Christian Science Monitor and Mark Seal in Vanity Fair, have reported on its potential to generate a wave of anti-Semitism. This concern makes good sense. In complex situations such as the current financial crisis, where the vast majority of us lack the relevant expertise and information, biases and prejudices may play a significant role in shaping public attitudes. To evaluate just how large a role, a study was conducted by Boston Review – part of a larger survey of 2,768 American adults – in which they explored people’s responses to the economic collapse and tried to determine how anti-Semitic sentiments might relate to the ongoing financial crisis.

In order to assess explicit prejudice toward Jews, they directly asked respondents “How much to blame were the Jews for the financial crisis?” with responses falling under five categories: a great deal, a lot, a moderate amount, a little, not at all. Among non-Jewish respondents, a strikingly high 24.6 percent of Americans blamed “the Jews” a moderate amount or more, and 38.4 percent attributed at least some level of blame to the group.

Neil Malhotra, Assistant Professor of Political Economy in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, and Dr. Yotam Margalit of Stanford University, conducted the study.

Interestingly, Democrats were especially prone to blaming Jews: while 32 percent of Democrats accorded at least moderate blame, only 18.4 percent of Republicans did so (a statistically significant difference). This difference is somewhat surprising given the presumed higher degree of racial tolerance among liberals and the fact that Jews are a central part of the Democratic Party’s electoral coalition. They also asked how much “individuals who took out loans and mortgages they could not afford” were to blame on the same five-point scale. In this case, Democrats were less likely than Republicans to assign moderate or greater blame.

Educational attainment also correlates with variation in anti-Semitic attitudes. Whereas only 18.3 percent of respondents with at least a bachelor’s degree blamed the Jews a moderate amount or more, 27.3 percent of those lacking a 4-year degree did so.

Crises often have the potential to stoke fears and resentment, and the current economic collapse is likely no exception. Therefore, we must take heed of prejudice and bigotry that have already started to sink roots in the United States. The negative attitudes toward Jews reported here are not only dangerous in and of themselves, but they may also have bearings on national policy matters. The media ought to bear these findings in mind in their coverage of financial scandals such as the Madoff scam. In most cases, religious and ethnic affiliations have nothing to do with the subject at hand, and such references, explicit or implied, ought, then, to be avoided.

 {Bsoton Review/Noam Newscenter}


  1. Very unfortunately, there is the problem of “Chillul HaShem.” This is when a Jew does something bad in such a way that non-Jews know about it, the non-Jews will often not respond logically to think “Well, every community has some bad ones.” Instead, they will think and even say “Ah ha! So you see that those damn Jews are all a bunch of crooks!”

    The Bernard Madoff scandal was certainly an horrific tragedy in this regard. When someone who has been part of the Torah world makes a scandal, the churban is countless times greater. For then people can say: “Even the religious ones are no good!”

    Therefore, it is extremely crucial for us all to be one hundred percent careful to always make a Kiddush HaShem when in contact with non-Jews. This was taught to us and strictly adhered to by all our Gedolay Torah. I think though that Maran Rabaynu Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky, ZT’L, seemed to have been given a special Tafkid Min HaShomaiyim to be especially exemplary in not only making a Kiddush HaShem with non-Jews, but in also minimizing and nullifying cases of Chillul HaShem that occurred.

    Yibodel L’Chaiyim, Rav Mordechai Kaminetsky, Sh’lita, recently wrote in his Parsha HaShavua column in the Yated Ne’eman regarding the terrible cases of frum people who attempted to smuggle diamonds by putting them in their Tefillin! Rav Mordechai relates that his grandfather not only, of course, forcefully condemned this wicked sacrilege, but he actually met with non-Jewish police and customs officers and advised them on how to catch such smugglers!