Reader Question: So I am one of your Jewish readers who already knew what this was, and I, like many others when I took the poll, chose [Bernard] Madoff as the worst. It seems odd to me that he is worse to me than say, a serial killer, but I didn’t feel that Berkowitz typified what anti-semites think of when they are hating the Jews. Madoff, on the other hand, is pretty much Shylock for the 21st century. How nice that we have come so far. I am guessing that when I think of ole’ Bernie I have the same feelings that your average Arab-Amercian (or Muslim-American) feels when people think of Osama Bin Laden as a typical Muslim.
Now Monica may be a bit embarassing, but she also showed that some Jewish women do actually do some things that as princesses we are often thought not to do. That may not even sound so clear, but his is a family chat. ...
Gene Weingarten’s response: Okay, this is exactly right.
To be a shanda for the goyim is to confirm the most hurtful stereotypes,thereby doing damage twice: a Jew who dishonors Jews by not only doing something bad, but doing something that confirms the worst fears of others about Jews in general. Therefore, some of these people do not fit at all: No one read of the crimes of Son of Sam and thought: “My God, another Jewish serial killer! When will these people learn to control their homicidal rages?” Likewise, Mr. Eliot Spitzer. Nice Jewish boys don’t frequent hookers, at least not in common imagination. They might finance the bordello, but that’s a different matter altogether.
As you say, same for Monica. In face, for some Jewish women tired of hearing the “selfish princess in bed” stereotype, she almost amounted to an exoneration. She also seemed like a naive ditz, not a commonly held perception of Jewish women.
No, the three good candidates here are Iscariot, Madoff and the Rosenbergs (Julius, actually; Ethel was probably innocent.) They are all very good candidates indeed.
The sheer bigness of the betrayal of God Himself for filthy lucre makes Judas a tempting candidate. And his quick repentance and suicide do not blunt the enormity of his deed, shanda-wise. What saves Judas from this ultimate ignominy is simply that he is not remembered, particularly, as a Jew. He was, of course, though he was also, by definition, a Christian. But shandahood is mostly a matter of bitter perception, and nobody really goes around thinking, “Grrr, boy that Iscariot guy was a dirty Jew.”
No, for that kind of thinking we must settle on Julius Rosenberg, who has stood for 50 years as the epitome of the shanda: The Scheming, Disloyal Jew. If it’s true that his motive was not money, it is also undeniable that his crime was heinous, and, boy, he had the looks.
But we have a new champion, ladies and gentlemen.
Bernard Madoff, through volume of money alone, may be the biggest crook in history. So you have that. Plus it is a swindly-type of crookedness. Plus, (this is big) he went out of his way to target Jews. He is a betrayer, a swindler, a con man, utterly amoral. He sucked his family into it. He ruined not only himself but his friends and relatives. He knew all along what he was doing.
Oh, and he ALSO has the looks.
The new champ.