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From what I've seen many non-Jews have a stereotype of Jewish people as being rude and greedy.

Is there a Jewish source (from the bible,talmud, midrash, zohar, or classic torah commentators) that there is some truth to this? (other than "stiff-necked" Ex.32:9)

If yes, why did God choose such a people to give the torah to.

(this is a serious question, please no jokes or derogatory remarks.)

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commentless downvote? how rude. –  ray May 7 '14 at 10:30
"If yes, why did God choose such a people to give the torah to." Chicken and egg argument. Maybe giving of the torah created the rudeness. –  Danno May 7 '14 at 10:31
@Danno maybe not. that's why i'm looking for sources –  ray May 7 '14 at 10:33
@ray According to the hagada of R shmuel hanagid grandson of the rambam, Balaam said to pharaoh Jewish people are greedy and that is how he fooled them into making them slaves –  preferred May 7 '14 at 11:13
Rudeness is culturally dependent. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudeness So I don't understand the question. In which culture is the question being asked? –  avi May 8 '14 at 12:17

5 Answers 5

As far as I am aware, there is no Jewish rabbinical or Torah source that Jews are any ruder or greedier than any other nation. On the contrary, the Talmud states that kindness is a fundamental characteristic of the Jewish people:

"The Jewish nation is distinguished by three characteristics: they are merciful, they are modest, and they perform acts of loving-kindness." (Babylonian Talmud Yevamot 79a).

We even suspect someone is not Jewish, or not descended from Avraham Avinu, if he is cruel:

"Whenever a person is cruel and does not show mercy, his lineage is suspect, for cruelty is found only among the gentiles, as [Jeremiah] 3:42] states: 'They are cruel and will not show mercy.'"


"Whenever one does not show mercy to the created beings, it can be recognized that he is not from the seed of Abraham our patriarch" (Beitzah 32b).

As an empirical matter, it would be impossible to measure objectively whether Jews are ruder or greedier than average. Israelis are sometimes perceived as rude, but many disagree with this, and say that they are kinder in practice than non-Israelis. I have personally never heard the stereotype that Jews are rude, and in my own experience I think Jews (whether religious or non-religious) are if anything kinder than non-Jews, and at the very least are just as kind and generous as average non-Jewish Americans.

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could be kindness,merciful etc. refers only to interior but not to the exterior. Israelis definitely can be rude. no question about this. I think this due to all tension from the wars and strife though. both without (arabs) and within (secular/religious, ashkenazi/sefardi for example) –  ray May 8 '14 at 10:45
Whats the connection between rudeness and kindness? Rudeness is an question of social ettiquete. What is rude in one county may not be in another. –  avi May 8 '14 at 12:13
Rudeness may have connotations related to ettiquete but also is generally used to mean unpleasant or "not nice." Kindness, among other things, means being pleasant and nice. –  Kordovero May 8 '14 at 13:43

First of all, I think it's important to point out that, like all stereotypes, the proliferation of the stereotype is generally a result of bigotry and ignorance. One can just look at the overwhelming number of hospitals and community centers donated by Jews, disproportionate to other religions, as a proof that we aren't greedy. This is even with excluding 'Jewish' causes i.e. Yeshivos, Jewish orphanages, etc. as one can argue that those are intended to help 'only other Jews', which still shows a lack of greed, yet might nevertheless not be realized by the outside world as lack of greed. Granted, that might lead into an argument that Jews have all the money, but that's a different stereotype.

But like with any effective lie, it's usually based on a grain of truth, so I'll try to give a reason why I believe some of the stereotypes you've mentioned exist.

Rudeness: Historically, and possibly for good reason, Jews wanted to keep themselves separate from the rest of the world. We have always discouraged intermarriage, and there are many other laws designed to keep our interaction with non-Jews to a minimum. Examples include laws like Yayin Nesech* (wine that was handled by a non-Jew; must be discarded), Pas Akum (literally 'bread of a non-Jew'; Jews are forbidden from eating bread made by a non Jew), among others.

In Megillas Esther (3:8-9), Haman argues to King Achashveirosh that it would be good to kill the Jews. One of his arguments (based on the commentary of the Vilna Gaon, I believe) was "If a fly touches a cup of wine, the Jews would remove the fly and drink the wine, yet if the king touched the wine, they would discard the wine". When examples like this are taken out of context and portrayed to the world in a disparaging light, it would spread the belief that Jews are rude and don't want to associate with 'other guys'.

(On a similar note, I always found it amusing that Haman seems to contradict himself in two of his arguments against the Jews. At one point he says that Jews don't pay taxes anyways, so the king wouldn't lose out on money by killing them, yet he also says that he'll give 10,000 silver pieces to cover the tax money the king would lose by not having the Jews around. So which one is it, did the Jews pay taxes or didn't they? Like some stereotypes nowadays too, they seem to be contradicting themselves)

Greed: In the middle ages in Europe, Jews were very limited in their job choices due to Christian persecution. They couldn't own land, and they were 'discouraged' discouraged from other businesses. However, there was one business that was open exclusively to the Jews. While Christians got rid of most of the commandments in the Torah (to them the Old Testament'), there were select few commandments that they kept. One of them was the prohibition against lending with interest. In this case, they followed the law according to Halachah, which says that you are not allowed to lend with interest to your 'brother'. They believed this meant that Christians couldn't lend money to other Christians. In truth, that is what the Halachah is, and similarly, Jews can't lend to other Jews with interest. But since banks are needed for society to exist, and Jews were locked out form other professions, Jews became the bankers for Christians.

As a result of being the only ones 'legally' allowed to be bankers, the stereotype of 'greedy Jewish moneylender' began, and continues through to this day.

To end off on a light note, I remember reading an article on The Onion a while back making fun of the stereotype that Jews control the world. It was titled 'Local Jew Feels Left Out of Worldwide Jewish Conspiracy'. I agree with that guy, I wouldn't mind the Jews that control the world throwing me a few bucks here and there :)

*Disclaimer on the examples: I'm giving the really shorthand version of those laws. As with just about everything else, there are many more finer details in each case.

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Haman used the Vilna Gaon for his arguments?! –  Cnsersmoit Jun 6 '14 at 10:33

Ray, not sure if I can provide what you are looking for directly, but I might be able to offer some pointers from both experience and some texts that could enlighten the conversation.

1) This stereotype is extremely real. Many non-Jews I grew up with had this mindset, wherever it came from (hope to show more on that in a min), even though our community had lots of Jews as well. I heard remarks about greediness, about Jews being an "unhappy" people, about their "owning the world" etc. To some point, perhaps this arises out of a sort of jealousy. As we know, people tend to get funny against any kind of exclusivity that excludes them (thus, modest women, for example, are ridiculed for being set apart and showing their love for G-d).

2) There is a direct precedent for this thinking at least as far back as the Quran. For one particular reference, cf. Quran 2.96:

"And thou wilt find them [the Jews] greediest of mankind for life and (greedier) than the idolaters. (Each) one of them would like to be allowed to live a thousand years. And to live (a thousand years) would be no means remove him from the doom. Allah is Seer of what they do."

A short survey of Muhammad's life shows that his "tolerance" of Jews started off on a great foot but devoloved quickly into these sorts of claims (especially after moving to Medina and having conflict with a Jewish group there).

3) A very important early Christian Church Father, St. John Chrysostom, was a wonderful teacher/preacher, but a terrible anti-Semite. His influence can not be overestimated. For one, he wrote a series of eight homilies "against the Jews." Beyond this, check out this page, here, for a great overview of some of the anti-Semitism of the early Christians.

4) Lastly, although this could go on for a long time, there was a strong anti-Semite energy behind the Reformation. Martin Luther wrote a tract "On the Jews and their Lies" (selections here) and Jean Calvin taught "replacement theology," his theory that G-d rejected the Jews after the advent of Jesus (he uses the image of a divorce to illustrate).

5) One last note! Depending on how the Christian Testament is read and interpreted, it also contains statements that may or may not support these individuals. (when I get a moment I will edit in some of these!).

So, my answer is: it is a stereotype that has always been a part of (at least) Western culture and is a reactionary response to the perceived difference of the Jews, a sort of jealousy at the perceived audacity that G-d would choose a special people for Himself. It is a part of the very underlying theses of each of these major non-Jewish religions, especially those that take from Judaism.

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Just to add on to what a lot of your points were hinting to: Both Christianity and Islam believed the Jews were the original monotheistic religion. However, they both claimed at some point that G-D decided to change his chosen religion from Judaism to Christianity/Islam. Therefore, it would only make sense that they would try to degrade their religion's origin, to encourage people to join their faction. –  Salmononius2 May 7 '14 at 13:56
@Salmononius2, you definitely got my point! –  Yochanan Michael May 7 '14 at 14:13
@Salmononius2 maybe that would explain the vehement hatred of israel by the arabs. according to them God should not be helping the jews. but of course, the secular politicians just can't see this. –  ray May 7 '14 at 17:46
nice answer. was also looking for sources as to why it may be true. –  ray May 7 '14 at 17:47
@ray, certainly. Just offering my two cents. However, I must admit that I am uncertain there is a definitive answer for this question outside of a historical-sociological dimension. Hope to see! –  Yochanan Michael May 7 '14 at 19:11

the Talmud in Beitza 25b says:

"Why was the Torah given to the Jewish People? Because they are the most brazen of all nations."

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If I have understood correctly, in addition to learning Gemara, yeshiva bochurim learn Mussar-literature daily (at least litvaks). So there's serious soul searching and contemplating ethical behaviour. Considering the OP's question against this fact, it would be strange if these people turned out to be rude.

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thnx but was looking for sources as to why it may be true not why it isn't –  ray May 8 '14 at 13:12
Stranger things have happened –  Double AA May 8 '14 at 17:24

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