|Quotes • Headscratchers • Playing With • Useful Notes • Analysis • Image Links • Haiku • Laconic|
"There is no Jewish conspiracy to control the banks. You know why? Because we can't agree on a place to go for dinner! We couldn't even get the meeting started! (in an authoritative voice) 'All right, the Jewish meeting to control the banks will now commence.' (in a grouchy voice) 'Hey, who died and made you king? Never mind me. I'm no one here. I have no opinions.'"
Do not confuse this with All Jews Are Cheapskates.
The Greedy Jew is a Dead Horse Trope about Jewish people being greedy and malicious. The stereotype exists for a number of reasons, but mainly derives from trade restrictions placed upon Jews in medieval and early modern Europe. Jews weren't allowed to join trade guilds or own land in most countries, which led most Jewish men to enter professions that didn't require guild membership such as banking. Since Jewish holy law doesn't forbid Jews to charge interest, at least to non-Jews (it's complicated), Jews became associated with usurious and often exploitative banking procedures -- even though Christian bankers such as the de Medicis did the same thing.
Thus works written or set in these time periods would show Jews being evil and receiving Karmic Deaths for it. Eventually someone took it to the next level and wrote a conspiracy theory of Jews controlling the banking system. Believe it or not, even the garden variety of anti-Semite didn't buy that lie, but the Nazis weren't your garden variety anti-Semites and they turned up the stereotype to eleven.
As you might guess, anything used to justify Nazism fell out of favor after roughly 1945, which is why you don't usually see this trope being played straight in the West any more - except by the odd neo-Nazi or 4chan poster. Though, sometimes the stereotype is misguidedly used against centralized banking, which caused many troubles (Without necessarily having Jewish people involved).
Unfortunately, most of these old stereotypes are now applied to Arabs in more modern media (and the trope itself has yet to die in media from the Arab world). There's also a lesser-known (at least in the West) Armenian variant to this trope. Armenians were known as the Jews of the Middle East for a long time (until Jews came back to the Middle East). The trope was used to justify a genocide against them too, before the Holocaust happened. The Scots have gotten this treatment in fiction as well, though they're still an Acceptable Target.
Of course, carries Unfortunate Implications.
- The original plot for Angel Cop involved a Jewish conspiracy to take over Japan (this was removed in the dub).
- It may not have been the best design decision to give the Merchant in Citadels such a hooked nose. And greedy grin.
- From Watchmen: An editorial cartoon in the extremist New Frontiersman magazine depicts a chained-up superhero facing giant, ethnic-stereotype personifications of corruption. Among these is "Big Biz", depicted as a stereotypical Jewish banker, dollar signs in his eyes, taunting the superhero with "Oy vey! I know vhere you liff!" According to editor Hector Godfrey, the cartoonist's name is Feinberg.
- In the original version of the Tintin book The Shooting Star (published in Nazi occupied Belgium during WWII), the main antagonist was an American banker named Blumenstein whose physical features closely resemble Nazi Jewish caricatures. Hergé later tried to remedy this by changing the banker's nationality to that of a fictional Banana Republic and changed his name to "Bohlwinkel ", after a Dutch dialect word for "sweet shop". Unfortunately, as Hergé found out later, Bohlwinkel is also a Jewish surname but that remained unaltered.
- The Shooting Star also featured some stereotyped greedy Jews rubbing their hands and gloating over the fact that if the world ended, they wouldn't have to repay their creditors. Unsurprisingly, this frame is cut in later editions.
- Jew Süss, a Nazi propaganda movie.
- Although the "bad" Christians in Suss are just as greedy. The main point of "Suss" is less that Jews are greedy and more that Jews rape Aryan women, which is elaborated on towards the end - this is in-keeping with Josef Goebbels's belief that propaganda should be as subtle as possible, so that the people maintain the illusion that their ideas are the product of rational thought and are therefore more likely to commit themselves to them as they are seen as being something personal to them rather than something the state hammers into them.
- Der Ewige Jude, which was a similar movie under the direction of Hitler, also Jews as greedy. It was a notorious flop, both because it was incredibly boring, artistically inept and shockingly crude and sensationalist. Even Germans who had lived under years of Nazi rule found it absurd.
- Borat portrays "Kazakhstan" as being rife with this and many other stereotypes about Jewish people. Sacha Baron Cohen plays Borat's antisemitism to the hilt in an effort to see who will casually agree with him. All those who didn't understand the full joke failed to realize that he himself is a
- The villain of Kazaam is the Arab version.
- In Harold Lloyd's Safety Last!, Harold buys a chain for his girlfriend from a shifty jeweller with a hooked nose called Silverstein, who constantly wrings his hands in avarice (the accompanying musician(s) shift into Klezmer-type music here, just so we get the point). Harold, embarrassed, starts imitating the man's hand-wringing. The joke is still amusing to modern audiences, because of the added irony of knowing that Harold Lloyd himself is Jewish.
- Fagin of Oliver Twist is a miserly Jewish crook who persuades homeless Christian boys to steal for him, even though many of them get executed for their crimes. Dickens claimed that he made Fagin a Jew because he believed that most of the real London "kidsmen" were in fact Jewish. After befriending some Jews and learning how much the character offended them, Dickens attempted amends by editing out some of the Jewish references and stereotypes. In Our Mutual Friend, he essays an Author's Saving Throw with Mr. Riah, who initially appears to be yet another Greedy Jew, but then turns out to be a subversion.
- The Jew Among Thorns (one of Grimm's Fairy Tales). After torturing a Jewish merchant for all the people he has undoubtedly swindled by forcing him to dance in a thornbush with a magic fiddle, the hero extorts the merchant for all of his valuables. Once in town, the hero is arrested and accused of stealing the merchant's things. The hero responds that the merchant gave them to him, and is promptly laughed at since a Jew would never give away his things like that. Just before he is executed, however, the hero is granted the request to play his magic fiddle once more. Upon doing so, everyone around him bursts into involuntary dance. The hero threatens to keep playing until the merchant admits to all his crimes. The merchant finally confesses, and is executed, and everyone important lived happily ever after.
- Isaac of York in Ivanhoe is somewhere between an example and a subversion. The character is a rich Jewish moneylender who clearly loves his wealth and seems to have an inexhaustible supply of hidden money caches, yet he spends most of the story trying to keep his daughter safe and repeatedly proclaims that he values her above all his wealth. He appears to be based on Ephraim Lópes Pereira d'Aguilar, 2nd Baron d'Aguilar, an eccentric Sephardic Jewish nobleman known for being stingy, hiding large amounts of money throughout his home, and for being a strange yet loving man.
- Beau Geste features a particularly unpleasant grotesque Jewish pawnbroker stereotype. Made egregious by the fact that the scene is completely extraneous to the plot, and seems to have been thrown in just to have a chance to emphasize that Jews are filthy misers.
- Subverted in the Swedish 19th century novel Drottningens juvelsmycke, with its greedy, stereotypically Jewish jeweler Benjamin Cohen. He is only pretending to be Jewish. Actually he represents another national stereotype - the evil Dane.
- Both invoked and subverted in Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now. The Ambiguously Jewish Melmotte fits the stereotype, but the definitely Jewish Mr. Brehgert is arguably the most honorable character in the book.
Live Action TV
- Sons of Anarchy brushes against this trope. Bobby, the Jew of the gang, seems to be their official accountant. In one episode, he states that his father was a mob accountant who was skilled at skimming off the top. On the other hand, he is opposed to the gang getting in the drug trade, despite all the money it'll make.
- Shylock from William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. In an interesting contrast to the way "evil Jews" were generally portrayed in Elizabethan theatre, Shylock is a complex and sympathetic character who's not seeking money, but revenge for insults. The play was bashed at the time for not giving Shylock a Karmic Death, opting instead for a "happier" ending in which Shylock is forcibly converted and his daughter married to a Christian. The debate as to whether Shylock is intended to be a straightforward villainous Jew or a sympathetic portrayal is still raging. Still more people argue that neither matters, and that The Merchant of Venice has been used as anti-semitic propaganda for centuries (the Nazis played it for a whole day after Kristallnacht, and promoted it in schools to portray Shakespeare as an Ur-National Socialist. They conveniently ignored Othello).
- Christopher Marlowe's The Jew of Malta plays the trope more straight. Barabas's motivation is also revenge, but for the loss of his wealth. Barabas is a pure villain and receives a Karmic Death.
- Even then, however, Barabas is still a complex character (definitely a Magnificent Bastard) and the Christians are just as hypocritical and nasty as he is.
- The Arab variant shows up in the Qurac level of Metal Slug 2/X. Being Metal Slug, its almost certainly a parody.
- Some bullies mock Ferris with this in Fishbones.
- The Onion parodies the trope with this "Today Now!" piece advising viewers to deal with their money-related stress by "visualizing it as a greedy, hooked-nosed race of creatures".
- South Park plays with this trope, especially in the perceptions of the antisemitic Eric Cartman. In "Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow," Cartman claims that all Jews have a bag of gold around their neck and tries to extort Kyle out of his. At first you think that Cartman is just being his usual crazy, bigoted self, until we discover that Kyle really does have one, as well as a decoy bag that Cartman also anticipates. In "The Death Camp of Tolerance," the boys are taken to the Museum of Tolerance where they are shown bigotry in its various forms. Cartman finds the various stereotypes on display to be awesome and immediately beelines for the Jewish stereotype on display, who is depicted as greedily clutching a bag of money. This has taken on memetic status. On 4chan, it's now generally accepted, even among Jewish users, that all Jews have a bag of gold made out of their foreskins. (The bag, not the gold.) It is hanging around their necks. The question is, where do Jewish women get their bag for their Jew gold from? Such things should not be asked.