Jews are the minority with the greatest number of attacks against them. Yet, they’re also the minority that is often shut out of inclusion spaces the most as well. What’s the deal? It’s a conundrum David Baddiel, English comedian, screenwriter and author examines in his book Jews Don’t Count (2021).
While Allison Josephs calls it a spiritual disease — it doesn’t make sense, so it has to be from G-d — Baddiel’s opinion is that it’s actually racism. As an atheist, he demonstrates that with a key example of how the Nazis took out Jews during the Holocaust. “The Nazis, those guys with torches chanting, ‘The Jews will not replace us,’ would not have asked me if I kept kosher before setting light to my house,” he explains. “They’re not interested in what elements of faith or tradition I might have. They’re interested only in what they see as in my blood, which is why antisemitism is racism.”
It’s complex, as Jews are the only minority group that is associated with terms like “richness,” “power,” and “money,” opposed to “oppression.”
“Kanye West, said, ‘They control me, they keep me down,’” he shares. “He’s talking about this ultra powerful group in his mind who somehow control the discourse or control the money, so it makes it hard to imagine Jews as a vulnerable community…but it’s a dangerous time for [us].”
Cashing in on the Money Angle
One thing Baddiel is extremely passionate about, is actually wiping out that entire stereotype and really, antisemitic trope about Jews and money in the first place.
As of the latest research done in 2023, Jews are actually the religious group with the least amount of overall wealth. Out of the total millionaires in the world, Christians come in at 56.2%, non-believers, or those not affiliated with a religion are at 31.7%, Muslims make up 5.8%, Hindus are at 3.3% and Jews hold 1.1% of the global wealth.
A trope is just a trope, and unfortunately, extremely dangerous. “Joe Rogan, about a month ago said, ‘Of course Jews are into money. Saying Jews are into money is like saying Italians are into pizza,” Baddiel shares. “The problem with that is that Italians have never been genocided because they like pepperoni on dough. Jews throughout history have been exiled, discriminated against and murdered because people think they control money. That’s an unbelievably important distinction that is somehow not made.”
Further, Jews have had their money taken away from them quickly throughout history. Baddiel’s own family was well off in Nazi Germany, but within a year of Hitler coming into power, that was all gone. Within five years, they were running for their lives and many family members had already been killed.
Plus, in the 1920s, Baddiel shares, Germans thought Jews controlled banking. In reality, it was 1-2% of Jews that were in the banking industry. “The overrepresentation of Jews in places is a myth,” he explains.
Wealth does not make you invulnerable to hate. It’s that exaggerating that also contributes to the very hate itself.
Caught in the Middle
What’s just as scary about the situation Jews are in with antisemitism, is that as a group, there aren’t many people standing up for us. According to Baddiel, the progressive left often folds Jews into whiteness, they don’t consider Jews to be part of a diverse makeup of people. Then on the right, Jews are discriminated against. “On the far right, Jews get massacred and the left often doesn’t care…that sanctuary isn’t really there for us.” It’s this exactly that leads to the erasure of Jews.
He credits Jonah Hill’s movie, You People as a clear example of just that. In the film, a Black woman and Jewish man get together. All the issues in the movie stem from the fact that Jews are white and rich. “The fact that Eddie Murphy’s character is kind of antisemitic is not a problem,” Baddiel says.
At the end, the cast makes amends but the Jewish people have to apologize for being white and rich while the Black side is just apologizing for not recognizing what a nice guy Jonah Hill was. The assumption is that Jews represent all white people, and in this case, any and all negatives about white people.
That same film most likely stemmed from some Jewish shame Hill experiences himself. Even though Baddiel is an atheist, he is a self-proclaimed proud Jew. He’s spoken to a lot of young Jewish people that admit they are ashamed of being Jewish. They don’t speak about it, they don’t wear any symbols that show off their Judaism.
Baddiel often wears a Magen Dovid around his neck as a way to show off his Jewish pride. It’s that expression that connects him to Jewish communities around him, even if they may be way more observant.
He feels culturally connected to his religiously Jewish brothers and sisters and understands that we share a common thread even if that’s the only similarity we have.
“When people were massacred in Pittsburgh, for example, that had nothing to do with religion,” he explains. “They were attacked because they are visibly Jewish. That’s a racist attack even if it happens to a religiously dressed person. It’s very important to understand.”
While Baddiel has of course received some hate on the Internet from the work he does, he is in no way slowing down. Sometimes people will say that speaking about Jews takes away time and space from other minorities, but giving that any real thought shows that is not the case.
Baddiel is quite simply, bringing to the forefront something that is always there. In a documentary he made for Channel 4 in Britain on Sarah Silverman, she says, “There was a gas in the air and you made it solid.”
“Someone wrote to me on Twitter, ‘Antisemitism is the racism that slips past you,’” he shares. “It’s a more complex form of racism, it’s harder to see how it’s working…There should be a limitless space to talk about discrimination and racism.”