Stereotypes of Jews

Stereotypes of Jews are generalized representations of Jews, often caricatured and of a prejudiced and antisemitic nature. The Jewish diaspora have been stereotyped for over 2,000 years as scapegoats for a multitude of societal problems[1] such as: Jews always acting with unforgiving hostility towards the Christians, Jews' religious rituals thought to have specifically undermined the church and state, and Jews' habitual assassinations of Christians as their most extreme deeds.[2] Antisemitism continued throughout the centuries and reached a climax in the Third Reich during World War II. Modern day Jews are still stereotyped as greedy, nit-picky, stingy misers and are often depicted in caricatures, comics, and propaganda posters counting money or collecting diamonds. Early films such as Cohen's Advertising Scheme (1904, silent) stereotyped Jews as "scheming merchants".[2][3]

Common objects, phrases and traditions used to emphasize or ridicule Jewishness include bagels, playing violin, klezmer, undergoing circumcision, kvetching, haggling and uttering various Yiddish phrases like mazel tov, shalom, and oy vey. Other Jewish stereotypes are the rabbi, the complaining and guilt-inflicting Jewish mother, often along with a meek and nerdy nice Jewish boy, and the spoiled and materialistic Jewish-American princess.

Stereotype types

Physical features

Antisemitic caricature 1873
An 1873 caricature depicting the stereotypical physical features of a Jewish businessman

In caricatures and cartoons, Jews are usually depicted as having large hook-noses, dark beady eyes[4] with drooping eyelids.[5] Exaggerated or grotesque Jewish facial features were a staple theme in Nazi propaganda and, less frequently, in Soviet propaganda. The Star Wars character Watto has been likened to traditional antisemitic caricatures.


The idea of the large[6] or aquiline[7] "Jewish nose" remains one of the most prevalent and defining features to characterize someone as a Jew. This widespread stereotype can be traced back to the 13th century, according to art historian Sara Lipton. While the depiction of the hooked-nose originated in the 13th century, it had an uprooting in European imagery many centuries later.[8] The earliest record of anti-Jewish caricature is a detailed doodle depicted in the upper margin of the Exchequer Receipt Roll (English royal tax record) in 1233. It shows three demented looking Jews inside a castle as well as a Jew in the middle of the castle with a large nose.[9] The satirical antisemitic 1893 book The Operated Jew revolves around a plot of cosmetic surgery as a "cure" for Jewishness.


Fagin by Kyd 1889
Watercolor illustration by Joseph Clayton Clarke of Fagin, a stereotypical red-haired Jewish criminal from Charles Dickens's novel Oliver Twist

In European culture, prior to the 20th century, red hair was commonly identified as the distinguishing negative Jewish trait.[10][11] This stereotype probably originated because red hair is a recessive trait that tends to find higher expression in highly endogamous populations, such as in Jewish communities where Jews were forbidden from marrying outsiders.[11] Red hair was especially closely linked with Judas Iscariot, who was commonly shown with red hair to identify him as Jewish.[11][12] During the Spanish Inquisition, all those with red hair were identified as Jewish.[10][11] In Italy, red hair was associated with Italian Jews.[12] Writers from Shakespeare to Dickens would identify Jewish characters by giving them red hair.[13] In Medieval European lore, "Red Jews" were a semi-fictional group of red-haired Jews, although this tale has obscure origins.

In part due to their Middle Eastern ethnic origins, Jews tend to be portrayed as swarthy and hairy, sometimes associated with a curly hair texture known as a "Jewfro". There is a brown, edible woodland fungus, Auricularia cornea, commonly referred to as "Hairy Jew's ear".[14]


Jewish speculators caricature, 1851
A German cartoon of 1851 implies ingrained dishonesty in Jews.

Jews have often been stereotyped as greedy and miserly. This originates in the Middle Ages, when the Church forbade Christians to lend money while charging interest (a practice called usury, although the word later took on the meaning of charging excessive interest). Jews were legally restricted to occupations as usurers, usually to Christians, and thus many went into money-lending. This led to, through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the association of Jews with greedy practices.

Gilbert's Shylock After the Trial, an illustration to The Merchant of Venice, Stereotypes of Jews

Publications like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and literature such as William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice and Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist reinforced the stereotype of the crooked Jew. Dickens later expressed regret for his portrayal of Fagin in the novel, and toned down references to his Jewishness.[15] Furthermore, the character of Mr. Riah in his later novel Our Mutual Friend is a kindly Jewish creditor, and may have been created as an apology for Fagin. Lesser references in Arabian Nights, The Three Musketeers, and even Hans Brinker are examples of the prevalence of this negative perception. Some, such as Paul Volcker, suggest that the stereotype has decreased in prevalence in the United States. A telephone poll of 1747 American adults conducted by the Anti-Defamation League in 2009 found that 18% believed that "Jews have too much power in the business world", 13% that "Jews are more willing than others to use shady practices to get what they want", and 12% that "Jews are not just as honest as other businesspeople".[16]

Jewish frugality, thriftiness, and greed are among the typical themes in jokes about Jews, even by Jews themselves.[17]


Seeking information

The word nu, with rising intonation, is used to indicate that information or a decision is sought, as in "Nu ...?" or "So, nu . . .?" or "Nu, which one do you want?"

Emphasizing direct objects or complements

A stereotype is for American Jews, especially native Yiddish speakers, to emphasize direct objects or complements by placing them at the beginning of a sentence.

  • Q: Do you have sandwiches? A: Sandwiches we got, drinks we don't.
  • Q: Doesn't your son play the violin? A: Yes, but he doesn't practice. A Heifitz he'll never be.


A common stereotype is that Jews answer a question with a question. It is used in Jewish humor and in ordinary literature when it is required to paint a character as a "typical Jew".[18] An example: Person A asks, "Why do Jews answer every question with a question?" Person B (who is Jewish) responds, "Why shouldn't they?"

Rising intonation

A stereotype regarding American Jews – especially immigrants or the children of immigrants – is to occasionally emphasize sentences with a rising intonation that would have falling intonation in other varieties of English. Example: Person A: "My son wants to be a florist." Person B: "Nu, so let him." Here, let would have the lowest tone in the utterance, while him might be on the same pitch or slightly higher than nu. This tendency should not be confused with the rising intonation in so-called "Valley Girl" speech.


To display incredulity, a conversational technique associated with Jews is to express the sentiment to someone who is not there. Example: Person A: "Do you know where Central Park is?" Person B: "Of course I know where Central Park is. [A slight turn of the head, and then:] He thinks I don't know where Central Park is."

Jewish women

Negative stereotypes of Jewish women can appear in popular culture.[19] Stereotypes of Jewish mothers and Jewish-American Princesses are well-known and pervasive stereotypes of Jewish women.[20]

Belle juive

The Jewess of Tangier (before 1808) by Charles Landelle, showing a stereotypical belle juive

La belle juive (the beautiful Jewess) was a 19th-century literary stereotype. A figure that is often associated with having and causing sexual lust, temptation and sin. Her personality traits could be portrayed either positively or negatively. The typical appearance of the belle juive included long, thick, dark hair, large dark eyes, an olive skin tone, and a languid expression. An example of this stereotype is Rebecca in Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. Another example is Miriam in Nathaniel Hawthorne's romance The Marble Faun.[21]

Jewish mother

The Jewish mother or Jewish wife stereotype is a common stereotype and stock character used by Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, television and film writers, actors, and authors in the United States. The stereotype generally involves a nagging, loud, highly-talkative, overprotective, smothering, and overbearing mother or wife, who persists in interfering in her children's lives long after they have become adults and who is excellent at making her children feel guilty for actions that may have caused her to suffer.[22] The Jewish mother stereotype can also involve a loving and overly proud mother who is highly defensive about her children in front of others. Like Italian mother stereotypes, Jewish mother characters are often shown cooking for the family, urging loved ones to eat more, and taking great pride in their food. Feeding a loved one is characterized as an extension of the desire to mother those around her. Lisa Aronson Fontes describes the stereotype as one of "endless caretaking and boundless self-sacrifice" by a mother who demonstrates her love by "constant overfeeding and unremitting solicitude about every aspect of her children's and husband's welfare[s]".[23]

A possible origin of this stereotype is anthropologist Margaret Mead's research into the European shtetl, financed by the American Jewish Committee.[24] Although her interviews at Columbia University, with 128 European-born Jews, disclosed a wide variety of family structures and experiences, the publications resulting from this study and the many citations in the popular media resulted in the Jewish mother stereotype: a woman intensely loving but controlling to the point of smothering and attempting to engender enormous guilt in her children via the endless suffering she professes to have experienced on their behalf. The Jewish mother stereotype, then, has origins in the American Jewish community, with predecessors coming from Eastern European ghettos.1 In Israel, with its diversity of diasporic backgrounds and where most mothers are Jewish, the same stereotypical mother is known as the Polish mother (ima polania).[25][26]

Comedian Jackie Mason describes stereotypical Jewish mothers as parents who have become so expert in the art of needling their children that they have honorary degrees in "Jewish Acupuncture".[27] Rappoport observes that jokes about the stereotype have less basis in anti-Semitism than they have in gender stereotyping.[28] William Helmreich agrees, observing that the attributes of a Jewish mother—overprotection, pushiness, aggression, and guilt-inducement—could equally well be ascribed to mothers of other ethnicities, from Italians through Blacks to Puerto Ricans.[29]

The association of this otherwise gender stereotype with Jewish mothers in particular, is, according to Helmreich, because of the importance that is traditionally placed by Judaism on the home and the family, and on the role of the mother within that family. Judaism, as exemplified by the Bible (e.g. the Woman of Valor) and elsewhere, ennobles motherhood, and associates mothers with virtue. This ennoblement was further increased by poverty and hardship of Eastern European Jews immigrating into the United States (during the period 1881–1924, when one of the largest waves of such immigration occurred), where the requirements of hard work by the parents were passed on to children via guilt: "We work so hard so that you can be happy." Other aspects of the stereotype are rooted in those immigrant Jewish parents' drive for their children to succeed, resulting in a push for perfection and a continual dissatisfaction with anything less: "So you got a B? That could have been an A there." Hartman observes that the root of the stereotype is in the self-sacrifice of first-generation immigrants, unable to take full advantage of American education themselves, and the consequent transference of their aspirations, to success and social status, from themselves to their children. A Jewish mother obtains vicarious social status from the achievements of her children, where she is unable to achieve such status herself.[29][30]

One of the earliest Jewish mother figures in American popular culture was Molly Goldberg, portrayed by Gertrude Berg, in the situation comedy The Goldbergs on radio from 1929 to 1949 and television from 1949 to 1955.[31] But the stereotype as it came to be understood in the 20th century was exemplified by other literary figures. These include Rose Morgenstern from Herman Wouk's 1955 novel Marjorie Morningstar, Mrs Patimkin from Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth, and Sophie Ginsky Portnoy from Portnoy's Complaint also by Roth.[32][33] Sylvia Barack Fishman's characterization of Marjorie Morningstar and Sophie Portnoy is that they are each "a forceful Jewish woman who tries to control her life and the events around her", who is "intelligent, articulate, and aggressive", who does not passively accept life but tries to shape events, friends, and families, to match their visions of an ideal world.[34]

The Jewish mother became one of two stock female Jewish characters in literature in the 20th century, the other being the Jewish-American princess. The focus of the stereotype was different than its precursors, too. Jewish writers had previously employed a stereotype of an overbearing matron, but its focus had always been not the woman, but the ineffectual man whom she dominated, out of necessity. The focus of the Jewish mother stereotype that arose was based in a shift in economic circumstances of American Jews during the 20th century. American Jews were no longer struggling first generation immigrants, living in impoverished neighborhoods. The "soldier woman" work ethos of Jewish women, and the levels of anxiety and dramatization of their lives, was seen as unduly excessive for lifestyles that had (for middle-class Jews) become far more secure and suburban by the middle of the century. Jewish literature came to focus upon the differences between Jewish women and what Jews saw as being the various idealized views of American women, the "blonde bombshell", the "sex kitten", or the sweet docile "apple-pie" blonde who always supported her man. In contrast, Jewish writers viewed the still articulate and intelligent Jewish woman as being, by comparison, pushy, unrefined, and unattractive.[34][35]

Fishman describes the Jewish mother stereotype used by male Jewish writers as "a grotesque mirror image of the proverbial Woman of Valor". A Jewish mother was a woman who had her own ideas about life, who attempted to conquer her sons and her husband, and who used food, hygiene, and guilt as her weapons. Like Helmreich, Fishman observes that while it began as a universal gender stereotype, exemplified by Erik Erikson's critique of "Momism" in 1950 and Philip Wylie's blast, in his 1942 Generation of Vipers, against "dear old Mom" tying all of male America to her apron strings, it quickly became highly associated with Jewish mothers in particular, in part because the idea became a staple of Jewish American fiction.[34]

This stereotype enjoyed a mixed reception in the mid-20th century. In her 1967 essay "In Defense of the Jewish Mother", Zena Smith Blau defended the stereotype, asserting that the ends, inculcating virtues that resulted in success, justified the means, control through love and guilt. Being tied to mamma kept Jewish boys away from "[g]entile friends, particularly those from poor, immigrant families with rural origins in which parents did not value education".[33][35] One example of the stereotype, as it had developed by the 1970s, was the character of Ida Morgenstern, mother of Rhoda Morgenstern, who first appeared in a recurring role on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and later as a regular on its spinoff Rhoda.[36]

According to Alisa Lebow, in the late 20th century and 21st century the stereotype of the Jewish mother has "gone missing" from movies. She observes that there appears to have been no conscious effort on the part of screenwriters or film-makers to rewrite or change the stereotype, in pursuance of some revisionist agenda, but that it has simply fallen back a generation.[37] Despite this, the concept of the Jewish mother while declining in film can still be seen in popular culture. One use of the Jewish mother stereotype-trope can be seen in the popular television program The Big Bang Theory, which premiered in 2007, and was played by the character of Howard Wolowitz's mother who is only heard as a voice character. Mrs. Wolowitz is loud, overbearing, and over-protective of her son. In the television show South Park, Sheila Broflovski, mother of main character Kyle Broflovski, is Jewish and represents a caricature of the stereotypes associated with her ethnicity and role, such as speaking loudly and with a Long Island accent and being overprotective of her son.

Jewish-American princess

Jewish-American princess (JAP) is a pejorative stereotype that portrays some Jewish women as spoiled brats,[38][39][40] implying materialism and selfishness, attributed to a pampered or wealthy background. This stereotype of American Jewish women has been portrayed frequently in contemporary US media since the mid-20th century. "JAPs" are portrayed as used to privilege, materialistic, and neurotic.[6] An example of the humorous use of this stereotype appears in the song "Jewish Princess" on the Frank Zappa album Sheik Yerbouti. Female Jewish comedians such as Sarah Silverman have also satirized the stereotype, as did filmmaker Robert Townsend in his comedy B*A*P*S (see also Black American Princess for more information on this related pejorative stereotype).

According to Machacek and Wilcox, the stereotype of the Jewish-American Princess did not emerge until after World War II and is "peculiar to the U.S. scene".[41] In 1987, the American Jewish Committee held a conference on "Current Stereotypes of Jewish Women" which argued that such jokes "represent a resurgence of sexist and anti-Semitic invective masking a scrim of misogyny.'"[42]

The stereotype was partly a construct of, and popularized by, some post-war Jewish male writers,[43] notably Herman Wouk in his 1955 novel Marjorie Morningstar[44] and Philip Roth in his 1959 novel Goodbye, Columbus, featuring protagonists who fit the stereotype.[45]

The term "JAP" and the associated stereotype gained attention beginning in the 1970s with the publication of several non-fiction articles such as Barbara Meyer's Cosmopolitan article "Sex and the Jewish Girl" and the 1971 cover article in New York magazine by Julie Baumgold, "The Persistence of the Jewish Princess".[46] "JAP" jokes became prevalent in the late 1970s and early 1980s.[47][48] According to Riv-Ellen Prell, the JAP stereotype's rise to prominence in the 1970s resulted from pressures on the Jewish middle class to maintain a visibly affluent lifestyle as post-war affluence declined.[43][49] The concept was the butt of jokes and spoofed by many, including Jews.[50]

The stereotypical subject, as described in these sources, is over-indulged by her parents with attention and money, resulting in the princess having both unrealistic expectations and guilt, accompanied by skill in the manipulation of guilt in others, resulting in a deficient love life.[46] The stereotype has been described as "a sexually repressive, self-centered, materialistic and lazy female,"[51] who is "spoiled, overly-concerned with appearance, and indifferent to sex", the last being her most notable trait.[47][48] The stereotype also portrays relationships with weak men who are easily controlled and are willing to spend large amounts of money and energy to recreate the dynamic she had during her upbringing. These men tend to be completely content with catering to her endless needs for food, material possessions, and attention.

The stereotype is often, though not always, the basis for jokes both inside and outside the Jewish community.[52] Frank Zappa was accused of antisemitism for his song "Jewish Princess", a charge which he repeatedly denied on the basis that he did not invent the concept and that women who fit the stereotype existed.[53] In recent years, attempts have been made by some Jewish women to re-appropriate the term "JAP" and incorporate it as part of a cultural identity.[49][54] It has also been criticized for its sexist basis, and for pejoratively branding young adult Jewish-American women as spoiled and materialistic.[55] Concerns about incidents of the JAP stereotype being used pejoratively at colleges and universities have been noted in newspapers, magazines and academic journals.[56][57][58] The American television show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, created by Rachel Bloom, features a parody song that can be seen as both satirizing and embracing this trope. "JAP Battle" is featured in Season 1's "Josh and I Go to Los Angeles!". Rachel Bloom, and her character Rebecca Bunch, are both Jewish.[59][60][61]

Jewish men

Jewish lawyer

The concept of the "Jewish lawyer" is a stereotype of Jews,[62][63][64] which depicts Jews and Jewish lawyers as clever, greedy, exploitative, dishonest, and as engaging in moral turpitude and excessive legalism.[62][65] Ted Merwin writes that in the United States the stereotype became popular in the mid-to-late 20th century when Jews started entering the legal profession.[66] Jews entered the U.S. legal profession decades before the middle of the 20th century – by the time of the Great Depression, many Jews had already established themselves as lawyers.[67][68][69]

The stock character of the Jewish lawyer appears frequently in popular culture.[62][70][71] Jay Michaelson writes in The Jewish Daily Forward that the character of Maurice Levy, in the drama series The Wire, played by Michael Kostroff, is stereotypical, with a "New York accent and the quintessential pale skin, brown hair and Ashkenazic nose of the typical American Jew".[65]

This stereotyping is parodied in Breaking Bad and its spinoff series Better Call Saul, where the character Saul Goodman is an Irish-American lawyer who pretends to be Jewish-American for his clients, believing that it makes him appear more competent as a lawyer.[72]

Jewish doctor

It is the supposed wish of every Jewish mother that her son become a doctor and that her daughter marry a doctor, and that anything less requires some degree of consolation. A Jewish joke references a Jewish mother at her son’s inauguration as president of the United States. She leans over to the person sitting next to her and brags, “You know, his brother is a doctor!”

Unlike the stereotype of the brash Jewish lawyer, the Jewish doctor is mild-mannered and respectful.

The stereotypical Jewish doctor is more intelligent and more successful than his non-Jewish counterpart. In the television series ‘’My Name is Earl’’, the character Joy, who is not Jewish, is disappointed at seeing that an Indian doctor is caring for her ex-husband and demands to see “a real doctor, a Jewish one.”

Nice Jewish boy

The nice Jewish boy is a stereotype of Jewish masculinity that circulates within the American Jewish community, as well as in mainstream American culture. In Israel and the parts of the diaspora which have received heavy exposure to the American media that deploy the representation, the stereotype has gained popular recognition to a lesser extent.

The qualities ascribed to the nice Jewish boy are derived from the Ashkenazic ideal of אײדלקײַט (eydlkayt, either "nobility" or "delicateness" in Yiddish). According to Daniel Boyarin's Unheroic Conduct (University of California Press, 1997), eydlkayt embraces the studiousness, gentleness and sensitivity said to distinguish the Talmudic scholar and make him an attractive marriage partner.[73]

The resistance that a Jewish male may launch against this image in his quest to become a "regular guy" has found its place in Jewish American literature. Norman Podhoretz, the former editor of Commentary, made the following comment about Norman Mailer's literary and "extracurricular" activities:

He spent his entire life trying to extirpate what he himself called the 'nice Jewish boy' from his soul, which is one of the reasons he has done so many outrageous things and gotten into trouble, including with the police. It's part of trying to overcome that lifelong terror of being a sissy.[74]

For Philip Roth's semi-autobiographical avatar Alex Portnoy, neither the nice Jewish boy nor his more aggressively masculine counterparts (the churlish Jewboy, the "all-American" ice hockey player) prove to be acceptable identities to attain. The ceaseless floundering between the two fuels Portnoy's Complaint.


Martin Marger writes "A set of distinct and consistent negative stereotypes, some of which can be traced as far back as the Middle Ages in Europe, has been applied to Jews."[75] Antisemitic canards such as the blood libel appeared in the 12th century and were associated with attacks and massacres against Jews.[76]These stereotypes are paralleled in the earlier (7th century) writings of the Quran which state that wretchedness and baseness were stamped upon the Jews, and they were visited with wrath from Allah, because they disbelieved in Allah's revelations and slew the prophets wrongfully. And for their taking usury, which was prohibited for them, and because of their consuming people's wealth under false pretense, a painful punishment was prepared for them.

Medieval Europe

The portrayal of Jews as historic enemies of Christianity and Christendom constitutes the most damaging anti-Jewish stereotype reflected in the literature of the late tenth through early twelfth centuries. Jews were often depicted as satanic consorts,[77] or as devils themselves and "incarnation[s] of absolute evil."[78] Physically, Jews were portrayed as menacing, hirsute, with boils, warts and other deformities, and sometimes with horns, cloven hoofs and tails.[79] Such imagery was used centuries later in Nazi propaganda of the 1930s and 1940s.[80] This propaganda leaned on Jewish stereotypes to explain the claim that the Jewish people belong to an "inferior" race.[81][82]

Although Jews had not been particularly associated with moneylending in antiquity, a stereotype of them acting in this capacity was developed beginning in the 11th century. Jonathan Frankel notes that this stereotype, though obviously an exaggeration, had a solid basis in reality. While not all Jews were moneylenders, the Catholic Church's prohibition of usury meant that Jews were the main representatives of the trade.[83]

Prevalence in the United States

David Schneider writes "Three large clusters of traits are part of the Jewish stereotype (Wuthnow, 1982). First, Jews are seen as being powerful and manipulative. Second, they are accused of dividing their loyalties between the United States and Israel. A third set of traits concerns Jewish materialistic values, aggressiveness, clannishness."[84]

About one-third of Europe’s Jewish population emigrated in the nineteenth and early decades of twentieth century. About 80 percent of those emigrants chose America.[85] Although there is no doubt that Europe’s depiction of the Jews influenced the United States, there were no immense massacres, pogroms, or legal restrictions on the Jews.[86] Based on the fact that America is made up of immigrants, American Jewry identity is described as "fluid, negotiable, and highly voluntary."[87] Within the first Jewish communities, the colonies gave the Jews the chance to live openly as Jews.[88] The attitude towards Jews in the eyes of the colonial authorities was that they carried several assets for business. Most Jews settled in port cities and thrived in trade by relying on family and community ties for negotiating.[89] Peddling, specifically, improved the image of Jews in the eyes of the early Americans that allowed them into their homes, fed them food, and sometimes let them stay the night in their home. Peddling gave the chance to shed outward appearance stereotypes. Commentators noted they often wore a waistcoat and tie, with a top hat on their heads. For they understood a customer would be less likely to open their door to a shabby, dirty man, than a man in elegant dress.[90] From 1914 to 1918, World War I shaped the identity and attitudes of American Jews for the better, yet is overshadowed by the devastation and tragedy of World War II. For the first time, American Jews were seen as major philanthropists, which is now a central part of American Judaism. The stereotype of being greedy and miserly seemed to be challenged. Aid was provided to Jews overseas by a new organization, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. By the end of the war, the Joint raised more than $16.5 million, which is equivalent to about $260 million today.[91]

However, attitudes towards the Jews change after World War I; from 1920-1940, America saw the peak years of American antisemitism.[92] Many left-wing Jews showed sympathy toward, or even supported, the Russian Revolution.[91] Jews were impressed by the Soviet’s commitment to giving Jews equal civil, political, and national rights, which fueled the Jewish plots conspiracy theories. This era in American history is called the Red Scare. Movements of restricting immigration, such as the Immigration Act of 1924, often had individuals express suspicion and hatred on the Jews. In the intellectual context, social scientists were asking questions like, "Will the Jews ever Lose their Racial Identity?" and, "Are the Jews an Inferior Race?" In 1938, according to opinion polls, about 50 percent of Americans had low opinions of Jews.[93] Americans still believed the Jews to be untrustworthy and dishonest.[93] Many hoped that the racial stereotypes would disappear if the Jews worked to mold themselves. Massive amount of efforts was put towards Jewish charities, especially for new immigrants, in response to antisemitism in America.

The twenty years following World War II are considered the American Jewry "golden age" because of the triumph of "prosperity and affluence, suburbanization and acceptance, the triumph of political and cultural liberalism, and the expansiveness of unlimited possibilities."[94] The Jews increased participation in typical American culture such as movies, public entertainment, advertising, and organized sports, baseball in particular. More recently, benign stereotypes of Jews have been found to be more prevalent than images of an overtly antisemitic nature.[95] The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), released nationwide telephone surveys to analyse American beliefs on the Jews. The league concluded that in 2007, 15% of Americans, nearly 35 million adults, hold "unquestionably anti-Semitic" views about Jews. More than one quarter, 27% of Americans believe Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus. The number of African-Americans with strong anti-Semitic beliefs remain high and stable since 1992, with today at 32%. On a more positive note, many Americans have positive views towards the Jews on ethics and family. About 65% of Americans believe the Jews had a "special commitment to social justice and civil rights." About 79% of Americans believe the Jews put an "emphasis on the importance of family life."[96]

In literature

Jewish stereotypes in literature have evolved over the centuries. According to Louis Harap, nearly all European writers prior to the twentieth century projected the Jewish stereotype in their works. Harap cites Gotthold Lessing's Nathan the Wise (1779) as the first time that Jews were portrayed in the arts as "human beings, with human possibilities and characteristics."[97] Harap writes that the persistence of the Jewish stereotype over the centuries suggests to some that "the treatment of the Jew in literature was completely static and was essentially unaffected by the changes in the Jewish situation in society as that society itself changed." He contrasts the opposing views presented in the two most comprehensive studies of the Jew in English literature, one by Montagu Frank Modder and the other by Edgar Rosenberg. Modder asserts that writers invariably "reflect the attitude of contemporary society in their presentation of the Jewish character, and that the portrayal changes with the economic and social changes of each decade." In opposition to Modder's "historical rationale", Rosenberg warns that such a perspective "is apt to slight the massive durability of a stereotype".[98] Harap suggests that the recurrence of the Jewish stereotype in literature is itself one indicator of the continued presence of anti-Semitism amongst the readers of that literature.[99]

English literature

A Jew Broker by Thomas Rowlandson, 1789
A Jew Broker by Thomas Rowlandson, 1789

Although Jews were expelled from England in 1290, stereotypes were so ingrained and so durable that they persisted in English society as evidenced by presentations in English literature, drama, and the visual arts during the almost four-hundred-year period when there were virtually no Jews present in the British Isles. Some of the most famous stereotypes come from English literature; these include characters such as Shylock, Fagin and Svengali. Negative stereotypes of Jews were still employed by prominent twentieth-century non-Jewish writers such as Dorothy Richardson, Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene.[100]

American literature

Until the 20th century, the characterization of Jews in American literature was largely based upon the stereotypes employed in English literature.[101] Although Jewish stereotypes first appeared in works by non-Jewish writers, after World War II it was often Jewish American writers themselves who evoked such fixed images. The prevalence of anti-Semitic stereotypes in the works of such authors has sometimes been interpreted as an expression of self-hatred; however, Jewish American authors have also used these negative stereotypes in order to refute them.[102]

In performance


Vaudeville act

"Jewface" was a vaudeville act that became popular among Eastern European Jews who immigrated to the United States in the 1880s. The name plays off of the term "blackface," and the act featured performers enacting Jewish stereotypes, wearing large putty noses, long beards, and tattered clothing, and speaking in a Yiddish dialect. Early portrayals were done by non-Jews, but Jews soon began to produce their own "Jewface" acts. By the early 20th century, almost all the "Jewface" actors, managers, agents, and audience members were Jewish.[103] "Jewface" featured Jewish dialect music, written by Tin Pan Alley songwriters. These vaudeville acts were controversial at the time. In 1909 a prominent Reform rabbi said that comedy like this was "the cause of greater prejudice against the Jews as a class than all other causes combined," and that same year the Central Conference of American Rabbis denounced this type of comedy.[104]


"Jewface: Yiddish Dialect Songs of Tin Pan Alley" was an exhibit at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research from November 2015 to June 2016. The exhibit, curated by Eddy Portnoy, was focused on the sheet music of this comedy and used Jody Rosen’s sheet music collection.[105]

Jews in politics

Research on voting in the United States has shown that stereotypes play a crucial role in voter’s decision making on both a conscious and subconscious level. Jewish political candidates are stereotyped as liberal. Since becoming heavily involved in politics and the electoral process in the 1930s, Jewish leaders and voters have taken liberal stances on a number of issues. From there the stereotype grew and is now assumed even though not always accurate. An example of this took place in the 2000 presidential election where Joseph Lieberman was Al Gore's Vice Presidential running mate. He was labeled a liberal even though he described himself as "pro-business, pro-trade and pro-economic growth." Although he had taken moderate and conservative positions on numerous issues, the stereotype defined him to many voters.[106]

See also


  1. ^ Ostow, Mortimer (1996). Myth and madness: the psychodynamics of antisemitism. Transaction Publishers. p. 61. ISBN 978-1-56000-224-6.
  2. ^ a b Felsenstein, Frank (1995). Anti-Semitic Stereotypes. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 10–13.
  3. ^ "Media Resources Center". Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  4. ^ Rowe, Nina (4 April 2011). The Jew, the Cathedral and the Medieval City: Synagoga and Ecclesia in the Thirteenth Century. Cambridge University Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-521-19744-1.
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  • William Helmreich, The Things they Say Behind your Back: Stereotypes and the Myths Behind Them (Doubleday)

Antisemitism (also spelled anti-semitism or anti-Semitism) is hostility to, prejudice, or discrimination against Jews. A person who holds such positions is called an antisemite. Antisemitism is generally considered to be a form of racism. It has also been characterized as a political ideology which serves as an organizing principle and unites disparate groups which are opposed to liberalism.Antisemitism may be manifested in many ways, ranging from expressions of hatred of or discrimination against individual Jews to organized pogroms by mobs, state police, or even military attacks on entire Jewish communities. Although the term did not come into common usage until the 19th century, it is now also applied to historic anti-Jewish incidents. Notable instances of persecution include the Rhineland massacres preceding the First Crusade in 1096, the Edict of Expulsion from England in 1290, the massacres of Spanish Jews in 1391, the persecutions of the Spanish Inquisition, the expulsion from Spain in 1492, the Cossack massacres in Ukraine from 1648 to 1657, various anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire between 1821 and 1906, the 1894–1906 Dreyfus affair in France, the Holocaust in German-occupied Europe during World War II, Soviet anti-Jewish policies, and Arab and Muslim involvement in the Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim countries.

The root word Semite gives the false impression that antisemitism is directed against all Semitic people, e.g., including Arabs and Assyrians. The compound word antisemite was popularized in Germany in 1879 as a scientific-sounding term for Judenhass ("Jew-hatred"), and this has been its common use since then.

Argentina–Israel relations

Argentina–Israel relations refer to international relations between Argentina and Israel. Both countries established diplomatic relations on May 31, 1949.

Armentarius (moneylender)

Armentarius (died 584) was a Jewish moneylender, active in Francia under the Merovingian dynasty. He was murdered in Tours, causing a controversy over who was responsible. The main source about him is Gregory of Tours. He should probably not be confused with the similarly named Armentarius, the archiatrus (chief physician) of Tours, who is mentioned treating Gregory in 573.

Cabildo (magazine)

Cabildo is an Argentine magazine which is considered the main press organ of nationalist Catholicism in the country. First published in the 1970s and then inactive during most of the 1990s, the magazine has become notorious for its xenophobic and anti-Semitic editorial line.

Ethnic and national stereotypes

An ethnic stereotype (national stereotype, or national character) is a system of beliefs about typical characteristics of members of a given ethnic group or nationality, their status, society and cultural norms.

National stereotypes may be either about ones' own ethnicity/nationality or about a foreign or differing nationality or ethnicity. Stereotypes about ones' own nation may aid in maintaining a national identity due to a collective relatability to a trait or characteristic.

Ferdinand Marian

Ferdinand Marian (born Ferdinand Haschkowetz; 14 August 1902 – 7 August 1946) was an Austrian theatre and film actor, best known for playing the leading character of Joseph Süß Oppenheimer in the German film Jud Süß.

Jewish American literature

Jewish American literature holds an essential place in the literary history of the United States. It encompasses traditions of writing in English, primarily, as well as in other languages, the most important of which has been Yiddish. While critics and authors generally acknowledge the notion of a distinctive corpus and practice of writing about Jewishness in America, many writers resist being pigeonholed as "Jewish voices." Also, many nominally Jewish writers cannot be considered representative of Jewish American literature, one example being Isaac Asimov.

Jud Süß (1940 film)

Jud Süß (pronounced [juːt zyːs], "Jew Süß") is a 1940 Nazi propaganda film produced by Terra Film at the behest of Joseph Goebbels, and considered one of the most antisemitic films of all time. The film was directed by Veit Harlan, who wrote the screenplay with Eberhard Wolfgang Möller and Ludwig Metzger. The leading roles were played by Ferdinand Marian and Harlan's wife Kristina Söderbaum; Werner Krauss and Heinrich George played key supporting roles.The film has been characterized as "one of the most notorious and successful pieces of antisemitic film propaganda produced in Nazi Germany." It was a great success in Germany, and was seen by 20 million people. Although the film's budget of 2 million Reichsmarks was considered high for films of that era, the box office receipts of 6.5 million Reichsmarks made it a financial success. Heinrich Himmler urged members of the SS and police to watch the movie.After the war, some of the leading cast members were brought to trial as part of the denazification process. They generally defended their participation in the film on the grounds that they had only done so under duress. Despite significant evidence to support their arguments, Susan Tegel, author of Nazis and the Cinema, characterizes their postwar attempts to distance themselves from the film as "crass and self-serving". However, she concedes that their motives for accepting the roles seem to have been more driven by opportunistic ambition than by antisemitism. Veit Harlan was the only major movie director of the Third Reich to stand trial for "crimes against humanity". After three trials, Harlan was given a light sentence because he convinced the courts that the antisemitic content of the film had been dictated by Goebbels and that Harlan had worked to moderate the antisemitism. Eventually, Harlan was reinstated as a citizen of the Federal Republic of Germany and went on to make nine more films. He remained a controversial figure and the target of protests.Together with Die Rothschilds and Der ewige Jude, both released in 1940, the film remains one of the most frequently discussed examples of the use of film to further the Nazi antisemitic agenda. In the 2000s, two documentary films and a drama were released that explore the history and impact of this movie.

Like sheep to the slaughter

"Like sheep to the slaughter" (Hebrew: כצאן לטבח‎) is a phrase which refers to the idea that Jews went passively to their deaths during the Holocaust. It derives from a similar phrase in the Hebrew Bible which positively depicts martyrdom in both the Jewish and Christian religious traditions. Opposition to the phrase became associated with Jewish nationalism due to its use in Josippon and by Jewish self-defense groups after the 1903 Kishinev pogrom. During the Holocaust, Abba Kovner and other Jewish resistance leaders used the phrase to exhort Jews to fight back. In postwar Israel, most Holocaust survivors were demonized as having gone "like sheep to the slaughter" while armed resistance was glorified. The phrase was taken to mean that Jews had not tried to save their own lives, and consequently were partly responsible for their own suffering and death. This myth, which has become less prominent over time, is frequently criticized by historians, theologians, and survivors as a form of victim blaming.

List of anti-cultural, anti-national, and anti-ethnic terms

The following is a list of anti-cultural, anti-national, and anti-ethnic terms, where "anti-cultural" means sentiments of hostility towards a particular culture, "anti-national" refers to sentiments of hostility towards a particular state or other national administrative entity, and "anti-ethnic" refers to ethnic hatred or sentiments of hostility towards an ethnic group.

The use of all of these terms is controversial, as they tend to be used prominently in local rhetorical appeals to fallacy—namely the natural confusion between politically directed opposition and ethnically directed hostility, often deliberately disregarding this distinction for propaganda purposes.

These discriminatory attitudes are similar in nature to various religion-based hostile movements, such as Christianophobia and Anti-Catholicism, based on the mixture of xenophobia and ideological/political opposition.

Maurice Levy (The Wire)

Maurice "Maury" Levy is a fictional character in the HBO drama The Wire, played by Michael Kostroff. He is a skilled defense attorney and was kept on retainer by the Barksdale Organization, representing the organization's members at trials and advising Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell on how to avoid investigations for drug trafficking. Levy is corrupt and unscrupulous, willing to aid his clients in furtherance of their criminal activity.

Mel Gibson

Mel Colmcille Gerard Gibson (born January 3, 1956) is an American actor and filmmaker. He is best known for his action hero roles, namely his breakout role as Max Rockatansky in the first three films in the Mad Max post-apocalyptic action series, and as Martin Riggs in the Lethal Weapon buddy cop film series.

Gibson was born in Peekskill, New York. He moved with his parents to Sydney, Australia, when he was 12 years old, and studied acting at the National Institute of Dramatic Art, where he starred opposite Judy Davis in Romeo and Juliet. During the 1980s, he founded Icon Entertainment, a production company, which independent film director Atom Egoyan has called "an alternative to the studio system". Director Peter Weir cast him as one of the leads in the critically acclaimed World War I drama Gallipoli (1981), which earned Gibson a Best Actor Award from the Australian Film Institute, as well as a reputation as a serious, versatile actor.

Gibson produced, directed, and starred in the epic historical drama film Braveheart (1995), for which he won the Golden Globe Award and Academy Award for Best Director, along with the Academy Award for Best Picture. He later directed and produced the financially successful, and controversial, biblical drama film The Passion of the Christ (2004). He received further critical notice for his directorial work of the action-adventure film Apocalypto (2006), which is set in Mesoamerica during the early 16th century.

After several legal issues and controversial statements leaked to the public, Gibson's public image significantly plummeted, affecting his acting and directorial career. His career began seeing resurgence with his critically acclaimed performance in Jodie Foster's The Beaver (2011), and his directorial comeback after an absence of 10 years; Hacksaw Ridge (2016), which won two Academy Awards and was nominated for another four, including Best Picture and Best Director for Gibson, his second nomination in the category.

Mordecai Richler

Mordecai Richler, CC (January 27, 1931 – July 3, 2001) was a Canadian writer. His best known works are The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1959) and Barney's Version (1997). His 1970 novel St Urbain's Horseman and 1989 novel Solomon Gursky Was Here were shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. He is also well known for the Jacob Two-Two children's fantasy series. In addition to his fiction, Richler wrote numerous essays about the Jewish community in Canada, and about Canadian and Quebec nationalism. Richler's Oh Canada! Oh Quebec! (1992), a collection of essays about nationalism and anti-Semitism, generated considerable controversy.


Roberto Rastapopoulos is a fictional character in The Adventures of Tintin, the comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. He first appears in the album Cigars of the Pharaoh (1934) and is a criminal mastermind with multiple identities and activities.

Religious antisemitism

Religious antisemitism is aversion to or discrimination against Jews as a whole based on religious beliefs, false claims against Judaism and religious antisemitic canards. It is sometimes called theological antisemitism.

Some scholars have argued that modern antisemitism is primarily based on nonreligious factors. John Higham being emblematic of this school of thought. However, this interpretation has been challenged. In 1966 Charles Glock and Rodney Stark first published public option polling data showing that most Americans based their stereotypes of Jews on religion. Further opinion polling since in America and Europe has supported this conclusion.


Shegetz (שייגעץ or in Hebrew שֵׁיְגֶּץ; alternative Romanizations incl. shaygetz, sheigetz, shaigetz, sheygets; plural שקצים shkotzim, shgatzim) is a Yiddish word that has entered English to refer to a non-Jewish boy or young man. It is used disparagingly.The word shegetz, like its feminine counterpart shiksa, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is derived from sheqeṣ ("a detested thing").In former times, it was common practice for Ashkenazi Jews, that is, Jews in Eastern Europe who were harassed by youths to label their tormentors shkotzim. Nacham Grossbard of Haifa, writing in the Memorial Book for the Community of Ciechanów (1962), recounted these memories of his early years in Poland: "At the finish of the match, as soon as the whistle blows, we Jewish boys run as fast as we can, out of breath, all the way home in order not to have stones thrown at us or be hit by the shkotzim (non-Jewish boys)."


Shylock is a character in William Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice (c. 1600). A Venetian Jewish moneylender, Shylock is the play's principal antagonist. His defeat and conversion to Christianity form the climax of the story.

Stereotypes of Jews in literature

Stereotypes of Jews in literature have evolved over the centuries. According to Louis Harap, nearly all European writers prior to the twentieth century projected the Jewish stereotypes in their works. Harap cites Gotthold Lessing's Nathan the Wise (1779) as the first time that Jews were portrayed in the arts as "human beings, with human possibilities and characteristics." Harap writes that, the persistence of the Jewish stereotype over the centuries suggests to some that "the treatment of the Jew in literature was completely static and was essentially unaffected by the changes in the Jewish situation in society as that society itself changed." He contrasts the opposing views presented in the two most comprehensive studies of the Jew in English literature, one by Montagu Frank Modder and the other by Edgar Rosenberg. Modder asserts that writers invariably "reflect the attitude of contemporary society in their presentation of the Jewish character, and that the portrayal changes with the economic and social changes of each decade." In opposition to Modder's "historical rationale", Rosenberg warns that such a perspective "is apt to slight the massive durability of a stereotype". Harap suggests that the recurrence of the Jewish stereotype in literature is itself one indicator of the continued presence of anti-Semitism amongst the readers of that literature.

The Goldbergs (broadcast series)

The Goldbergs is a comedy-drama broadcast from 1929 to 1946 on American radio, and from 1949 to 1956 on American television. It was adapted into a 1948 play, Me and Molly; a 1950 film The Goldbergs, and a 1973 Broadway musical, Molly.

Ethnic & national
Regional & social

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