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November 05, 1982 - Image 6

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1982-11-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

6 Friday, November 5, 1982

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Stereotypes Dissected in The Things They Say Behind Your Back'

"Stereotype" is defined in
the Random House Dictio-
nary as: "Sociological:
simplified and standardized
conception or image in-
vested with special mean-
ing and held in common by
members of a group. Exam-
ple: The cowboy and Indian
are American stereotypes."
In "The Things They Say
Behind Your Back," which
he has subtitled
"Stereotypes and the Myths
Behind Them" (Doubleday),
City University of New
York Sociology Professor
William B. Helmreich tack-
les the fabled views about
many American groups.
Sociologist Helmreich
compiled more than 90
stereotypes dealing with ra-
-cial and ethnic involve-
ments for his interesting
analyses. The nine most
"maligned" groups in
American society with
which he is concerned in
exploding the myths re-
garding their cultural as-
pects include the Jews,
Poles, Hispanics, WASPs,
Italians, Japanese, Blacks,
Irish and the Chinese.
In each instance, there
is an interest that makes
"The Things They Say
Behind Your Back" of
concern to the reader in
the interest of truth about
the American conglom-
erate.
The positives and the
negatives about the various
groups under scrutiny are
treated in this volume, and
its special merit is that it
exposes bigotries, prej-
udices and racism.
Dr. Helmreich conducted
some 400 scientific studies
in his research. He indicates
that many Irish are good at
politics, Hispanics are emo-
tional, Japanese have
strong family ties.
Historical and cultural
experiences are taken into
account.
In the opening section of
his book, he commences
with the confusing element,
"the Jewish Mother." This
is where he treats the factor
of the family and the tradi-
tion that has created the
dignity of an otherwise
"maligned" series of sen-
sationalized considerations.
He draws upon the tradi-
tional in Proverbs:
"Judaism has always
placed tremendous impor-
tance on home, family, and
especially on children, who
are seen as the center of
family life. The task of child
rearing was primarily the
woman's responsibility.
"Although this was true
of other cultures too,
Judaism turned this role
into a tremendous virtue.
Both the Bible and the Tal-
mud are full of references to
this function.
"A good example is the
poem 'Woman of Valor' in
Proverbs, attributed to
King Solomon: 'She looks
well to the ways of her
household, and never eats
the bread of idleness. Her
children rise up and bless
her . . ."
By enobling the woman
and making her feel se-
cure as a wife and
mother, Judaism

ensured that she would
take her responsibilities
very seriously. Re-
stricted to the home, the
mother turned all of her
energies to the family."
The scholarly author does
not ignore the negatives,
"the chicken soup" that is
often fabled, and he asserts:
"It is unlikely that the
HE LMREICH
characteristics attributed to
superstitious.
There are
the Jewish mother . . . will
survive beyond the present times when this underworld
generation. In fact, they are emerges from the depths
and suddenly fascinates,
dying out rather quickly.
captures, and dominates
"More and more Jewish multitudes of usually sane
mothers are career-
and responsible people, who
oriented, and this compet- thereupon take leave of san-
ing interest threatens the ity and responsibility . . .
structure of the child-
" 'It is an incontestible
centered family. Indeed, fact that the forgotten ec-
young Jewish women who
centrics described in the
become doctors and lawyers ; first half of this book built
are apt to find that the self-
up the myth which, years
confidence developed in a • later, the masters of a great
supportive environment
European nation were to
serves them well in their
use as a warrant for
chosen field. They are more genocide.' "
likely to view the notion of
Are Jews the "shrewd
`everything for the children'
businessmen"?
Here is how
as archaic.
that
stereotype
is treated:
"Psychiatry and psychol-
"Jews today are far
ogy have also contributed
heavily to the demise of more likely to enter the
professions than
these stereotypes by frown-
business-related fields.
ing upon guilt and depen-
This is a natural out-
dence and by encouraging
their patients, Jewish or growth of the desire on
the part of many Jews of
Gentile, to assert them-
a generation ago to have
selves and do what makes
their children become
them 'feel good.'
"Finally, assimilation doctors, lawyers,
teachers, and so forth,
and intermarriage (cur-
because they wanted to
rently estimated at over
raise
both their own
40 percent) will result in a
status ('my son, the doc-
dilution of those attitudes
toward the family that tor') and that of their
spring from Jewish cul- offspring.
"As a result, the image of
ture."
the Jew as a shrewd or good
Are
inter- businessman may, like
Jews
nationalists who "plot to
other stereotypes in this
take over the world"? In a
area, be headed for extinc-
valuable expose of many
tion.
myths Dr.Helmreich con-
"Still, such views often
tributes importantly
die a slow death, as this ob-
toward exposing the out-
server discovered during a
rageous and faked "Pro-
visit to a non-Jewish resort
tocols of the Elders of Zion."
in Pennsylvania's Pocono
Dr. Helmreich presents a Mountains in 1980. An Ita-
basis for confronting the
lian comedian regaled his
fake:
audience with story after
"The 'Protocols' was story of Jews and their
widely published, re-
preoccupation with money.
printed, and distributed.
In one joke a Jewish watch-
Millions throughout the
dog was described as one
world, including many who says to the burglar,
Americans, accepted it as
`Take anything you want.
true. Its origins are fully
It's all insured.' "
discussed in Dr. Norman
Dr. Helmreich devotes a
Cohn's 'Warrant for section on the Jews to a
Genocide,' which makes comment on "The Chosen
fascinating reading.
People." Here is his defini-
"Despite its exposure as a tion worth recording:
fraud, it is today still widely
"In modern times, as
disseminated in Russia, the
Jews have increased
Arab lands and in Latin
their contact with people
America. Billy Carter's Li-
outside their community,
byan guests quoted from the
many leaders have be-
'Protocols' during inter-
come increasingly sensi-
views given to newsmen
tive to this stereotype.
here several years ago and
Some have responded by
were apparently unaware
asking, tongue in cheek,
that the documents have whether being chosen is
been widely discredited.
such a great privilege
when one considers that
"It is easy to dismiss
the Jews have been per-
such attitudes as the
secuted for so many cen-
views of a small minority.
turies and have only re-
Yet, as Cohn points out in
cently been able to re-
his book, lies of this sort
establish their homeland.
can have terrible con-
"Others have taken con-
squences:
crete steps to deal with the
" 'There exists a subter-
term by specifically denying
ranean world where
its validity. The Recon-
pathological fantasies dis-
structionists, one of the de-
guised as ideas are churned
nominations within the
out by crooks and half-
Jewish faith, have elimi-
educated fanatics for the
nated all such references
benefit of the ignorant and

from their prayer book,
while Orthodox Jews have
repeatedly emphasized that
the concept means service
and accountability, not an
elite status."
"Killed Jesus Christ" is
another item under review,
and the author declares:
". . . It is interesting that
the charge should have sur-
vived for so long. In fact,
even if it were true, why
blame those not alive at the
time? Apart from all the
psychological and social
reasons for stereotyping
that have been mentioned
in the first chapter, there is
the seriousness of the
charge of deicide.
"The Jews are accused
of having killed the Son
of God. The perception of
the Jews as guilty is un-
doubtedly heightened by
the fact that they con-
tinue to refuse to accept
Jesus as the Savior, and
have the nerve to regard
him as a fake messiah.
"The Church's declara-
tion that the Jews, past or
present, could not be held
accountable for his death
prompted a suggestion by
the humori -; 1: Harry Golden
that the Jews issue a state-
ment of their own clearing
today's Christians from
complicity in all the
crusades and pogroms of the
past 2,000 years."
Are Jews smarter, cheap
and do they control Wall
Street and the banks,
pushy, aggressive, osten-
tatious, control the media?
The latter is a fine resume
and Dr. Helmreich com-
ments upon it:
"The two major news
weeklies, Time magazine
and Newsweek, have, over
the years, published many
stories favorable to the
Arabs despite the involve-
ment of Jews at the highest
levels in both places.
"Surely it is possible
for Jews to disagree with
Israeli policies. The fact,
however, that such dis-
agreement or even neut-
rality is often expressed
in the media indicates
that there is a big dif-
ference between saying
that many Jews work in
the media and that they
make a concerted effort
to promote the interests
of Jews as a whole.
"Why are so many Jews
found in this field? The

major reasons are probably:
their generally high level of
education; their interest in
intellectual and literary af-
fairs; the fact that so many
Jews live in New York and
Los Angeles, the communi-
cations nerve centers of the
country; and the fact that
Jews were able to enter this
profession from the ground
floor many years ago as
immigrants."
"The Things They Say
Behind Your Back" also
deals with the nonsense of
Jews having "big noses,"
and there is also the section
entitled "Have Horns." This
calls for a special reviewer's
comment:
When this reviewer was
in his undergraduate years
at the University of Michi-
gan, football squads and the
university's band traveled
by train to the competing
areas.
There was an incident
on one such train: As a
Jewish member of the
band was undressing in
the sleeping car, he
noticed a prominent
footballer staring at him.
He asked what was the
matter, and the athlete
said: "I heard Jews had
cloven feet." Dr. Hel-
mreich writes under the
title "Have Horns":
"This belief is not an
exaggeration but rather a
complete falsehood. It is
clearly confined to those
who have never seen a Jew.
While few Americans fall
into this category, the
author was asked this ques-
tion once while traveling
through rural Iowa.
"Its roots can be traced to
Aquila Ponticus, who
translated the Old Testa-
ment from Hebrew into
Greek duing the Second
Century.
"According to the Bible,
Moses is described as de-
scending from Mount Sinai
carrying the tablets, with
rays of light shining from
his head. Unfortunately for
the Jews, the word koran
(shone) was incorrectly pro-
nounced keren, the Hebrew
word for horn. This

quite easy to do, since He-
brew relies on vowels be-
neath the letters for its pro-
nunciation, and the vowels
in the version consulted by
Ponticus were probably
missing.
"This interpretation was
given a powerful boost in
popularity in the Renais-
sance. One of the greatest
works during that time was
Michelangelo's sculpture of
Moses, and perched on his
head are two small horns.
The stereotype was also
enhanced by the associa-
tion, among Christians, of
the Jew with the devil."
Helmreich's is a re-
markably good book, as
the many quotes indicate.
The book is fascinating
and it covers lots of
ground, not only about
Jews but about all the ra-
cial and ethnic groups
dealt with in "The Things
They Say Behind Your
Back."
Dr. Helmreich will speak
at the Jewish Book Fair at
the Jewish Community
Center 10 a.m. Nov. 17. His
talk on "The Jewish
Stereotypes and the Facts
Behind Them" will be spon-
sored by Akiva Day School
PTA, Hillel Day School Fro
and Woman's Auxiliary of
United Hebrew Schools.
—P.S.

Staying Ahead

TEL AVIV (ZINS) — Dr.
Ben Zion Neveh, directOr of
Raphal, Israel's arms de-
velopment firm, said Israel
is at least a generation
ahead of the Arab states in
weapons development.
Dr. Neveh was quoted re-
cently as saying that Israel
keeps her development
secrets to herself in spite of
the large number of arms
she exports.

Wage Decline

JERUSALEM (ZINS) —
Figures released by Israel's
Central Bureau of Statistics
showed that real wages in
Israel declined an average
of six percent during the
April-June period.

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