For centuries, Jews took pride in scholars and the saintly. When allowed to be financiers, we took pride in the Rothschilds and Montifiores, who supported Jewish causes. But pride in the 20th century underwent runaway inflation, with a cheapening of the currency. Assimilation, a virtue for many immigrants, led to pride in anyone from a tenement who became a “real Yankee Doodle.” We were OK if they ran a burlesque house, like the Minskys. We took a perverse pride in gangsters like Bugsy Siegel or Meyer Lansky. Any ballplayer with the vaguest Jewish DNA, no matter his lack of skill or Jewish affiliation, was celebrated as “one of us.” Most Jewish newspapers ran kind items on Lindsey Vuolo, a Jewish Playboy Playmate. The apex came when some Zionists who wanted Israel to shrug off the shtetl’s scholarly dust heard David Ben-Gurion promise, “We will become a normal country when Jewish thieves and Jewish prostitutes conduct their business in Hebrew.”
Now they do! But with this year’s candidacies of two Jews, Anthony Weiner and Elliot Spitzer, pride drew a line: We took no ethnic thrill in Jews who repeatedly lie, “sext” outside of marriage and solicit sleaze. That Weiner was married to a Muslim, we could handle. That Spitzer claims to have changed, time will tell. But that we, and all New Yorkers, wouldn’t elect or take pride in either man, that’s a moment in 2013 when Jewish pride got its mojo back.
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