Folk Beliefs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Prejudiced beliefs about Jewish People

Informant related this while at tea, when interviewer mentioned a Jewish holiday in passing.

First of all, I don’t believe any of this, but these are things my grandparents said to my mother and she said to me.

I did tell you before, didn’t I? How my grandfather used to take my grandmother to the opera, and he had a box because he was a successful early ad magnate or tycoon or what have you, and he would pick out the Jew in the audience by their pointed ears. I never asked for an explination because you know, you don’t need one with something that batty.

My mother grew up in Indiana and they had a cook and a maid and one day, you know, Mom and I were driving up at 19th and California, there’s a little tiny temple school, and my mother says in ths really sweet voice she used sometimes, “when I was growing up, my I was told by the maid that Jews took Christian babies and ate them and drank their blood.”

I think it must have been the German help because my mother never saw her parents and they tended to try to at least keep their prejudices, you know, tasteful. At no point did I ever press my mom for more details about this because, you know I was stunned.  Schtunned.

Informant’s grandparents are of English and German extraction, and their beliefs do reflect historical attitudes held by many Europeans at various points in time, generally emphasizing the otherness of a group of people who lived and looked different and may have, at times, competed for economic resources; by identifying the strangers as ‘bad,’ these groups may have felt more justified in protecting scarce resources for themselves during hard times; and the stories created for this purpose were then passed down through generations.

 

These beliefs, and other similar ones, are discussed in John Efron’s Jews: A History. Taylor & Francis, 2013.

 

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