Are the Ferengi in Star Trek supposed to be Jews?

I say that as a Jew myself, in case that’s meaningful or not. It just feels that they are a depiction of the archetypal anti-semitic trope, albeit with oversized ears rather than over-sized noses. I’m not normally that sensitive to anti-semitism bit it feels almost blatantly the case to me. I’m not actually offended, I just think it’s odd that nobody else seems to have picked up on this.

Please tell me I’m crazy. It’s entirely possible.

I think it odd that you think no one else made this connection.

I’m not Jewish, and it never occurred to me that they were perceived as Jewish. I’ve always thought they were supposed to represent Republicans.

The Watto character in The Phantom Menace did strike me as Jewish; both for his nose and his accent… not to mention his avarice. I thought it was pretty blatant, and it offended me.

Well, for what it’s worth, Armin Shimerman, who played Quark on DS9, is Jewish, and when asked that very question his response was:

“In America, people ask ‘Do the Ferengi represent Jews?’ In England, they ask ‘Do the Ferengi represent the Irish?’ In Australia, they ask if the Ferengi represent the Chinese,” Shimerman said. “The Ferengi represent the outcast… it’s the person who lives among us that we don’t fully understand.”

DS9 showrunner Ira Steven Behr, also Jewish, has said:

“Ferengi are us. That’s the gag, the Ferengis are humans. They’re more human than the humans on Star Trek because they’re so screwed up and they’re so dysfunctional. They’re regular people.”

I assumed, obviously wrongly, that if it was widely accepted then there’d be a bit more fuss about it. But perhaps there are other aliens that might be considered to be negative depictions of minorities. Star Trek can easily be considered as Starfleet = America.

Thanks that’s a very interesting take. Perhaps my own identity has clouded my interpretation. (Although I am also English and I don’t think there is any resemblance to any Irish stereotypes that I recognise)

Yeah, the whole Ferengi thing has not aged well. I think they’re more misogynists than anything else. And misogyny isn’t something I would attribute to being Jewish.

And while we’re talking about Ferengi, can we acknowledge how beyond creepy it is when Dax starts stroking Quarks ears whenever she’s trying to manipulate him? It’s basically an analogy for giving him a hand job. Not something I want to think about when I’m watching Star Trek.

Of course there is a trope for that.

I’d always taken them to represent the “greed is good” type capitalists that started to become prominent in the 1980s. I read somewhere, I think in another thread here actually, that in TOS Roddenberry addressed the social problems of the 1960s, and in TNG he wanted to address what he perceived as the social problems of the 1980s. And that sort of laissez faire completely unregulated capitalism was supported by Regan and the Republican Party, so I guess we are kind of on the same page.

The Ferengi are merchants, who try to profit by buying low and selling high, stealing from everyone when they can, and using force and the state to get their way if people complain. So it’s a critique of merchant capitalism, and no human group has a monopoly on that. Think “East India Company,” for example, or the Medicis, or Amazon.

The Ferengi are definitely Space Jews. But you know who else are Space Jews? The Vulcans. Each group’s the ying to the other’s yang.

Man, you all are stretching to claim they were East India Company traders, 1980s capitalists, or the like. And a Jewish actor can say whatever he wishes to explain a role he (and several other Jewish actors) chose to play.

Yeah, I’m likely hampered by my 1960s upbringing in Chicago, where EVERY ethnicity had its associated insults. And as a nontheist secular humanist, I generally greatly respect Gene R and his work.

But if he WANTED to portray stereotypical Jews, he’d have a hard time doing much better than the Ferengi. I’m not saying the Ferengi resemble real life Jews. But you are fooling yourself if you deny the similarity w/ the worst exaggerated representation of amoral greedy Jews.

Then Jacob putting in seven years each for Laban and the Rachel was two rotations of pon farr

Sure… but really can someone write a portrayal of an amoral, greedy culture without running afoul of the negative stereotypes of Jews, even if it’s an alien race?

That’s I think what the issue is here (although I may be wrong).

I’ve seen this suggested as the reason you don’t see that many trick-or-treaters dressed as goblins on Halloween.

The Ferengi as they were originally introduced would absolutely not fly today. When they were first introduced in TNG, they were basically monsters, absolutely without any redeeming value, evil to the core. So that’s why people see in them whatever the local outcast minority group is, a group that quite often is said to be money-grubbing.

They aren’t all that problematic anymore simply because TNG started in the late 80s, when there was less sensitivity to this kind of thing. Since then the Ferengi have been substantially rehabilitated, especially starting with DS9, as Ferengi became people with fully realized characters.

The only real argument for them being Jewish stereotypes are that they have big ears, big noses, and are greedy beyond all else. The nose and greedy stereotypes are something I’d heard of, but nothing about ears.

What I’ve heard from their creation is that they were created without that in mind, but then some people complained, and that this is why, when they first appear, they clarified they were based on “Yankee traders.”

I think they were intended to represent a whole array of nasty little third world countries that, in contrast to the [/del]Russians[/del] Klingons, were the new American international-affairs headache. Ranging from Iranians and Iraqis to Serbs. Painted as short, ratlike, big-eared and big-nosed, and of a darker skin than caucasian folks, to be sure. I didn’t read it at the time as hinting towards Jews per se, but instead as foreign entities that were to the US like nasty little ankle-biting dogs. Not a menacing equal world power like the Klingons (or Romulans).

I’m sticking with merchant capitalists, because everybody hates the middleman whatever their ethnicity

The Ferengi were militaristic in TNG. Space Pirates. DaiMon Bokt wanted vengeance on Picard. He was pretty formidable in The Battle.