Is there any truth behind the stereotype that Jews are materialistic?

I work for Starbucks, where you always see your share of wealthy people. But, when I helped out one day in a store in a heavily Jewish neighborhood, I saw more diamonds than I usually see in a month. I saw so many Prada logos, you would have thought they were the new Old Navy. Remember, I see pro athletes, CEO’s and other wealthy types all of the time, but was amazed at how many SIGNS of wealth I saw that day. I saw more “bling” that at the Rap Music Awards.

Now, I thought about posting this thread directly in the BBQ Pit, since I am sure it will end up there. But, I really mean this in the most positive sense, if there can be a positive way to further a strereotype.

However, when I think about the Old Testament (which, granted, I recognize is only a subset of all Jewish Scriptures) I remember a number of instances where earthly success is taken as a symbol of God’s blessings. Adam and Eve were punished by having to leave paradise. The Israelites who left Egypt, left in search of the Promised Land, an eartly prize.

Is it possible that material possessions could be viewed as evidence of God’s blessings, and therefore, ones righteousness? Does the Jewish religion believe that being successful glorifies God?

AIUI, the striotype comes from the middle ages. The Pope forbade Christians to be moneylenders, ie to make a living by charging interest on loans. The only moneylenders were Jewish, and charged a high rate of interest. Naturally, they were unpopular. In those days people tended to judge races from their experience of a few individuals. It couldn’t happen in these enlightened times, of course. :rolleyes:

According to this:

http://senrs.com/jewish_population_declining_in_us.htm

“The median household income for Jews is about $50,000, compared with $42,000 for all U.S. households. A fifth of Jewish households have a median income of $25,000 or less per year.”
So as a group jewish people are not much wealthier than average americans are. Maybe you were in a rich neighborhood that happened to be jewish?

The only jewish people i know relatively well are college students. They do not show off their money (or lack thereof), but that is college. Virtually no one has any wealth to show off there. Maybe it was just the culture of the local neighborhood?

Actually, the Old Testament says some nasty stuff about outward signs of wealth, & isn’t exactly pro-moneylending. But hey, Christian cultures don’t always reflect their Bible, either.

Are a lot of Jews materialistic? Yep. So are a lot of Chinese. And Anglo-Saxons are often arrogant & think they’re the one true civilization. But the French are the same way. These stereotypes are strongly rooted in reality. But it’s not exclusive to those races. This is what people are prone to. Statistically, it’s unlikely that any ethnic group will have an exactly average incidence of materialism and favored variety of showing it. But there are Jews who hate the materialism of their fellow Jews; they just don’t confuse it with Jewishness.

“No temptation has overtaken you but that which is common to man.” --Saul of Tarsus.

I don’t find Jews, particularly Orthodox Jews, to be any more or less materialistic than any other group. They do have their share of what’s known as American Princesses, but they are in any group.

My ignorance-based guess at a response would be: Jews, on the whole, as a culture, stress the importance of education. More education leads to better careers and higher income, which leads to the outward signs of income and success.

But this doesn’t seem to be borne out by the stats quoted by Wesley Clark.

The stereotype doesn’t just stem from medeival Christians being ordered out of the moneylending businsess, but also from Jews being forced out of virtually every other business, such restrictions (be they official or tacit) lasting in many countries right through the 20th century. By default, Jews became associated with banks and other white-collar professions because many blue-collar jobs were closed to them, at least where nonJews controlled the trade unions.

Even though the income of Jewish people is only slightly higer than the median Jewish people do get a large percentage of nobel prizes.

http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/JewishNobelPrizeWinners.htm

Humorously enough (depending on your sense of humor), 41% of the nobel prizes for economics went to jewish or half jewish individuals.

Regarding moneylending, it should be noted that both Jews and Christians prohibited moneylending to those of their own group while permitting it to other people. This follows Exodus 22:25

in which Christians viewed other Christians as “my people” and Jews regarded other Jews as “my people.” Of course, there were far more Chrsitians than Jews, so the Jewish moneylenders (to Christians) had a much broader customer base, making it easier to acquire wealth in the business.

Assuming for a minute that there’s some “truth” behind the “Jews are materialistic” stereotype, the bigger question is, “Are Jews more materialistic than non-Jews?”

And besides, what definition of “materialistic” are we talking about anyway? Is a Jewish person who frugally saves his money while living with the same furniture for 30 years more materialistic than a working-class couple who maxes out their credit cards to buy big-screen plasma TVs and a living room set that will take then twenty years to pay off?

I imagine there are tons of Jews who you will never recognize as such, and who aren’t wearing flashy jewelry and expensive clothes. Whether or not the neighborhood where you work is heavily Jewish, it sounds like it’s a wealthy one, and well, poor people aren’t likely to blow $3 on a latte, so you won’t see them as often in Starbucks. You’re seeing a self-selecting group there.

In my admittedly limited experience, Jews are more materialistic and wealth-oriented, and also drive harder bargains than us goyim, however, they are also more charitable- doctors or chiropractors more willing to accept a reduced fee for treatment from an impoverished patient. I had a Jewish chiropractor who once did an adjustment on me for no charge. He said, “I don’t want to take the few dimes you make working at Wal-Mart”. Sweet guy. When I get out into the world working as a massage therapist, he will definitely be getting referrals when I find a client who would benefit from chiropractic care. I’ve also been through a few jobs in my day, and have found that I was treated better by a Jewish employer than by non-Jews. So it works both ways. They are money-oriented, but they also have a better sense of what God wants them to do with the blessings He has bestowed upon them

I’d say it’s a wash.

I’m sure you could find a materialistic Jew. You could no doubt also find a lazy black person, a Hispanic thief, a Native American who is an alcoholic, an Asian person who is a bad driver, etc. So what? I see no point in trying to extrapolate that into a sweeping generalization. To say that some people of X race have Y characteristic doesn’t mean that every person of that race does. That’s why we call it a stereotype.

Kid, being in a heavily Jewish neighborhood doesn’t mean you necessarily served a lot of rich Jews. Anyway-

Earthly success is taken as a symbol of god’s blessings by most people, I think. I certaintly remember it being important to Calvinists, but there’s no thread about that. I mean, isn’t material success (food, money, health) what people pray for a good chunk of the time?

That’d be a punishment for anybody. I think it’s more of a parable for why people have to suffer in the world than anything else.

I’m an atheist with a Jewish family, so I’m certainly not an expert- but I’m pretty sure the answer is definitely not. You’re not considered righteous because you’re wealthy. I think it’s the same with all people- success is considered to be a result of working hard and being fortunate.

I sure don’t think so. We could go into a whole bunch of Jewish history here, but I think peter morris gave enough of a hint of how that works. In my personal opinion, Judaism is a bit more materialistic than the religions that grew out of it. (I certainly don’t think of this as a bad thing, although I think materialist is usually a pejorative.) Christianity and Islam place a MUCH greater emphasis on faith, and - maybe this most directly answers your question - on the afterlife. It’s not a very big thing in Judaism from what I know. What you do is more important than what you believe, and there’s no imperative to spread the faith. So maybe if you said it was a chartacteristic of the religion in some ways, you’d have something to go on. If you say it’s a characteristic of the people themselves, that becomes a stereotype not too far removed from ‘Jews are greedy’ and ‘Jews are cheap.’

Noo Yawka here. Noticed a lot of flashy people of all races and religions, and really think it’s a personality thing rather than a group thing. I must say there is a certain subgroup of middle-aged, well-dressed Jewish women that often use an accent that can get very very loud and piercing. Going to a lot of theater matinees and museums like I do you can see and hear a lot of them. But then again, the black teens, Latino couples, and Irish boys on the 4 train can give them a run for their money and then some.

I do have a question, and I feel guilty for even asking it, but I had recently heard that during the High Holidays, in the more popular temples, they charge some sort of tithe or admission fee or you can’t get in? That doesn’t sound right and I’m sure I misheard. I mean, my Catholic church has envelopes for weekly donations for people who have formally signed up, but one look at the homeless in the back rows and see that it’s not mandatory at all.

In my experience Jews have just been ordinary folks. If you were in a rich Jewish neighborhood where diamonds are in style, then that’s what you saw, I guess. I’m sure there are rich white, hispanic, black neighborhoods where something equivalent is the thing.

Don’t be embarrassed; it’s absolutely true. It varies somewhat by synagogue, but it’s not unusual (around here in Chicago and suburbs) to charge for tickets for High Holy Days services. For a lot of not terribly observant people, it’s the only time of year they go to synagogue, and synagogues usually charge membership dues rather than tithing or passing the collection plate. I’ve never seen a synagogue that checked tickets at the door; IME it’s usually on the honor system. But otherwise the people who support the synagogue on a regular basis might not have a seat at all on High Holy Days. I also don’t know what arrangements might be made for people who might want to attend, but can’t afford tickets - there must be something, though.

I heartily dislike the practice myself, but don’t know what might be a better way to alleviate the overcrowding issue. And it doesn’t apply to regular weekly services.

Tickets are checked more regularly now … out of security concerns.

Basically the charge to attend High Holy Days Services is a motivation for community Jews to become full fledged congregation members. Afterall, if you’ve paid that much for the two services (or maybe four if you go all out, something not a lot of High Holy Day Jews are likely to do) well then, you might as well “supersize it”.

Membership is often sliding scale based on income level (honor system most often) and if you have some severe economic situation a conversationwith the Rabbi would usually result in the Board cutting you even more slack.

If you are visiting relatives out of town they can usually get you gratis tickets at their schul; some donation is expected but not per se required.

As to the question, like many stereotypes there are those individuals (and those communities) that fit the stereotype. I think the combination of the old Shylock myth (interestingly enough, Jews had been kicked out of England long before Shakespeare was born) with many of a generation Jews born of immigrants making it economically in the 40’s through 60’s and being not afraid to show it off, and not adverse to playing the material possessions for status (in intra-group competition and in the face of rejection from “old money” Wasps) reinforced each other.

And there are communities of Jews who compete academically only or piously only too, of course. (maybe there is something culturally to being competitive?)

But for the mass of Americans who don’t see a lot of Jews, at least that they know are Jews, the one stereotypic obnoxious materialist loudmouth stands in for a lot of real life experience. That’s how stereotypes work.

This is hilarious. I can just see the anti-Semites out there saying, “Damn jews, they tricked us into blackballing them and forcing them out of the blue collar jobs so they could surreptitiously sneak in and take all of the high paying jobs.”

In 1290, I’m reading now. Total side note, but it seems that Shakespeare wrote The Merchant of Venice in response to the execution of Dr. Rodrigo Lopez, who was Jewish, for plotting to murder the Queen. The impression I’ve gotten from hearing about it is that he wasn’t guilty, but I don’t know. Anyway, at the time Shakespeare wrote the play, hatred against Jews was very high. I’d say it’s the old Barabbas myth, myself.

I think that’s something that happens to non-native cultures- they’re pressed to prove themselves, so they work hard. I don’t see that as specific to Jews either- probably the most well-known/stereotypical case in the US right now is with Asians.