THE BLOG
09/19/2014 06:06 pm ET Updated Nov 19, 2014

Shylock and Ponzi Schemers

Anti-Semitism in Europe in the Middle Ages? Yes.

Anti-Semitism in the United States in the 21st Century? Sadly, I am afraid that the answer is yes, too.

I never thought it would be necessary to point out the obvious in my last piece, but I guess I am going to have to do so.

There is no denying that Shylock, whom Joe Biden recently invoked in referring to unscrupulous money lenders who ripped off our troops on housing loans, is a despicable man, as I wrote in my last piece.

But for people to regard Shylock as a stand-in for all Jews or all Jewish businessmen is not only ignorant, it is also dangerous.

That is the reason why I objected and still object to Joe Biden's use of the word, Shylock, when he gave a speech on Tuesday at the Legal Services Corp. in Washington.

Consider some of the comments I have already received from my last piece.

One commenter, Catherine Malick Ploughman, cited Bernie Madoff and "the endless list of Jewish crooks," presumably as evidence in her mind that many Jews are Shylocks. She later added in a separate comment, devoid of punctuation, "Watch American Greed sadly Jewish businessmen are a majority of the Ponzi schemers."

Bernie Madoff is indeed a crook, a depraved and evil slimeball, and so are all Ponzi schemers, irrespective of their race, ethnicity, gender or religion. But the ignorance and hatred evinced by commenters like Ms. Ploughman suggest to me that some people in this country and around the world still view Jewish businessmen as being corrupt and unethical like Shylock.

To be fair to Joe Biden, as I tried to be in my previous piece, he probably was not thinking about the Jewish content of the word when he lambasted "Shylocks who took advantage of" troops who had come home from war and got bad housing loans.

But for many others, the name, Shylock, conjures all the vicious lies, caricatures and tropes of Jews that pervaded Europe for centuries.

It reminds Jews like me that there are hatemongers out there who truly believe that we Jews control international finance.

It is worth remembering that for centuries Jews in many European nations were denied the right to work in numerous occupations. Jews were denied the right to be teachers or soldiers or much of anything else. They were denied the right to intermarry. And they were consigned to professions that Christians detested such as banking and trading.

Why were Jews consigned to such professions? In all likelihood, it is because Christ, a Jew, banished the money changers from the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

Thus, Jews had no choice in many cases but to be merchants.

It must be pointed out that enemies of Israel, to this day, have been known to tout as propaganda "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." An infamous forgery over a century old, that text propagated, among other conspiracy theories, the one about the Jews running the world banking system.

That the document has long been refuted as a lie does not seem to matter to anti-Semites.

I have always known that some ignoramuses still scapegoat Jews and want to believe that we are the cause of economic problems in the world. But I have been horrified at the vitriol directed at Jews and Israel in some European countries and even on some college campuses in this country.

Perhaps, it is no surprise that hundreds, if not thousands, of Jews have reportedly started moving out of countries such as France, where acts of intimidation against Jews have been particularly severe of late, and immigrating to Israel.

The BDS movement has not helped, and it should be condemned. Boycotting Jewish goods exudes a rankness that is rare in its hatred and painful for its historical resonance.

Thank God, I live in the United States at a time when Jews can work in any profession. And thank God, I live at a time when there is a bipartisan agreement in the Congress to support Israel, our ally, fighting on the front lines of a hideous war against extremists.

Had I lived in Shylock's day, in Italy or anywhere else in Europe, I would have been excluded from so many jobs that I too might have ended up a bitter merchant. I would not have sought a pound of flesh, but I might have railed against the fates that had left me a disempowered man living in exile.

And by the way, it goes without saying that Mr. Ponzi was not Jewish.