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Strauss-Kahn arrest rattles French, American Jewish communities
Dominique Strauss-Kahn addressing a conference on security and policy in Israel in 2010.
May 20th, 2011
06:31 PM ET

Strauss-Kahn arrest rattles French, American Jewish communities

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Until this week, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was an object of Jewish pride, a hugely successful leader of the International Monetary Fund and an outspoken supporter of Israel who was viewed as potential contender to become France’s first Jewish president.

Now, the arrest of the former IMF chief on sexual assault charges has rattled France’s Jewish community, raising concerns that the case could inflame anti-Semitism and inspiring similar handwringing among some American Jews.

“Today, it is an incredible waste. … For me personally it is an incredible loss,” Rabbi Michel Serfaty, president of the Jewish-Muslim Friendship of France, said. “We lost him to a human weakness.”

Strauss-Kahn was indicted this week on seven criminal charges for allegedly assaulting a maid in a New York hotel last Saturday.

In an interview several weeks ago, Strauss-Kahn identified three challenges he’d face if he ran for president, according to the JTA: "Money, women and the fact I am Jewish.”

Until his arrest, Strauss-Kahn, a member of the Socialist Party, was expected to challenge French President Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's elections.

In nation where public officials rarely speak about their religion and rock-ribbed support for Israel is usually considered a political liability, Strauss-Kahn publicly identified as a Jew and as a strong supporter of the Jewish state.

“The [Jewish] community that is heavily involved in politics believed in this man, he was a powerful figure in whom many had placed their hopes,” said Serfaty. “Others … believe it will give an excuse to certain people to stigmatize the Jewish community here in France.”

Some politicians have “already used this to further stigmatize the Jews,” Serfaty said. “They have used [Strauss-Kahn’s] arrest as an example of how perverse the Jews can be, so the community is definitely feeling the repercussions of this story.”

Some American Jews worry that the massive news coverage of Strauss-Kahn’s arrest will provoke anti-Semitic reactions in the U.S. and play into negative stereotypes about Jews.

"Some of it is just tribal, honestly,” said Jane Eisner, editor-in-chief of The Forward, an American Jewish newspaper. “We do place community very highly on our list of values, and there’s this sense of connection with a Madoff or a Strauss-Kahn, who have achieved a great deal and then they have had a hard fall.”

Eisner was referring to Bernard Madoff, who is serving a 150-year prison sentence for perpetrating what is believed to be the longest-running Ponzi scheme in U.S. history. Madoff is Jewish, as were many of those who invested with him, creating a sense of Jewish betrayal.

Eisner said Madoff was considered an embarrassment to Judaism but that with Strauss-Kahn, there is - at least at the moment - more of a sense of loss. But she said both cases provoked similar reactions among American Jews.

“There is this tribal protectiveness and this latent fear, especially in older people, that [Jews] will be tarred with his accusations,” said Eisner. “And I think any minority feels that they have to act in an even better way than the majority to prove themselves to be good citizens.”

On the website of the Jewish Journal, another American Jewish newspaper, the most read story for a couple of days this week was a blog post headlined “Dominique Strauss-Kahn Is Jewish. So?”

Despite the headline, the post argued that to most Jews, Strauss-Kahn’s religion matters.

“We feel something when one of us is elevated, or implicated. We can’t help it,” the post read. "It’s a reflex of the minority, partly because we have to worry what larger and more powerful groups think of us, and we recognize it is the rare human who doesn’t occasionally think in terms of 'them,' rather than just 'him.'"

At the same time, Eisner said Jewish Americans' reaction to Strauss-Kahn's arrest was mostly similar to the reactions of other Americans.

“I was out to dinner this week with four Jewish women, and the reaction was that if the allegations are true, here is yet another powerful male who presumed it was all right to take advantage of a powerless woman,” Eisner said. "We didn't think of this so much as a Jewish issue as a male issue."

CNN's Saskya Vandoorne contributed to this report

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: France • Judaism

soundoff (249 Responses)
  1. Peace would be nice.

    It's an abuse of power issue. Rapists rarely have religious backing of any sort. Would a devout Jew do such a thing? Or a Christian? Or a Muslim? Such an act ejects you from any claim real to faith.

    May 20, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      The sins of pride, lust, envy, greed are truly blinding.

      Amen.

      May 21, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  2. felton

    This is only 1 man, he is responsible for his actions and his only. He represents himself.

    May 20, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  3. Ali

    Wow! Does that mean that I can be a muslim and not be judged as a terrorist?

    May 20, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • Don

      "Wow! Does that mean that I can be a muslim and not be judged as a terrorist? - Ali "

      Nope

      May 20, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • Ali

      Thanks Don. I rest my case 🙂

      May 20, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  4. Uruuur

    I doubt jews are happy that CNN identifies this creep as a "source of jewish pride." In fact, I doubt that they ever regarded him as one. CNN must think it can make up anything that is featured under BELIEF BLOG because many who are drawn to it are gullible theists.

    May 20, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  5. jt_flyer

    Well, sometimes rattling is just irrelevant.

    May 20, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  6. andy

    Can someone explain to me how a Socialist drives a new Porsche and stays at $3000/night hotel rooms?
    Is he a blatant hypocrite?

    May 20, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • mike

      perf

      May 21, 2011 at 2:36 am |
  7. kumar

    I dont understand what is the big deal about being Jew... In india, we have everyone and everything... and that includes athiests too. So what is big deal if some one jew or not. I am not sure if the anti-semitism is the very result and product, because of the behaviour of Jew and how they identify themselves. I find them incidiously more fanatics than the openly fanatic muslem leaders. It is beyond comprehensive into the 21st century that these things still exists. No one is above or below the other. Everyone is equal. It is funny that people still do have feelings and attachments.. very sad.

    May 20, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • John Smith

      Why don't you tell this to Netanyahu and see what he thinks of it!

      May 20, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • SDN

      kumar: Very well said. What's so frightening about 'equality'?

      May 20, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • Gay Hind

      Mr. Kumar,
      your are one of the biggest lier in the history of the world, What about hindu extremist they don't have any respect to others religions, within Hindu religion u have so many cast..
      Gay Hind

      May 20, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • Another Kumar

      The White – Muslim – Jewish quarrels are very old and have a long, interesting history. You could think of it as a thousand year war, and it's usually Muslims against Whites with Jews teaming up with whoever doesn't hate them more at that moment. During the "Crusades", it was Muslims and Jews against Whites.

      Since 1945, Whites and Jews have teamed up against Muslims. The reasons is that before that Whites carried out a horrible "Holocaust" against Jews, killing 6+ million of them in 1940s. I think they still feel guilty about that evil, so now they try to be friends of Jews.

      It is hard to list all the rights and wrongs, a description would fill many volumes! Summary version is that whites are greedy for other people's land and used Christian religion as a pretext for killing. Muslims want everybody to follow their religion or die. They use terrorism and reject progress of any kind. Jews are far fewer in number than the other two, but are very intelligent and basically fight with brain power.

      As an Indian, I like the Jews best – they are much less violent than whites and muslims and don't force their religion on anyone. Also very good scientists!

      May 20, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
  8. Peace2All

    From the Article:

    "raising concerns that the case could (inflame anti-Semitism)"

    "(Some politicians have already used this to further stigmatize the Jews),” Serfaty said. They have used [Strauss-Kahn’s] arrest as an (example of how 'perverse' the Jews can be) "

    Seriously folks... W T F...!?!? I guess some out there are still living with their hatred and/or bigotry to 'over-generalize' and 'sensationalize' anything that 'fits' their extreme beliefs. Wow...

    Peace...

    May 20, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • SDN

      Peace to All: Peace to you. Makes one wonder how so many people reject out-of-hand this sentiment. Scared, I guess.

      May 20, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  9. mason

    these jewish people who claim one should be judged on their own character and not based upon race or religion....really????
    these are the same people who if a muslim does anything blame the whole race or someone from pakistan a nation of 150 Million + ...blame all Pakistan and for pakistanis militarys actions blame citizens...these are the same people??? funny when one of their own goes down they fear antisemitism but funny no one says this when a catholic or muslim is blamed and puts the blame on rest of the group. about time jews feel the the reaction of the game they have played for a lonnnnnggg time ...Propaganda too bad facebook and other networking websites can not be edited by Mr. Stein or Mr. Goldberg to make it "jewish propaganda friendly" internet will destroy all manipulation and tyranny

    May 20, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Jacob

      Wow. That's some kind of hate you got there. Ignorance too. Nice to see.

      May 20, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • Gus

      So you're labeling all Jews as bigots? See the hypocrisy there, mason? No, I didn't think you would...

      May 20, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • Perchance

      Yes, of course these are the same people, and if it took you this long to sense this hypocrisy and tool of manipulation and conquest, then you clearly have been in the dark regarding how the world has been run for a while now.
      Hopefully you're right and the Internet will indeed end all tyranny.

      June 17, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  10. alex666

    Wow, he is Jewish? I used to love Jewish people before I found this out. This changes EVERYTHING.

    May 20, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  11. SilverHair

    Wonder how much the Israeli prime minister had to say to our President about the dismal behavior of our justice system?

    May 20, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Perchance

      He must not have been pleased.

      June 17, 2011 at 9:32 am |
  12. J. C. Nelson

    "contender to become France’s first Jewish president"
    - Mr. Gilgoff, please look up Leon Blum.

    May 20, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • J. C. Nelson

      Sorry, my error. Blum was PM.

      May 20, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  13. matt

    ...........Struass-Kahn,Polanski,Kennedy,Clinton,Schwarzenegger,etc,etc,etc................

    May 20, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      All are sociopaths.

      Amen.

      May 21, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  14. Vijay Rumao

    Blame no religion or any community neither the man but only the sin.

    May 20, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Ali

      Exactly. Too bad that most people use collective judgement instead of individual judgement more and more.

      May 20, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  15. Liberty Queen

    Jews need to quit their sniveling. Strauss-Kahn is a violent perp and misogynist and should be locked up for the rest of his life.

    May 20, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • NoWay

      And the Israeli pm made an unfortunate mistake to lecture Obama at the White House. He should never be invited back to this country.

      May 20, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  16. MSL58

    I don't believe all Irish Catholics are responsible for the behavior of the Kenndy's, and I don't believe all Jews are responsible for Strauss-Kahn's behavior.

    May 20, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  17. N

    LOL*10^1*10^100000000000000000000000000000000000000

    May 20, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  18. fierybuddha

    GOOD! We need to stop putting so much faith in individual human beings. We're ALL human and fall short of whatever you wanna call it – God, Jesus, Buddha, Allah, your mom, etc.

    Stop putting people on pedestals and let's start making real changes to benefit all.

    May 20, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  19. lvyws

    'Some politicians have “already used this to further stigmatize the Jews,” Serfaty said. “They have used [Strauss-Kahn’s] arrest as an example of how perverse the Jews can be, so the community is definitely feeling the repercussions of this story.”'
    –That's a really heavy statement to be making without ANY supporting evidence. it's not that i doubt it, it's just completely unacceptable to offer something like this up and not substantiate it.

    May 20, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  20. Warren

    God forbid a Jewish man is charged with a crime

    May 20, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.