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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. FreedomGuy

    I don't find it at all surprising that a man who supports a genocidal government (Israel) would be a rapist.

    May 20, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • che-3

      They come in different molds and shapes. To blend with rest of us; this one decided shave his long dirty beard and drop that funny tiny hat on top of his head in deceit.

      May 20, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  2. MeMe Home

    It only gets more complicated given Frances treatment of Muslims and the allegations that the maid assaulted was a scarf wearing Muslim.

    May 20, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      I doubt the guy would even be able to recognize that woman with all the sins blinding him. They go into automatic pilot when they violate another.

      Amen.

      May 21, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  3. Rick

    "In nation where public officials rarely speak about their religion "

    Do you guys edit anything at all anymore, or do you just write it up and post it as soon as you type the last period?

    May 20, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • Hawaii Bill

      It is a great relief to see you asking the question! The lack of editing/proofreading is apparent in paper and online media in many cities in the U.S.

      I once believed the problem was unique to Hawaii. Even the online version of "SLATE", owned by the Washington Post, is full of typos and omissions. Thanks for asking the question! Aloha.

      May 21, 2011 at 2:03 am |
  4. Chateau Paris

    I don't care what religion or nationality or how political he is. If he is a rapist then that is what he is. Given his history of abusing women, how can anyone, anyone at all, be proud of this man and what he really is. Oh, of course, just like the Germans were proud of Hitler. Just means that "good" people can be blind to the truth regardless of race or religion or any other factor.

    May 20, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
  5. Paul

    I was born Jewish, but I had no idea he was Jewish until this article. Sad that it still matters enough for there to be an article about it.

    May 20, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • astar

      Exactly.

      May 20, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • Hawaii Bill

      Nor was I. When I read the headline, I asked myself, why would French and American Jewish groups get themselves involved in the issue? His religious believes are totally irrelevant to the act he allegedly commited.

      Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist – it just doesn't matter here.

      May 21, 2011 at 2:07 am |
  6. Dave

    As someone Jewish myself – I can only say, he's (apparently) disgraced himself, and he's not reflective of our religious / cultural values. He wasn't for a long time... regardless of his latest escapade.

    May 20, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  7. cantilever

    Monsieur Strauss-Kahn, meet Mr. Bernie Madoff, your cellmate. If you cons need a chaplain, we'll make a call to Queens.

    May 20, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      You can throw a few million more in that mix, regardless of gender or religion. It's an epidemic ... the sociopaths that walk among us around the world.

      Amen.

      May 21, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  8. Nate

    Until this article, I had never even thought about his religion.

    May 20, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • aamilesslave

      The only reason I know now is because the Jewish community made sure I knew it.

      May 20, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • Algene

      Neither had I. Hi religion never entered my mind.

      May 20, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Jason

      Yup. I mean, if he were a member of Church of Sponge Bob, then yes, his religion may have come into question. But why is that an issue here?

      May 21, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Sociopaths come in all shapes and sizes. It has nothing to do with religious affiliations or not.

      Amen.

      May 21, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  9. tbrnotb

    Religion itself is the true scourge on our culture. Look at all these silly responses! Islam, Hindu, Catholic or Jew, you all are part of the human race and yet you still believe in fairy tales!

    May 20, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Thinker23

      Every religion is a faith based on a set of improvable statements and attempting to explain the world we live in, how it came into existence, why it behaves the way it behaves and where it is heading.

      Most religions teach that the world was CREATED by one or several individuals having the will and technology to create it. Atheism is also a religion (a faith) teaching that the world came into existence all by itself from nothing.

      Almost every religion (especially atheism) insist that IT is the only true one while all others are "fairy tales".

      May 20, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • God is Short on Cash Again

      Well that's all fine and good if you throw away the true definition of "religion" and conveniently replace it with a distorted one of your own. However, the actual dictionary definition of "religion" is "the service and worship of God or the supernatural," which clearly does not fit atheism at all. So your point is as phoney as a three dollar bill.

      May 20, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      tbrnotb, you hide behind the fairy tale that you know all the answers.

      Amen.

      May 21, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  10. BR

    Good Jew: why do you call yourself Good Jew? No real Jewish person in the entire world refers to Jewish people as from the "Jewish race."

    May 20, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  11. Wilma

    To me, his religious beliefs, his power, and his money are irrelevant.

    This is simply about about some guy trying to force himself upon a women. An adequate treatment should include permanently stapling his foreskin to his inner thigh.

    May 20, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • BR

      I'm with you!

      May 20, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • Seriously?

      LoL, "Staple his foreskin to his inner thigh." Wilma, you don't know much about Jews, do you?

      May 21, 2011 at 1:51 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Wilma

      LOL...!!! "staple his foreskin to his inner-thigh." Yeah... I'm with @Seriously here. I think you may need a crash course in Judaism, and some serious study of very early OT in the Bible.

      Peace...

      May 21, 2011 at 1:57 am |
  12. tbrnotb

    My goodness....how stupid can people be! Like a gentile has never arrested on charges like these? Who are all these people judging an entire religion and culture on one man! I'm not Jewish, or French or socilaist and I am honestly baffled by all of this. Have we reverted to 1936 or something?

    May 20, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • rs1201

      As an American Jew, I don't feel responsible nor guilty about anything this pervert has done. Additionally, what he has done has nothing to do with Judaism. What the heck is going on here? every time a Jew or a Christian is arrested for some criminal act , his or her coreligionists have to feel guilty about their crime. My answer is a loud resounding NO...THEY DO NOT AND I CERTAINLY DON'T!

      May 20, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
  13. Sandra LeVin

    @ ep to – are you a French, Socialist lawyer? Very creative!

    May 20, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  14. Sandra LeVin

    @ep to – are you a French, Socialist lawyer?

    May 20, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  15. JACKPOT

    There is a tremendous concern in this world with antisemitism. Here is yet another example of the anti-Gentile bigoted Jews crying crocodile tears as a result of a Jew rapist raping a Gentile woman! If it were a black diplomat it would be defended by pulling out the race card. In the case of the Jews is it not called the Jew Card it is the antisemitism sledge hammer. In any NYC court room this International criminal will get off with a slap on the wrist, and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in the unofficial 51st state of these United States of America, which is the state of Israel.

    May 20, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • rs1201

      You're an ignorant moron. Israel does not offer any type of haven to criminals. If this man is convicted of any crime, he will not be allowed to go to Israel nor would Israel allow him into the country. Israel is not a 3rd world country like Brazil, Argentina, all arab countries, most South American countries who allow criminals to seek haven in their countries. Israel would not allow him to go past security at the airport. He would be put on the next plane back to New York. Do you understand that big MORON

      May 20, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • Seriously?

      Jackpot, you are a bigot, a racist, a bloviating windbag, and a troll. Bless your heart.

      May 21, 2011 at 1:54 am |
    • Bartholomew

      So what you are trying to say is... uh... come again?

      May 21, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Perchance

      You speak the truth Jackpot. Don't let your oppressors keep you from continuing on marching.

      June 17, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  16. Sarah

    From ponzi schemes, to organ harvesting, to diddling the maid. Incredible.

    May 20, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  17. GoodJew

    Wall Street Investment bank CEOs: Jews
    Bernie Madoff: Proud Jew
    Strauss: proud Jewish
    White house bin laden war-room photo with Hillary clinton's face removed by whom:: Jewish extremist newspaper in NYC

    This is not an indictment against the entire Jewish race. nor is it anti-Semite.

    This goes to show you, each religion in the world has bad apples whether they are fanatical or don't believe in the same values as most.

    Islam u have fanatical idiots who blow themselves up in the name of Allah and their hatred of US presence on Arab land. They are labeled terrorists

    Jews have crazy nuts in Israel who believe in Zionism doctrine which is inherited racist and backward. Ultimately the real reason for the tension in Middle East.. Problem is, no one cares for the plight of Palestinians , so they in essence become terrorists when they fight for rights, yet, muslims call them freedom fighters.

    -

    May 20, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  18. Gentlewave

    Reading some of these posts with the level of hate and fear that resides within them makes my heart hurt. How many times do we have to turn the world upside down with bigotry before we learn that those kinds of generalities spring from our most ignorant aspects and that if we turn within ourselves to our higher qualities we can create miracles. We bring ourselves down when we refuse to look past our smaller parts.

    May 20, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • Thinker23

      When John or Ivan or Igrahim commits a crime they say that John or Ivan or Ibrahim did it. When Haim or Abraham commits a crime they say "JEWS did it".

      May 20, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • Seriously?

      Quick, somebody help me hold this person down. I'll work them over while you grab their wallet.

      May 21, 2011 at 1:57 am |
    • jeanfor

      Thank you ! There is nothing else to say....

      May 21, 2011 at 8:13 am |
  19. ep to

    He paid an "agency" to send a French Maid come and "surprise" him with a going home "present". Apparantly, she was supposed to come in to clean the room just as he was coming out of the shower in the buff. The pre-arranged activities were for him to chase the maid around the room and after a while she was supposed to let him catch her and "playfully" force her to provide some oral entertainment. Unfortunately, the privately hired maid was held up in traffic and the real hotel maid had the misfortune to enter the room right on cue and appeared to followed the script – except she was trying to run away for real. He was just doing what had been pre-arranged, and he just thought she was putting on a good show. It was just an accident, the hotel and police should apologise and release him. However, should demand a refund from the escort agency and give the fee to the hotel maid instead for her trouble along a good tip.

    May 20, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Herpy derp

      Nice try, that's what I would say too hymie,

      May 20, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • tbrnotb

      And the dog ate his homework! That's the most ridiculous excuse ever heard. OH....and HERPY DERP, take your anti-semetic a$$ back to whatever rock you crawled out from under.

      May 20, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • BR

      I can't even get through reading your blather. Do you actually think your account is an accurate recounting of what happened? Do you believe in flying saucers, too?

      May 20, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • rs1201

      Don't make absurd excuses for this pig...he'll just have to deal with whatever punishment is dealt. HOwever, I can guarantee everyone that this innocent maid is hiring big time lawyers to sue this guy for millions.

      May 20, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Jean Paul Sartre

      RIGHT!

      Are you living in a cell with Charlie Manson?

      May 20, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • astar

      I assume this was sarcasm.

      May 20, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Squak! Polly Wants a Trust Fund! Polly Wants a Trust Fund!

      Yeah, uh, might I also suggest that some people catch a clue and recognize satire a bit more quickly?

      May 20, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • che-3

      ep to: Whew! I didn't even know deranged, delusional crazies like you ever existed in this World.
      You have a brain of a 2-yr. old. Have your brains examined.

      May 20, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • Seriously?

      Really, Che-3? This from the guy who posted the following: "They come in different molds and shapes. To blend with rest of us; this one decided shave his long dirty beard and drop that funny tiny hat on top of his head in deceit." You need to look in the mirror. And then kill yourself.

      May 21, 2011 at 2:01 am |
    • Bartholomew

      Whoa, some people actually believed this? Bravo ep to, bravo.

      May 21, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  20. SDN

    He's a French, a Socialist, a Jew, an alleged rapist – let's get him! Tolerance? A Trial? What for? Let's let our current intolerant, 'lynch mob' mentality take care of him. Proud to be considered part of this 'civilization'? What happened to the 'civil' part?

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

      That's why he will have a trial, you hysterical goose! You must admit it does not look good for him, but he is being treated no differently than any other famous person who has been accused of this or even worse. Your assumptions are dangerous and foolish. Let it all play out.

      May 20, 2011 at 7:51 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.