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. Dan

    Give it a break already.. always whining about being persecuted...geez

    May 21, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Jon

      you are ignorant

      May 21, 2011 at 12:51 am |
  2. Reality

    This guy is Jewish? So what? There are dirty old men in all races and religions. Should we blame Pfizer et al for their ED drugs? The maid should consider adding these companies to the complaint list? Maybe he will use the ED defense i.e. my blood pressure pills were also blue?

    May 21, 2011 at 12:08 am |
    • jim

      Pfizer is not a group.
      Rev 3:9

      May 21, 2011 at 12:26 am |
  3. Jessica

    Yeah and there are lots of evil people out there. Some are white, black, asian, christians and catholic priests...

    May 20, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • Joe

      who is blaming a race? Are we suggesting that other races or tribe are Angels?I don't find this story exciting any more because the media is creating something out of nothing.Let us talk about the rising cost of leaving caused by unnecessary wars in this World.People are dying and a few arms makers are enriching themselves from the wars.

      May 21, 2011 at 12:52 am |
  4. Aurora in Oregon

    Well, this American couldn't care less about DSK's religion. I can't think of anyone I know who has even commented on his religion; no one I know gave it a second thought. After all, his religion had nothing to do with his alleged crime. Most Americans didn't care about Madoff's religion, either. It just didn't make a difference. As for the ones who do – they tend to be part of the same vocal minority who also hate blacks, Latinos, and women, not just Jews. Thankfully, those sad souls don't make up the majority of the nation.

    May 20, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Real PA Voter

      Sure hope you're right!!!

      May 20, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • Joe

      You are right and i hope they heard you.Cheap thinking is what i can call it.

      May 21, 2011 at 12:55 am |
  5. Real PA Voter

    Anybody ever bother to ask what the maid was doing in the bathroom while he was taking a shower?
    Sounds to me like there's more going on here that has so far been reported. She just may be as culpable
    as he is!!!!

    May 20, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • Real PA Voter

      a guy was talking to God and asked "Why did you make women so beautiful? God said "So you would love them."
      to which he asked "But why did you make them so stupid?" to which God replied "So they would love you!!!"

      May 20, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  6. Adelina

    Man exists to protect woman, never to assault her, and to love only one for a lifetime. Please get that principle.

    May 20, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • Adelina

      Once you commit your life to a woman, be ready to die to protect her for all time. Greedy, selfish playboys, whatever the age, are the last ones the world needs especially for their sons.

      May 20, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  7. PeoplePaula

    Just heard on CNN broadcast: "No one knew of Strauss-Kahn's whereabouts until he called in to retrieve his cell phone." This is nonsense. He was in a Sofitel hotel limo on the way to the airport, and the hotel and police had complete knowledge of where he was. CNN, please stop making ridiculous statements in this case.

    May 20, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  8. grf

    So what if he's jewish, I didn't even know he was, the more important thing is that he felt just because he is a powerful man, he can do what he wants. And who knows, the woman could be lying as well. But the jews always like to defend their people even when they might be wrong, and they try to use non factual history about oppression against the jewish people for pity.

    May 20, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
  9. RightturnClyde

    Oh sure - this is all because he is Jewish. Anyone else and there would be no arrest. But it's because he is Jewish. (everyone else is a racist .. an anti-semite .. a hate monger). The maid he "did" .. she's a bigot too. The hotel manager is a bigot. The cops, the DA .. all bigots.

    May 20, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  10. Roy

    The issue here is not cultural or religion, he assumingly committed a crime until proven otherwise. By the way we are all part of the human race, and there does not exist true Jews in todays society. True jews existed back in 607 BCE and 70 CE. True jews historically were chosen to maintain the covenant. Read your history: Moses, Abraham, David, Jesus Christ the end of the covenant whereby Jesus represented all peoples thus sacrificed his life for all mankind. Both society and Jews need to be as one and start realizing we will be judged by the same God, that the Jews call the true God, Yahweh, JAH, Jehovah. Its time to wake up and pay attention and abandon all this theological and philosophical views and accept all as part of the human race. RELIGION AS WE KNOW IT IS NOT SUPPORTED BY JEHOVAH, THE FACTS ARE CONCLUSIVE AND IRREFUTABLE. WHATS MORE INTERESTING IS THE FEAR OF SOCIETY OF NOT USING GODS REAL NAME. JEHOVAH THE ALPHA AND OMEGA, THE ONE AND ONLY, THE CREATOR OF ALL LIVING THINGS. ITS TIME TO PRONOUNCE JEHOVAHS NAME BY ALL PEOPLES AND TO ACKNOWLEDGE AND ACCEPT WHETHER JEW, GENTILE, MUSLIM OR FOR THAT FACT ANY CULTURE THAT WE ARE JUDGED BY THE ALMIGHTLY JEHOVAH GOD AND ONLY JEHOVAH GOD.

    May 20, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Wow, you did the last part all with the capslock on. I guess we should pay attention to that part folks. lol 🙂

      May 20, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Glen

      looks like you need some KY for your caps lock key... (religious nutcake)... mmmm cake.

      May 21, 2011 at 1:15 am |
    • seymor

      Muslims already pray to the God of Moses, David, Solomon, and all the rest of the prophets. It's the Christians who don't.

      May 21, 2011 at 1:36 am |
  11. smartass

    Purely fabricated setup to smear a Jewish presidential candidate. Shame on politics! World was ready for a black president, but not Jewish. no surprises. I wonder why he was not blamed for drinking blood of babies? It's just same believable.

    May 20, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
  12. NY Holly

    Seriously, who cares about what his origin or religion this man is? As an American, I think it is really disgusting that any man no matter what his background or religion or socio economic background had the arrogance to think he can abuse any woman - whether a maid or some young French girl who is afraid of his position - this man is getting what he deserves ...and I not only feel sorry for the victims but also for his wife, his daughter or anyone else related to him. Ironic that the building his wife chose to try to rent an apartment in is the very same building that OJ owned a condo in and was forced to sell once indicted of killing his wife. Karma?

    May 20, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      "As an American, I think it is really disgusting that any man"

      ...or any woman.

      May 20, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  13. Mungo St James

    Having a Communist/extreme Socialist in charge of handing out American tax dollars offends me more than anything. The US governmant ( thanks to our liberals ) contributes 17% of the IMF budget. And now the Communist Jew will receive at least $250K as severance pay + pension. Apparently his contract didn't have a morals clause.

    Jews aren't disliked because of their religion, but their leftist/Socialist/Communist beliefs. Obviously that is not universal but common enough to become a stereotype.



    May 20, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      You mean the same as Obama giving our tax money away.:

      "Senior advisers to Obama, previewing parts of his speech, said Wednesday the United States would offer debt relief totaling roughly $1 billion "over a few years" to Egypt through a debt swap mechanism that would invest the money to boost youth employment and support entrepreneurs. Washington would also loan or guarantee loans up to a total of $1 billion through the Overseas Private Investment Corp (OPIC) for Egypt to finance infrastructure development and boost jobs, "

      So we are giving up about two billion to the middle east to create jobs....and to finace infrastructure.

      Does any one remember the middle east dancing in the streets on that tuesday morning back in 2001? So we are going to giving jobs and better roads and electrical grids to these guys. Where are the BRIC countries on this?

      May 20, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • che-3

      He you go. Your fear mongering delusional antenna has just gone up like a roach to induce the world into some fear mode. Communism or Socialism ain’t scare me nor anyone with normal brain cells. Your silly 2-yr. old mentality of calling people of good will so-called left –wing, liberal policies or agenda don’t scare me either. What scares me most are a bunch of toothless, illiterate, ignorant, uneducated, primitive, backward, trailer park trash bigots who wants to imposed their deranged delusional will on the rest of us or the World. It’s primitive, backward, fear mongers like you who made or placed Osama bin Laden and his evil Al-Qaeda on a golden pedestal to be worshiped and glorified. You imbeciles rule by imposed fear on the masses. Not this time! A fearless young Black Pres. took him down to the bottom the ocean never to be heard of again or be used by silly fear mongers like you.

      BTW, one of the your delusional, crazy race prophet claims the World Ends tomorrow at high noon. So what the heck is your beef with normal people who gives fly of your childish fear of Communist or Socialist? You will be surprised a Communist or Socialist will be reading you last rites since one of your inks claims the World Ends tomorrow. The Jesus said “wept for thyself but, not for me”. The World will be a better place without idiotic, delusional crazies of your race or like you living amongst normal people or folks. Grow up evil one and stop living in an art hole.

      May 20, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  14. Mike

    So what if he is jewish. Doesn't make him special in any way. imo.

    May 20, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • Paul

      If that's what you took the thesis of the article to be then you should go back to school. Typical antisemitic comments on thread about Jews.

      May 20, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
  15. Michael Miller

    For Americans, his religion is not so much of an issue as it seems to be for Europeans. I lived in Europe for many years but never forgot the strong undercurrent of anti-antisemitism over there. And even now I see it among European immigrants here, and it always amazes me that people think that way. Perhaps the reaction of American Jews is just a reflexive shudder of a memory of Jew-hatred and the dreadful Holocaust. I think that in American there is a certain snob-appeal of being a WASP, a looking down at those who are not Protestant Christians. That's probably why some people can be a bit puzzled about why DSK's religion is even an issue worthy of being explored.

    May 20, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  16. che-3

    Oh Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo another Jew?
    No wonder 3rd. World countries are still POOR. He stiffs 3rd. World countries to support his greedy luxury lifestyle. A greedy Jews had of IMF? Whooooooops! My bad!

    He should be asked to refund all money stolen from 3rd. World countries with huge interest whilst he lives in luxury comfort on $3,000/night fully charged to 3rd. world countries. Do you know how many people can $3,000 feed in a whole day? Over 100,000 poor hungry souls in 3rd. world countries. Not only that $3,000/night, can buy over 5,000 school desks for schools in 3rd. world countries. Some people have no conscience. It’s a real shame to his race. Shame on him.

    In 1981 we had a Jewish millionaire who owned two (2) luxury Park Ave. Hotel in NYC still collecting Food Stamps meant for the poor. By their deeds yee; shall know them.

    May 20, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Michael Miller

      And then I read a post like this and remember that yes, Americans can be every bit as much of prejudiced, hate-filled pigs as anyone.

      May 20, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  17. GreenPeople

    To all the Jewish People reading this Post.... I would like to say... I personally don't blame his actions on the fact that he proclaimed to be Jewish... He acted like a Beast so I see him as a Beast... Life teaches people in various ways not to judge a group by the actions of an individual in a particular group. So keep your heads up... Life is Wonderful.

    May 20, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • --Nick/

      "He acted like a Beast so I see him as a Beast..."
      No "innocent until proven guilty", then!? Well, at least you're clear about it.

      May 20, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  18. BobbyP

    Quite frankly I am puzzled as to why his Religion was even brought up. I am not Jewish and don't give a good darn what he is. Yet The Communist News Network finds this newsworthy

    May 20, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • che-3

      Yea right cast blame on Communist or Socialist News Media in US.
      Idiot, who controls the news media in US? The poor or the filthy rich Jew? Didn't a black Pres. aka Pres. Obama's race, religion, place of birth, books read, pencils and crayons used in his first grade school, hair cut etc. did constantly become an issues to your sill race and region in the US News Media constantly for over 4-yrs. until just weeks ago? I didn't hear you whine? Don’t be this silly if you have nothing to say. What we normal people of this World seeks is for him refund every single $ with compounded interest he schemed from 3rd World countries. His religion or faith is being questioned as Jew to be humbled but; not this one. Stealing and living off the poor of this World is no different than some evil Al-Qaeda with explosives strapped to his waist to take down everyone in sight. One is deadly the other is subtle and silent death. This Jew is the latter against defenseless 3rd. World countries and its hungry poor.

      May 20, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  19. Chris in Texas

    I was staying the Sofitel in New York when this happen, and had no idea who he was or what had happened until I saw the NYPD outside the hotel, and then the cameras...... and didn't know until I read this article that he was Jewish. Couldn't care less about his religion. If he's guilty, it doesn't make a difference what religion he is, he's still a pervert.

    May 20, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • che-3

      Glad you had a bird’s eye view to give us your insight. This Jew is lucky the victim is not white? He would have been sorry for his actions.

      May 20, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  20. educatedguess

    he's been the source of jewish pride for his excellent leadership in orchestrating userious bankers financially raping the world?

    May 20, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Adelina

      Wow.. Jews are smart. They should educate Americans and the world... or are they? Smartness does not equal good character therefore no guarantee of true prosperity. The Bible-reading Jews know far better than this guy.

      May 20, 2011 at 10:14 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.