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. gilles wicker

    Leon Blum was prime minister, not president of France.
    He was an important figure of the French left movement before and after the second world war.

    May 21, 2011 at 2:55 am |
  2. Ermiberero

    Duh!! Leon Blum was Prime Minster of France not president.

    May 21, 2011 at 2:38 am |
  3. RostamI

    Crap, you S.O.B.

    May 21, 2011 at 2:33 am |
  4. Cat MacLeod

    Watch the left hand. The fact he's an uber powerful man with questionable connections is far more relevant than what invisible man he may or may not talk to.

    May 21, 2011 at 2:23 am |
  5. jewishmuslim

    Please people, all of you need to Understand that when you mention Jews you will be in trouble. because some Jews think they are Saints, bosses, and a higher race than everyone else. so please don`t talk about Jews.they say, your Tax money is ours, and your houses are ours too. you actually are our slaves. that what some Jews think. but the majority of Jews are nice, and they oppose what few Jews are doing to control the world.

    May 21, 2011 at 2:18 am |
    • 14Mickey

      Better be careful, the conspiracy to control the world is watching you very closely and you will shortly be abducted by aliens. Elvis is very very displeased with you.

      May 21, 2011 at 2:30 am |
    • Mark Mywords

      I am not afraid to mention the jews and their crimes. phuck these people!! Just because the have a world media monopoly doesn't mean they can cover up that the world hates these phucken parasites and their evil ways. They may have official seals and media to hide behind but put them in the light they are cowards. I would go face to face with one of these hideous mofo anytime, but they are too cowardly so let them pack their bags from every nation and flee to israel where the Arab community will serve them the justice they deserve!!!!!

      May 21, 2011 at 2:48 am |
  6. Robert

    "we lost him"...

    Racial groups hitching their cart to any single person to deliver racial benefits or pride is foolish. (Witness the recent moans of some black commentators in the U.S. about Obama.) By some measures, racial pride is to be eschewed. That of course depends on what race you are and who is judging. And the judging is usually uneven. OK for this group to be proud of their race. Evil for that group to be proud of their race.

    Silly humans.

    May 21, 2011 at 2:13 am |
  7. JonDC

    The comments on this article exactly demonstrates the reason it was written. Unlike any other group, Jews have been persecuted for thousands of years, always being used as a scapegoat. The article just explains the Jewish community's concern over increased anti-semitism (as shown in the posted comments) when a Jew makes the news for doing something wrong (or in this case reprehensible. As a jewish person, it is embarrassing when something like this makes the news. And I too fear that it gives an excuse to blame all of us for this behavior. The reason we don't just get over the "anti-semitism thing" is because it will never go away. When we forget what has happened, we become complacent. Just like 9/11. Never Forget!

    May 21, 2011 at 2:11 am |
  8. Kevin Gregory


    May 21, 2011 at 2:09 am |
  9. Sam

    Didn't know he was Jewish. It has nothing to do with his jewiness. If true, this is a sick man. Period.

    May 21, 2011 at 2:05 am |
  10. Emetul

    Another Jewish criminal!

    May 21, 2011 at 2:03 am |
    • Mark Mywords

      Another? ha ha, is there an honest one out there? I don't think so!!!!! parasites!!!

      May 21, 2011 at 2:49 am |
  11. istillwatch cnn

    Leon Bloom was france's first Jewish president. CNN should do more research.

    May 21, 2011 at 1:48 am |
    • florent


      (written "Blum")

      May 21, 2011 at 2:09 am |
    • jim

      According the wiki, Blum was the first Jewish Prime Minister not president of France. Still quite an achievement for Blum in 1930's.

      May 21, 2011 at 3:42 am |
  12. joe

    Will these people every stop whining about persecution? Let the dead rest and move on.

    May 21, 2011 at 1:37 am |
    • Tank

      never, its big business.

      May 21, 2011 at 1:39 am |
    • Seriously?

      Really? That was your take away from this article? Embrace your inner anti-semite, Joe.

      May 21, 2011 at 1:45 am |
    • MrEee

      Who would have thought it, a powerful Jewish banker? A loss indeed. Maybe Bernanke or Greenspan can step up and help out.

      May 21, 2011 at 1:55 am |
    • Yes, seriously.

      Yeah, just go around labeling people anti-semites when it suits you best. Moron.

      May 21, 2011 at 2:15 am |
    • meemee

      I'm sure they'd love to if that persecution would end. No one craves peace like a Jew, but neither Romans, Christians, Nazis, or you will let them.

      May 21, 2011 at 2:22 am |
  13. AmericanPie

    We live in an era when American politicians can say with impunity that they would not appoint a qualified Muslim to their organization. Yet a rich pervert story is turned here into another self pitying wail on behalf of the Israel Lobby. Israel and their US supporters should remember there was another country 70 years ago that considered themselves "the chosen people", forced poor people into ghettoes, and annexed neighboring lands. Thankfully that nation is no longer around....

    May 21, 2011 at 1:32 am |
    • Seriously?

      Goodness, Mr. Gibson, it's noice to see you heeah, mate. Now back in your hole.

      May 21, 2011 at 1:44 am |
    • tabcon

      Well said AmericanPie.

      May 21, 2011 at 1:57 am |
  14. Ben

    who cares what religion he is from ,it is totally irrelevant.

    May 21, 2011 at 1:28 am |
    • MrEee

      True, and there are plenty of Jewish bankers who can take his place too. Total non-story.

      May 21, 2011 at 1:57 am |
  15. Steve

    If this guy was Christian, would anyone be bringing up the "rattled Christian communities"? What a joke. Jews need to stop identifying themselves as the "jewish community" that is constantly under attack. They are as bad as the Muslims in that regard.

    May 21, 2011 at 1:24 am |
  16. LastSaneMan

    We all have human weaknesses, we DON'T all go around raping woman. Give me a break!

    May 21, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  17. JonnyL

    Why do the Jews always think everyone is out to get them...this case is about one guy imposing himself on someone else. Accept it.

    May 21, 2011 at 1:07 am |
  18. Nina

    What this man allegedly did has nothing to do with whether or not he is Jewish. It has to do with a man who thinks he can do whatever he wants. People of this ilk are found in most religions, so the anti-Semites and the Jews need to get off this track.

    May 21, 2011 at 1:02 am |
  19. Miriam

    Who cares about this guy anyway.

    May 21, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • Simon

      I say that I don't give a rat about him, yet somehow I'm still here and can't quite figure out why.

      May 21, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  20. Brian

    If you look at his genealogy going back two generations it looks like he is only about half Jewish. Maybe that's his problem – he isn't Jewish enough.

    May 21, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • Americants

      Yeah, he's not Madoff enough.

      May 21, 2011 at 1:50 am |
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About this blog

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.