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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. 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 7:59 am |
  2. The Watcher

    I wasn't aware that this poor innocent man was a jew. I had been aware that Madoff was a jew because he arrogantly professed to be a jew and excluded others because they weren't. However, this Frenchman was simply the President of the IMF until jews started lamenting how his misfortune will reflect on all of them. Frankly, I was concerned that the "rich white man" label would rub off on me. Yet, I haven't reached a level to enjoy that club. Never the less, as a man, I did feel a pang of anx as women will now blame us all for this travesty. As for the jews, better luck next time. What a bunch of self important folks.

    May 21, 2011 at 7:42 am |
  3. jimmy j

    mozeltof

    May 21, 2011 at 7:04 am |
  4. Erwin Rommel

    Google what Ben Franklin said about the Jews. They control the media, entertainment, and finance industries. They force feed zionist propaganda to the masses. They disguise themselves very well.

    May 21, 2011 at 6:58 am |
  5. ExposeTheTruth

    Arresting him would be anti-semitic, I say we let him go!!

    May 21, 2011 at 6:56 am |
  6. Wheels of Justice

    Criminals often use what is called "an alibi letter," that they use when planning a crime. What is an alibi letter you ask? They create something usually a letter that they can use later to explain away or provide a cover for themselves if they get caught. For example, I feel like raping the maid on Sunday so I buy an airline ticket on Tuesday with a Sunday departure time. This way I can say, I always planned that flight! Cops know how to spot these things during interviews/interrogations. Let the cops, prosecutors, judge, and defense attorneys do their jobs. If Kahn is found guilty, he will have at least one appeal or do over. If he is innocent, then the maid will probably be prosecuted for filing a false police report. Either way, justice will be served. Please try and remember this as you all bash Kahn and bash the Maid.

    May 21, 2011 at 6:49 am |
  7. steve

    http://www.worldpress.org/images/20070308-poll.gif see for yourself

    May 21, 2011 at 6:48 am |
  8. hopeful

    he was NOT treated fairly at all, because of his status someone wanted him out of his position and to weaken him. it is still he say she say...HE IS NOT A CRIMMINAL YET, HE CALLED BACK THE HOTEL FOR HIS PHONE AND TOLD THEM WHERE HE WAS. THOSE HOTEL MAIDS AT SOFITEL TARGETS RICH GUYS IN SUITES, SHE KNEW THERE WAS MONEY. I PRAY FOR THIS GUY THAT GOD WILL HELP HIM THROUGH THIS TIME OF TROUBLE .......THE GIRL IS ALSO FRENCH, WHAT A COINCIDENCE!!!!!

    May 21, 2011 at 6:22 am |
    • TrueBlue

      Since when is a woman from Guinea named Diallo (from the famous African Peul tribe) who is living and working in America FRENCH?

      May 21, 2011 at 6:30 am |
    • lgny

      And so you believe the NYPD are idiots who can't tell a setup from an actual crime!

      May 21, 2011 at 6:42 am |
    • TrueBlue

      .... and hopeful: God does NOT help fornicators and adulterers (consensual or otherwise), at least not the TRUE GOD....

      May 21, 2011 at 6:48 am |
    • Wheels of Justice

      Criminals often use what is called "an alibi letter," that they use when planning a crime. What is an alibi letter you ask? They create something usually a letter that they can use later to explain away or provide a cover for themselves if they get caught. For example, I feel like raping the maid on Sunday so I buy an airline ticket on Tuesday with a Sunday departure time. This way I can say, I always planned that flight! Cops know how to spot these things during interviews/interrogations. Let the cops, prosecutors, judge, and defense attorneys do their jobs.

      May 21, 2011 at 6:51 am |
  9. chaz Romano (not real name. take that CNN)

    such hate.

    May 21, 2011 at 5:46 am |
  10. JHaas

    Strauss-Kahn was arrested for stereotypically French behavior, nothing that can be attributed to the Jewish imagery in any way so I think it's all good on that side.

    May 21, 2011 at 5:08 am |
    • Willy

      So if Strauss-Kahn wins Nobel prize he is jewish but if he commits a crime he is french ??? What hypocrisy !! Anyway this man has few frenchness, not because he is jewish but because like some other elite he knows nothing about France outside Paris.

      May 21, 2011 at 6:26 am |
    • TrueBlue

      Willy, winning a Nobel Prize does NOT guarantee that a person is in good moral standing, sometimes it's actually quite the opposite. Menachem Begin (former Israeli prime minister) won the Peace Nobel Prize in 1978. He actually was known as having organized one of the biggest terrorist attacks in the 20th century. Further, one reason why he made such a spectacular political career in Isreal was, that he was famous for being able to logistically plan and manage massacres.

      May 21, 2011 at 6:59 am |
  11. AmericanPie

    Israel is no friend of America. Their Prime Minister called 9/11 "very good" because it would generate sympathy for Israel. They used to sell weapons to apartheid South Africa. Now they sell US military technology to China – check the story of the Lavi jet fighter. The IDF literally kills 10 times more children than Palestinian militants (look it up). Support for Israel gains American nothing but the enmity of 1 billion Muslims. Now they are defying the US president again on 1967 borders.

    May 21, 2011 at 4:59 am |
    • stonedwhitetrash

      The rapture should have taken you by now.

      May 21, 2011 at 5:14 am |
    • Believer

      Another Arab poster... Give it up!

      May 21, 2011 at 5:33 am |
  12. Joe

    Judaism isn't a religion it is more like a club with no spiritual component at all. When is the last time you heard a Rabbi say anything of importance publicly except to wring their hands and worry about anti-semitism.

    May 21, 2011 at 4:49 am |
    • Prometheus

      And you are a follower of Judaism so you speak from experience? -Or are you simply yet another troll trying to stir up crap with your 'opinion'? Shut up.

      May 21, 2011 at 4:58 am |
    • Thinker23

      Another racist. Another liar...

      May 21, 2011 at 6:24 am |
  13. ThesimpleFacts

    DSK to be the FIRST French President – WHAT COMPLETE NONSENSE. TOTAL NONSENSE.

    The current French President Nicolas Sarkozy IS JEWISH, so DSK cannot be first.

    Sarkozy IS JEWISH IS AN ESTABLISHED PUBLIC FACT. CNN IS PROPAGADA.

    HERE ARE FACTS CNN WONT TELL YOU:
    Sarkozy's mother (From a old Salonic GREEK Jewish community, who raised him (his father left) is JEWISH. Sarkozy's second wife, Cecilia is jewish (now married to another jewish man), Sarkozy's son Jean married his jewish wife, the heir of the rich, famous jewish DARTY family.

    GOOGLE: SAKOZY JEWISH. CNN IS PROPAGANDA

    May 21, 2011 at 4:46 am |
    • ThesimpleFacts

      Although it should be obvious, the first line should read:

      DSK to be the FIRST JEWISH French President – WHAT COMPLETE NONSENSE. TOTAL NONSENSE

      This is not an error, but deliberate Propaganda. A Global new network like cnn has not excuse for grossly distorting the known facts, other than for pure manipulation of what it regards as the ignorant masses.

      What do you expect from CNN when the owner, Ted Turner, parrots the globalist's profound desire for genocidal human depopulation in public?

      GOOGLE: TED TURNER, DEPOPULATION YOUTUBE VIDEO

      While your at it: GOOGLE: Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey Billionaires Depopulation

      WE ARE BEING LIED TO EVERYDAY

      May 21, 2011 at 4:58 am |
  14. AmericanPie

    We live in an era when American politicians can boast with impunity that they would never hire a qualified Muslim. Did that rattle any communities? Yet one rich pervert's story becomes an excuse for the Jewish community to wail in self pity yet again. Israel and its US supporters should remember there was another nation 70 years ago that called itself "the chosen people", forced poor people into ghettoes, and annexed neighboring lands. Enough special treatments for these guys.

    May 21, 2011 at 4:45 am |
  15. TrueBlue

    One can be a Jew and a massmurderer (and get the Nobel Peace Prize – Menachem Begin, organizer of one of the most deadliest terrorist attacks of the 20th century), or a convicted rapist (former Pres. of Israel Moshe Katsav) or have caused the biggest fraud in US history (Madoff) .... and the list goes on and on... however, nowhere have I seen the Jewish religious leaders publically distancing themselves from these corrupt wicked men who have brought so much suffering among innocent people.
    One more proof that the Jewish religion is nothing else but 'politics' which – as everybody knows – is a dirty business and has nothing to do with true worship and the unchanged moral standards of the only true God JHWH.

    May 21, 2011 at 4:03 am |
    • Prometheus

      If you post here again trying to skew actual facts/history, I'll post the atrocities committed by the "peaceful" Arab peoples in the same region and it will make what the Israelis have done look like playing "Patty-Cake" in comparison.

      Arabs have NO RIGHT to point fingers in this issue. Either make peace or STFU.

      May 21, 2011 at 5:09 am |
    • TrueBlue

      Prometheus, well said. I totally agree, the hypocrite Moslems are just as bad as the hypocrite Jews (and the hyprocrite Roman Catholics for that matter). The established religions are an abomination .... and we see their bad fruits – on a daily basis.

      May 21, 2011 at 5:41 am |
  16. Liberal for Israel

    It is so easy to hate, especially a group of people who are so vastly different from the rest of the world. I will not stand by anti-Semitism. It is disgusting. The Jewish people will ALWAYS be my friend. Israel will ALWAYS have my support.

    May 21, 2011 at 3:50 am |
    • AmericanPie

      Israel is no friend of America. Their Prime Minister called 9/11 "very good" because it would generate sympathy for Israel. They used to sell weapons to apartheid South Africa. Now they sell US military technology to China – check the story of the Lavi jet fighter. The IDF literally kills 10 times more children than Palestinian militants (look it up). Support for Israel gains American nothing but the enmity of 1 billion Muslims. Now they are defying the US president again on 1967 borders.

      May 21, 2011 at 4:57 am |
    • JeanV

      I don't blame Israel for Madoff or DSK. I blame them for land-grabbing and murdering civilians. The U.S. needs to cut them adrift and maybe then they'll seriously negotiate a return to their UN mandated borders and peaceful coexistence with their neighbors.

      May 21, 2011 at 5:33 am |
    • Believer

      Yeah...Israel to a different standard than everyone else. They won the 1967 war. You think the Arabs would learn. You ever wonder what would happen if Israel took the kid gloves off and decided to stop the nonsense with Hamas?

      May 21, 2011 at 5:38 am |
  17. Andrew

    Strauss-Kahn may not be guilty at all, yet he is being "pre-imprisoned' in "house detention" now as if he was already found guilty. Martha Stewart was only "house-imprisoned" after she was found guilty, right?
    Some system we have in New York. Where violent muggers and drug dealers CAUGHT IN THE ACT are often released on bail within hours of their crimes in New York, and yet here a man who never even physically injured the woman (even if her story is true, she had no injury, no torn clothes) he's already being jailed effectively, and prior to a trial. But in the femi-nasty ruled NorthEastern USA, any complaint by a woman, is acted upon as if the man was already found guilty - yet most any attack a woman does, is ignored. And he's subject to house-imprisonment even after he posted bail. Incredible.

    May 21, 2011 at 3:47 am |
    • tom

      Pre-imprisoned? He didn't originally get bail b/c he's a flight risk – period. He should not be out on bail. He's wealthy, politically connected, has access to the security apparatus, and was on a flight when arrested. You'd have to be a complete idiot to let this guy go free. If he escapes and flees the judge who granted bail should be locked up for gross incompetence. Obviously France condones this behavior – they have protected Roman Polanski for decades after he was charged with drugging and sodomizing a 13 year old.

      May 21, 2011 at 4:14 am |
    • Pablo Pena

      I agree with Andrew completely. I have experienced the same kind of prejudice but would say it's pretty much all over America not just the northeast. As far as the guy who screamed "HE'S A FLIGHT RISK!" Really dough-for-brains? He surrendered his passport, his mugshot is on every major periodical in the world. Even if he COULD somehow get out of the country he would almost certainly be immediately extradited. No, he's going to have to tough this out. But great original post.

      May 21, 2011 at 4:37 am |
    • JeanV

      Forcing a woman to put your organ in her mouth IS an injury. Throwing her to the ground and leaping on her like a mad ape and trying to rip her clothes off IS an injury. Detaining her against her will IS an injury. Dolt.

      May 21, 2011 at 5:35 am |
  18. Pervez Shamim

    It is very unfair that actions of few are used to malign the community they belong to. As a Muslim I do not believe for a second that action of Madoff or Staruss Kahn mean that all other Jewish people acts like them. We muslim can vouch for that as well for reasons well known. Majority of Jewish, Christian, Muslims or people of other faiths are decent, law abiding and caring but bigots are always ready and prepared to blame them for their own shortcomings.

    May 21, 2011 at 3:42 am |
    • Liberal for Israel

      Hey, it's great to see someone stand up for their fellow human. Kudos.

      May 21, 2011 at 3:51 am |
    • JackAbramoff

      Yeah guys, us Jews aren't that bad ya know.

      May 21, 2011 at 4:01 am |
  19. E. Wilson

    Being a Jew never stopped someone from becoming President or Prime Minister in France – they've had several: Blum, Mendes-France, Meyer. Britain had one Jewish PM:Disraeli. Have we?

    May 21, 2011 at 3:30 am |
    • youpi

      We had Laurent Fabius as Prime Minister and Sarkozy's ancestry is also from jewish origin. Who cares? They were not chosen because of their religion, I'm not a jew, I voted Sarkozy in 2007 and I could have voted DSK in 2012, so what?

      May 21, 2011 at 4:06 am |
  20. Michael Young

    WHAT?? just a xew thief as always-

    Look at every thing we buy-either k or c-jew tax, and they pay no tax.

    Look at every thing-even water-darn xews are 2% of usa and control it.

    They do not tax ammo-that's where my money is!

    Michael Young

    May 21, 2011 at 3:16 am |
    • jim

      @Young: Let me see if I understand your problem with Jews. When you were in the 3rd grade the teacher asked how much is 3+9, and you said 7. Then there was Joey in the last row, with glasses, and he said the answer is 12. Then you found out that he was Jewish. Is that about the right?

      May 21, 2011 at 3:25 am |
    • Believer

      Michael Young: Do you hate all races but yours? Racism has no color barriers.... So are you black, Arab or white?

      May 21, 2011 at 5:43 am |
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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.