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. Michael

    and apparently he's innocent. Anti-semitic conspiracy...

    July 1, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  2. mrfixit

    he is not jewish............he is half-jewish

    June 17, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  3. Peace man

    I agree this incident should not reflect on the jewish community, now if this was a moslem man....it would be called Islamic terrorism......

    May 24, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • saeed

      Very True!

      June 17, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  4. gutsycall

    This is pretty poor journalism work frankly. Seems just to be an Op-Ed piece and little more. Op-Ed is cheap to produce compared to real journalism based on facts and it shows to all but the gullible who can't tell the difference.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  5. Elite

    This twister was really close to the federal pen in Leavenworth. i hope they put him there lawlz


    May 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  6. KRH

    The Jewish communities of the world have every reason to be "rattled", especially in France. Europe is still anti-Semitic to it's very core and that's become even more true with the hordes of Muslims now descending upon it. If I were a Jew in France I'd be worried too. Attacks against Jews have been provoked be far less.

    May 22, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
  7. Khaled Anntar

    A Jew or not this should matter when it comes to someone's actions. Everyone makes mistakes and we are all humans after all regardless of the religion we adopt. But the fact that the Jewish Communities in France and US are thinking too much about Khan's indictment or alleged crimes proves that Jewish Communities were hoping to have a head of State in Europe or the US who can represent the Jewish interests and further supports the Jewish State in the Middle East.

    I believe strongly that any community seeking for more recognition or rights is to campaign peacefully with regards to the rights of every citizens of every country they live in. A Jewish or Muslim Community does not have to have a Jewish or Muslim president to represent their interests!!!!!

    May 22, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  8. Dimsim

    "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".
    This is difficult to believe. Which politicians is he referring to? I think names and quotes are required to back up this rather incredible claim.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • Opie

      I too wondered at this. Perpetual victim status.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  9. Balvannanadhan Aida

    Of course by media blowing up the smallest event, I meant incidents between the Muslim and Jewish communities that give rise to a mass hysterai in the media.

    May 22, 2011 at 4:34 am |
  10. stefan

    Still not fully convinced that he is guilty. Our media is so anxiety driven that I don't know what to think. The stuff I have heard sounds like he's nuts, but there was alot of outside political motive to bring this guy down also.

    May 21, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • Alfredo

      After just watching "Inside Job," my first thought about this was "set up" It would not surprise me at all that this was a bogus charge.

      May 22, 2011 at 3:42 am |
    • Thomas

      Are you still not convinced, after – this week only – even more flight attendants, hotel employees and more servants have come out, claiming improper proposals and unacceptable behavior from him? That he even left "traces" on her shirt? Then it's because you don't wanna believe it.

      May 24, 2011 at 3:32 am |
  11. John Richardson

    To my Jewish friends: It doesn't matter that this jerk is Jewish. There is no collective guilt here. This guy is a one man act and there are people like him and worse amongst all groups.

    May 21, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  12. Clo

    Blum was the Prime Minister, but during the Fourth Republic in the 30s the Prime Minister had more power than the President.

    May 21, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
  13. Clo

    You wrote "DSK was viewed as potential contender to become France’s first Jewish president."
    Actually, France already had a Jewish President in the 30s, Leon Blum, and recently, a Jewish prime minister, Laurent Fabius.

    May 21, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  14. Lisa99999

    This is like saying that all Italians are responsible for the Italian Mafia or all Russians are responsible for the Russian mafia. People need to get over themselves.

    May 21, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Josie

      There's a stereotype that French men are perverts and egotistical men are perverts and that politicians are perverts, but I don't see that ever attributed to anyone's religion. The Jewish people are very well respected in the US. Everyone knows people who are anti-Semites have a few screws loose.

      May 21, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • miriam69

      Sarkozy is a Jew since his mother is Jewish. Quoting from the New York Times, "Sarkozy's mother is the daughter of a physician and granddaughter of a Jewish immigrant from Salonika in Greece." Don't they have this tribal law saying once a mother is a Jew, so will be her baby regardless of the father?

      June 5, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  15. James

    Yes. I mean, the gloves didn't match Mr. Strauss-Kahn's hands. The gloves didn't fit!

    May 21, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  16. Reality

    This guy is Jewish? So what? There are dirty old men with too much money and power 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. his blood pressure pills were also blue?------

    May 21, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Reality, are you ever serious about anything you write? Instead of making jokes, folks should discuss the serious issue of sociopathic personalities in our society and the damage they do.


      May 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  17. hicham

    here in us innocent until proven guilty, but you get the process of guilty from the arrest time and jail time...
    american have the highest percentage populations in jail in the world...sometime 10 times more than other country.and what,s that mean ??
    when you goes to the courts, you will be slapped with other reality about the justice system in america.anyone can accused you of crime , and they have to arrested you and destroy your life before if you get lucky to proof that you are innocent.
    100.S of cases goes here unheard of and destroy poeples life before when you heard one in the media.
    and the accuser goes unpunished even they know that he/she lies , or the punishment so minimal and sometime doesnt exist that so many poeples will take the minimal chance to abuse the justice system for their agenda.
    let,s take the khan case, if she lies and admited lying which would never happend, she will get max 1 year in jail,otherwise she just can claim it look like him , and she will be out withount any problem .if they put him in trial and was not able to proof his innocent, he will get 25 years in jail.

    May 21, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • Thomas

      Well, more girls have come out and claimed he was extremely improper. Big chances this guy is actually guilty. What a creep – let's hope he goes to jail for a long time.

      May 24, 2011 at 3:33 am |
  18. Michael

    People need to go back to basic bible truth,jesus said no man will know the day or hour for when the son of man will come..This is one more false profit we were warned about please veryone wake up we are know where near the "end of times" quit putting faith in what man samys and do what God says,,the world be be so much better off,read your bible the world is NOT comming to an end,and doubt it will be in our time at all.the world does not end or get destroyed by God,read and see for yourself

    May 21, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Michael, I never heard of the Camping character until the last few articles were posted on this site. I suspect he's a narcissists at least. Then we've got the Arnold situation full blown in the headlines, along with Strauss-Kahn, not to mention Edwards and the other Governor that took off to Argentina. All blinded by the sins of pride and lust.


      May 21, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  19. 2 BlackCats

    Miss Eisner is absolutely correct. It is truly a male issue. And also an issue of power. I couldn't happen but think that as a Catholic, we have our own insidious problems with powerful males in the clergy taking advantage of vulnerable children. Some powerful men are just disgusting, pathetic human beings that prey on the weak.. regardless of religion.

    May 21, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • Andre

      Absolutely. Just look at that politician who recently Terminated his marriage.

      May 21, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Narcissism is NOT just a male dominated sin. My life was destroyed by both female and male sociopaths blinded by the sins of pride, lust, lies. Of course, with those sins fueling their engine, came the power and control issues. No breaking mechanisms in any of them along with no remorse.


      May 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  20. overdue

    He's lucky to get arrested in the US and not in France.

    Over there, their legal code says "innocence must be proven."

    Here in the US, we have "innocent until proven guilty."

    For the French to complain about our system is either ignorant or mischievous.

    His PR team is doing everything to make the US justice system look bad, but frankly, it's fairer over here than there.

    May 21, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • Andre

      I agree. I mean come on, what do they feed prisoners of there? Stinky cheese and 2010 vintage wine?

      May 21, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • tomfrog

      "Over there, their legal code says "innocence must be proven.""

      That's COMPLETELY untrue.

      Article 9 of the "Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen", august 26th, 1789
      « tout homme étant présumé innocent jusqu'à ce qu'il ait été déclaré coupable... »
      (every man being presumed innocent until declared guilty)
      And this is of course detailed in the different law books —code pénal, code civil, ...—, notably the way to declare the person guilty (free public trial, lawers, etc...)

      May 22, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
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