The Jewish people have a stereotype reputation for being urbane, sophisticated, intelligent and achievers. As stereotypes go that one is probably pretty well on target. As a group whether religious or ethnic they have a remarkable record of success wherever they have existed. There is also a stereotype among the literati that the Jews have fared badly in the South and that there is a long history of anti-semitism. There is that Upper West Side notion that Jews aren’t welcome in the South and that the South is not progressive enough to foster the right atmosphere for Jews to flourish there. Somehow they believe that the phrase Southern Jew would be an oxymoron. Let’s take a look at that perception through some history.
The first Jewish member of the US Senate was man from Florida. He was David Levy Yulee in the 1840’s. I can assure that was long before Miami became a winter time mecca for the the Jews from the Upper West Side. You might find that hard to believe but you can verify it. It was not a Jew from New York or any of the other northern states. There was in fact a vibrate Jewish community in several of the Southern States–principally in Charleston, Atlanta, New Orleans and Richmond. You do remember the movie “Driving Miss Daisy” don’t you? That was a fairly accurate portrayal of the Jewish southern attachments although fast forwarded into the 20th century.
The second Jewish member of the US Senate was from Lousiana. He was Judah Benjamin. In served in the US Senate during the 1850’s until the secession by the southern states. During his service as a Senator he was also offered a position on the US Supreme Court. The first offer to a Jew to serve on the Court. He declined. In fact he was offered that position twice by Fillmore and Pierce and declined both offers. He had been a plantation owner and slave owner. He had sold out his interest years before the War Between the States began. He however was a loyal son of the South. When he first went to the Senate he challenged another Senator to a duel over a perceived slight. But an apology was extended and the duel did not take place. The offender was non other than Jefferson Davis. Not only was the duel cancelled they became very close friends.
When the War Between the States began Benjamin served in several important positions in the Cabinet under Davis. He was Attorney General, then served as Secretary of War and lastly was the Secretary of State for the Confederacy. He had attended Yale law school but had not graduated and finished his study of the law in New Orleans where he was admitted to the bar. By all accounts he was an eloquent speaker and orator. This was an age of oratory. He was a bit out of his element as Secretary of War because he lacked that martial background and often quarrelled with the generals. Failure to reinforce Roanoake led to his departure from that post but Davis was not about to let him leave; he was too valuable a mind for the South to lose and thus he became Secretary of State. He remained in that position until the very end. He was with Davis when they had to evacuate Richmond in April of 1865 and rode the train to Georgia. That was a terrifying and frantic escape with the Yankees hard on their heels each step of the way. He was in charge of the gold bullion that they were taking with them to try to fund the continuing struggle with Joe Johnston’s army until news of his surrender followed Appomattox by a couple of weeks. The South had no son more loyal and devoted to the Cause than Judah Benjamin. At war’s end he made his escape through Florida and then to the Carribbean islands and eventually to England. His wife and child had been there for years. He died in France almost 20 years after the War’s end.
He was a respected member of the Cabinet and government of the Confederacy. Stereotypes in my humble opinion do have a grain of truth every time. But they are not permenant markers indelibly laid down and should always be given thought before accepted. It is hoped this account will make some pause and think anew their perceptions of people. That perception may bear the test of reflection but if reflection shows it wanting then it is best to refine one’s opinions. Facts and history are stubborn things to paraphrase Reagan and the truth is there for all who seek it.
The news is that the GM unions will receive 39% of the restructured company for its 10 billion in benefits debts; that Government, Inc. will own 50% and the bondholders will get 10% for their 27 billion in debts. Many of those bondholders are the very banks that the Government forced to accept TARP money and now won’t let them repay. Let’s see–one bank equals zero votes on election day. One union equals tens of thousands of votes and organizers on election day. Wonder how the guy in the white house came up with that formula? I also wonder how Government, Inc. the “all everything” with multiple conflicts of interest will make those banks log that new
GM stock–as a loss? Will Government, Inc. then pummel them even more for having a bad balance sheet? That is only a couple of matters to ponder as you assess the current intrusion of government into our economy. That solution is not the market at work, it is the market manipulated and contorted by government to meet political and ideological objectives.