The lawn mower and the Jewish question*

It’s no surprise to see rightwing televangelist Pat Robertson indulging in musty stereotypes about wealthy Jews. But it’s something of a surprise to see a rabbi abetting him.

Robertson introduced [Rabbi Daniel] Lapin by asking: “What is it about Jewish people that make them prosper financially? You almost never find Jews tinkering with their cars on the weekends or mowing their lawns. That’s what Daniel Lapin says and there’s a very good reason for that, and it lies within the business secrets of the Bible.”

Later in the interview, Robertson said that Jews are “polishing diamonds, not fixing cars.”

“When you correctly said in Jewish neighborhoods you do not find Jews lying under their cars on Sunday afternoons, no, I pay one of the best mechanics around to take care of my BMW, I’d be crazy to take my time doing it myself,” Lapin said. “Or for me to mow my lawn, I’m the worse lawnmower in the world, but the young man who lives down the street from me, he’s one of the best and he’s happy to do it and I’m happy.”

Speaking AsAJew, I can assure Robertson and Lapin that when I was a homeowner in St. Louis, I personally mowed my own modest lawn on weekends– as my father did before me, until he started sending me out to do it.

Admittedly I haven’t done much car tinkering, but when I lived in Israel I took my car in for service at garages where it was tinkered with by other Jews.

And I’ve never once polished a diamond.

Lapin went on to claim that there is no Hebrew word for “retirement” (?פרישה) or “adolescent” (?מתבגר) or “fair” (?הוגן), because such concepts are bad ideas.

I don’t believe Pat Robertson is a nasty antisemite. In fact in his own muddled way, he seems to be a sort of philo-semite (the dividing line between philo-semitism and antisemitism sometimes being uncomfortably thin). And like most conservative evangelicals in the US, he is a strong supporter of Israel, or at least the rightwing version of it.

But hosting a rabbi trying to sell Christians a book which purports to reveal the ancient Jewish wisdom about how to make lots of money (however well-meaning) can only reinforce some ideas with a disturbing history.

(*See here.)