The Greedy Jew is a Dead Horse Trope about Jewish people being greedy and malicious. The stereotype exists for a number of reasons, but mainly derives from trade restrictions placed upon Jews in medieval and early modern Europe. Jews weren't allowed to join trade guilds or own land in most countries, which led most Jewish men to enter professions that didn't require guild membership such as banking. Since Jewish holy law doesn't forbid Jews to charge interest, at least to non-Jews, Jews became associated with usurious and often exploitative banking procedures, even though Christian bankers such as the de' Medicis did the same thing.
Thus works written or set in these time periods would show Jews being evil and receiving Karmic Deaths for it. Eventually someone took it to the next level and wrote a conspiracy theory of Jews controlling the banking system. Believe it or not, even the garden variety of anti-Semite didn't buy that lie, but the Nazis weren't your garden variety anti-Semites and they turned up the stereotype to eleven.note To the point that they claimed the Jews were both plutarchic super-capitalists in control of world finance, and "Judeo-Bolshevists" in charge of the Soviet Union and trying to bring about a socialist world revolution. The incompatibility of these conflicting notions seems to have escaped them.
As you might guess, anything used to justify Nazism fell out of favor after roughly 1945, which is why you don't usually see this trope being played straight in the West any more - except by the odd neo-Nazi or /pol/ poster.note It can be hard to tell the difference. Though, sometimes the stereotype is used against centralized banking (see above re: conspiracy theories and the banking system), which caused many troubles (Without necessarily having Jewish people involved). Latter-day invocations of this trope are usually used to characterize the person expressing this sentiment as an anti-Semite.
These days, it's been replaced with the Lighter and SofterAll Jews Are Cheapskates, which even Jews are willing to joke about.
Unfortunately, most of these old stereotypes are now applied to Arabs in more modern media (and the trope itself has yet to die in media from the Arab world). There's also a lesser-known (at least in the West) Armenian variant to this trope. Armenians were known as the Jews of the Middle East for a long time (until Jews came back to the Middle East). The trope was used to justify a genocide against them too, before the Holocaust happened.
Of course, modern-day portrayals carry Unfortunate Implications.
Compare The Scrooge, Corrupt Corporate Executive, Dastardly Whiplash
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
The original plot for Angel Cop involved a Jewish conspiracy to take over Japan (this was removed in the dub).
It may not have been the best design decision to give the Merchant◊ in Citadels such a hooked nose. And greedy grin.
From Watchmen: An editorial cartoon in the extremist New Frontiersman magazine depicts a chained-up superhero facing giant, ethnic-stereotype personifications of corruption. Among these is "Big Biz", depicted as a stereotypical Jewish banker, dollar signs in his eyes, taunting the superhero with "Oy vey! I know vhere you liff!"
In the original version of the Tintin book The Shooting Star (published in Nazi occupied Belgium during WWII), the main antagonist was an American banker named Blumenstein whose physical features closely resemble Nazi Jewish caricatures. Hergé later tried to remedy this by changing the banker's nationality to that of a fictional Banana Republic and changed his name to "Bohlwinkel ", after a Dutch dialect word for "sweet shop". Unfortunately, as Hergé found out later, Bohlwinkel is also a Jewish surname but that remained unaltered. It also featured some stereotyped greedy Jews rubbing their hands and gloating over the fact that if the world ended, they wouldn't have to repay their creditors. Unsurprisingly, this frame is cut in later editions.
Some Nazi propaganda films are naturally filled with the trope:
Jew Süss is an example, though the main claim is that Jews rape Aryan women, which is elaborated on towards the end - this is in-keeping with Josef Goebbels's belief that propaganda should be as subtle as possible, so that the people maintain the illusion that their ideas are the product of rational thought and are therefore more likely to commit themselves to them as they are seen as being something personal to them rather than something the state hammers into them.
Der ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew). It was a notorious flop, both because it was incredibly boring, artistically inept and shockingly crude and sensationalist when compared to Jew Süss, which was an engaging period drama with costumes, interesting plot line to engage the audience and starred leading German actors of the time. It also had some disgusting scenes of Jewish ritual slaughter that turned the audience's stomach. Even some Germans who had lived under years of Nazi rule found it absurd.
For the most part, the film was viewed by party supporters and Nazi organizations like the Hitler Youth and the SS. It is widely noted that SS troops headed for the Eastern front to carry out the Final Solution were "invited" by Himmler to watch the film.
In Cecil B. DeMille's The King Of Kings, Caiaphas, head of the Sanhedrin and a guy who really doesn't like Jesus, is said to care more about revenue than religion. (He is also portrayed physically as a crude anti-Semitic stereotype.)
Borat portrays "Kazakhstan" as being rife with this and many other stereotypes about Jewish people. Sacha Baron Cohen plays Borat's antisemitism to the hilt in an effort to see who will casually agree with him. Many viewers who didn't understand the full joke failed to realize that Cohen is himself a practicing Jew, granting him a claim at N-Word Privileges.
In Harold Lloyd's Safety Last!, Harold buys a chain for his girlfriend from a shifty jeweler with a hooked nose called Silverstein, who constantly wrings his hands in avarice. The soundtrack shifts into Klezmer-type music here, just so we get the point. Harold, embarrassed, starts imitating the man's hand-wringing. The joke is still amusing to modern audiences, because of the added irony of knowing that Harold Lloyd himself is Jewish.
The Turkish film Valley of the Wolves: Iraq features Gary Busey as a Jewish-American doctor who harvests the organs of prisoners of war for sale to the American elite.
Slovak film The Shop On Main Street is set in 1942, when Slovakia was a fascist puppet state of Nazi Germany. The protagonist's wife sincerely believes in this trope. She's overjoyed when he is assigned custody of a shop that has been taken away from its Jewish owner. She sincerely believes that the woman who owns the shop must have a hidden pile of money somewhere, and keeps pestering her husband to find it.
In Lacombe, Lucien, a French film about a teenaged boy working with the French Gestapo, one of Les Collaborateurs says of the advancing Allies that "I don't want to be liberated by the Rothschild bank."
A fleeing Taliban member, desperate for water, was plodding through the Afghanistan desert when he saw something far off in the distance. Hoping to find water, he hurried toward the object, only to find a little old Jewish man at a small stand selling ties. The Taliban asked, "Do you have water?" The Jew replied, "I have no water. Would you like to buy a tie? They are only $5." The Taliban shouted, "Idiot! Infidel!! I do not need an over-priced tie. I need water! I should kill you, but I must find water first!" "OK," said the old Jew," it does not matter that you do not want to buy a tie, and that you hate me. I will show you that I am bigger than that. If you continue over that hill to the east for about two miles, you will find a lovely restaurant. It has all the ice cold water you need. Shalom." Muttering, the Taliban staggered away over the hill. Several hours later he staggered back, almost dead. "Your fucking brother won't let me in without a tie!"
I was told this one by an old Orthodox man over Rosh Hashanah dinner: Moishe and Reuven were two extremely poor Jews living in Russia way back when. One winter, they found themselves freezing and on the verge of starvation. Moishe said to Reuven, "Remember the church in town? The priest was offering five rubles to any Jew who converts. One of us should go and convert to get money to eat!" They draw straws, and Reuven ends up being the one to convert. He goes in the church, and he's there for a long time, several hours. When he finally comes out, Moishe calls out "Reuven, Reuven, did you do it? Did you get the five rubles?" To which Reuven replies, "Tsk, you Jews, always thinking about the money."
Two beggars are sitting next to one another on a Dublin street, one holding up a cross and the other holding up a David’s star. People pass by, sneering at the one with the David’s star and giving money to the one with the cross to spite him. Finally, a man comes up to the one with the David’s star and says, ‘You know this is a Catholic country, right? You’ll never get any money holding that thing up.’ So that beggar turns to the other and says, ‘Hey Moishe, look at this goy trying to teach Jews how to make money!’
Q- why does the British fifty pence coin have seven sides? A - so you can get it out of a Jew's hand with a spanner.
Fagin of Oliver Twist is a miserly Jewish crook who persuades homeless Christian boys to steal for him, even though many of them get executed for their crimes. Dickens claimed that he made Fagin a Jew because he believed that most of the real London "kidsmen" were in fact Jewish. After befriending some Jews and learning how much the character offended them, Dickens attempted amends by editing out some of the Jewish references and stereotypes. In Our Mutual Friend, he essays an Author's Saving Throw with Mr. Riah, who initially appears to be yet another Greedy Jew, but then turns out to be a subversion.
Yankel from Taras Bulba. Though he is potrayed as a greedy coward, he is pretty much Only Sane Man among the characters, because eponymous Cossack warlord is a bloodthirsty warmonger, and other Cossacks are potrayed as ruthless warriors who love nothing more then fight and also Rape, Pillage, and Burn.
The Jew Among Thorns (one of Grimm's Fairy Tales). After torturing a Jewish merchant for all the people he has undoubtedly swindled by forcing him to dance in a thornbush with a magic fiddle, the hero extorts the merchant for all of his valuables. Once in town, the hero is arrested and accused of stealing the merchant's things. The hero responds that the merchant gave them to him, and is promptly laughed at since a Jew would never give away his things like that. Just before he is executed, however, the hero is granted the request to play his magic fiddle once more. Upon doing so, everyone around him bursts into Involuntary Dance. The hero threatens to keep playing until the merchant admits to all his crimes. The merchant finally confesses, and is executed, and everyone important lived happily ever after.
Isaac of York in Ivanhoe is somewhere between an example and a subversion. The character is a rich Jewish moneylender who clearly loves his wealth and seems to have an inexhaustible supply of hidden money caches, yet he spends most of the story trying to keep his daughter safe and repeatedly proclaims that he values her above all his wealth. He appears to be based on Ephraim Lópes Pereira d'Aguilar, 2nd Baron d'Aguilar, an eccentric Sephardic Jewish nobleman known for being stingy, hiding large amounts of money throughout his home, and for being a strange yet loving man.
Beau Geste features a particularly unpleasant grotesque Jewish pawnbroker stereotype. Made egregious by the fact that the scene is completely extraneous to the plot, and seems to have been thrown in just to have a chance to emphasize that Jews are filthy misers.
Subverted in the Swedish 19th century novel Drottningens juvelsmycke, with its greedy, stereotypically Jewish jeweler Benjamin Cohen. He is only pretending to be Jewish. Actually he represents another national stereotype - the evil Dane.
Both invoked and subverted in Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now. The Ambiguously Jewish Melmotte fits the stereotype, but the definitely Jewish Mr. Brehgert is arguably the most honorable character in the book.
Isaacs the Jewish theater owner in The Picture of Dorian Gray is a particularly anti-semitic example even for Victorian times. He's repeatedly described as old, vile and disgusting. Though he claims to have a passion for Shakespeare, his productions are cheap and shabby. He's obsequious towards high-class customers and wears an enormous diamond on his shirt.
Often associated with this trope, but somewhat different in implication, are the ambitious Villain Protagonists of several 20th-century novels by Jewish authors:
Meyer Hirsch from Samuel Ornitz's Haunch, Paunch and Jowl: The Making of a Professional Jew (originally published as an anonymous memoir).
Harry Bogen from Jerome Weidman's I Can Get It For You Wholesale.
Sammy Glick from Budd Schulberg's What Makes Sammy Run?.
The otherwise heartbreakingly beautiful Decadent tale "The Egg of the Albatross" by Eric, Count von Stenbock, is marred by his having made the villain of the piece a "certain Portuguese Jew" called Mendes. He's not only a slick, greedy bastard, but Stenbock drops a couple of hints that he's after more from the little girl than her albatross egg.
Invoked in John Moore's Fractured Fairy Tale, The Unhandsome Prince—this is one of the reasons the King and Prince Kenneth (not the prince of the title) cite to support their plan to kick the Jews out of the kingdom and confiscate their property (neatly solving the family's money problems).
The Malik, villain of Kazaam is the Arab version. He has a stereotypical appearance, is introduced with ominous arabic music, and wants al the money in the world. Reviewers havenotedthis.
In McTeague There is a stereotypically greedy Jewish person named Zerkow who LOVES gold. He loves hearing about gold, he loves seeing gold, he loves touching gold. One of his most frequent companions is a lady named Maria Macapa, The Ophelia of the story but he only wants to talk to her because she has a tendency to ramble on about a fortune her family once owned, particularly a few sets of pure Gold dishes. The two marry and She tells him the story several times until he becomes convinced that she has the fortune hidden somewhere and that the location is somehow hidden within the story. Sadly on the particular day he asks her to tell itShe denies that she ever said such things and calls him crazy. The results aren't pretty. even when you consider his fate.
Sons of Anarchy brushes against this trope. Bobby, the Jew of the gang, seems to be their official accountant. In one episode, he states that his father was a mob accountant who was skilled at skimming off the top. On the other hand, he is opposed to the gang getting in the drug trade, despite all the money it'll make.
Though his accounting skills are pretty much the only stereotypical jewish thing about him, and the other gang members aren't any less interested in making a buck than he is.
The Wire features Maurice Levy, a corrupt lawyer for various drug gangs who is probably the most despicable character in the series. Not only does he break all the cardinal rules of his profession, suborning perjury, grand jury tampering, advising his clients in their criminal operations, and at one point taking part in a conspiracy to commit murder, he actively hopes his clients will be arrested because it means more billable hours for him. He gets off scot-free at the end. The best the police can manage is to arrest his clients in the middle of the night to pull him away from his wife's brisket. Show creator David Simon, a Jew himself, says that he is based on several real Baltimore drug laywers, all of whom were Jewish, and rhetorically asks how he can pull a punch where his own "tribe" is concerned when his show features greedy whites, greedy blacks, greedy foreigners, and greedy Christians?
The Doctor Who story "The Web of Fear" has the highly unfortunate character of Julius Silverstein, an extremely stereotyped Jewish art collector. He responds to suggestions that it might be dangerous to have a deactivated alien killbot in his collection with accusations that the person who is worried is trying to con it out of him, gloats about how "priceless" it is, and quickly gets killed when it predictably gets reactivated.
Voltaire's "Coin-Operated Goi" uses this as its punchline, describing the efforts of a Jew to convert the eponymous goi into "a coin-operated Jew, just like me and you".
"Weird Al" Yankovic's "Pretty Fly For a Rabbi" plays with this in its line "the parents pay the mohel and he gets to keep the tip," as it is actually a thinly-veiled circumcision joke.
Bleak Expectations: Subverted with a disguised Mr. Benevolent in one episode, as a Fagin-impersonation named Abraham Bagel, who talks with a ludicrously exaggerated Jewish accent... only he's meant to be Catholic.
"Bagel": Yes, we're not all money-grubbing Catholics like the books portray.
Shylock from William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. In an interesting contrast to the way "evil Jews" were generally portrayed in Elizabethan theatre, Shylock is a complex and sympathetic character who's not seeking money, but revenge for insults. The play was bashed at the time for not giving Shylock a Karmic Death, opting instead for a "happier" ending in which Shylock is forcibly converted and his daughter married to a Christian. The debate as to whether Shylock is intended to be a straightforward villainous Jew or a sympathetic portrayal is still raging. Either way, antisemites have used it as propaganda for centuries.
It should be noted that he doesn't hate the stereotype because he doesn't think Jews are greedy, but because "who doesn't like money?".
South Park plays with this trope, especially in the perceptions of the antisemitic Eric Cartman.
In "Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow," Cartman claims that all Jews have a bag of gold around their neck and tries to extort Kyle out of his. At first you think that Cartman is just being his usual crazy, bigoted self, until we discover that Kyle really does have one, as well as a decoy bag that Cartman also anticipates.
In "The Death Camp of Tolerance," the boys are taken to the Museum of Tolerance where they are shown bigotry in its various forms. Cartman finds the various stereotypes on display to be awesome and immediately beelines for the Jewish stereotype on display, who is depicted as greedily clutching a bag of money (see the picture above).
Disney's "Three Little Pigs" cartoon has the Big Bad Wolf dress up as a stereotypical Jewish peddler and try to con his way into the pigs' house. Later airings of the cartoon re-dub the Wolf's voice to remove the Yiddish accent that he affects.