Yes, Jim Cramer is Jewish. But Jews have a long history of internecine conflict, and so it came as little surprise when Cramer appeared on “The Daily Show” last week and Jon Stewart (neé Lieberman—correction: Liebowitz) raked him over the coals for his advice during the financial crisis. (For deeper reading about Jew vs. Jew tensions, read Samuel G. Freedman’s book by that name.)
In many ways these two men are mirror images of each other: both are from modest, middle class Jewish upbringings. Both are from the northeast (Stewart from New York and New Jersey, Cramer from Pennsylvannia). Both went to good east coast schools (Stewart attended William and Mary and Cramer graduated from some place called Harvard). They are scrappy outsiders: combative, quick-witted, engaging (okay, I can’t say Cramer is my idea of fun, but he has his fans). These two middle-aged, affluent white Jewish males are similar on so many counts, from their outsized ambitions to their modest heights.
And yet, and yet… in their souls, in their values, they represent the twin poles of Jewish existence, almost to the point of caricature.
Think of Cramer as representing the need for wealth and the security it brings. In Jewish history, this was embodied in the stories not just of our patriarchs like Abraham, who may have started poor but ended up as pretty well-off, but of the kings, who pursued wealth and palaces and women. Judaism is not a religion of poverty and self-abnegation. It accords no special place to the meek and the poor. In fact, the ancient rabbis made laws to protect the rights of the rich, who may be unjustly treated by courts sympathizing with the impoverished.
And yet… Confronting the tradition of our patriarchs and kings are our prophets.
Guess who’s the prophet.
Stewart and Cramer spar after the jump. I recommend watching it: