The Shmooze

The Business Secrets of the Talmud

By Michael Kaminer

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Greek clerics may blame us for wrecking their country’s economy, as the Forward reported last week. But in China, Jews are hailed as “very smart, very clever, and very good at business,” according to Newsweek.

“The apparent affection for Jewishness has led to a surprising trend in publishing over the last few years: books purporting to reveal the business secrets of the Talmud that capitalize on the widespread impression among Chinese that attributes of Judaism lead to success in the financial arts,” the magazine reports. Business-book shelves are dominated by titles like “Crack the Talmud: 101 Jewish Business Rules”, “The Illustrated Jewish Wisdom Book”, and “Know All of the Money-Making Stories of the Talmud”; a Talmud hotel in Taiwan even implies guests can absorb the holy book’s wisdom through osmosis. “Inspired by the Talmud theory, the owner uses red interior to add a splash of fashion and professionalism,” exclaims the hotel’s web site. “In each room, there’s also a copy of Talmud-Business Success Bible for anyone who would like to experience the Talmud way of becoming successful.”

The Chinese perception of Jews as “expert moneymakers does not have the religion-based antagonism that often accompanies the same stereotype elsewhere in the world,” Newsweek writes, and probably had its start in the mid-19th century, when investors – many of them Jewish - began flocking to China. Today, the richest non-Chinese in greater China is a Jew named Michael Kadoorie, whose family’s roots there stretch back two centuries, according to Newsweek. But the Chinese admiration for Jews “is not entirely benign,” Newsweek reports. Two Talmud-inspired business books feature a fictitious quote by George Soros: “No one can defeat the Jews, unless they’ve read our holy book the Talmud”. And Han Bing, the pseudonymous author of Crack the Talmud, told Newsweek he’s never met a Jew.


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