Friday, November 14, 2003 | return to: editorial


28th richest man in America, George Soros, needs a Jewish connection

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No one can remember if billionaire George Soros ever spoke before a Jewish audience. And even though Forbes magazine ranks Soros as the 28th richest man in America with a fortune of $7 billion, he gives little to Jewish causes, and many Jews don't even know he is one of them.

So it came as a surprise when he agreed to speak earlier this month at a New York meeting of Jewish philanthropists who belong to the Jewish Funders Network.

Unfortunately, what he had to say is not something they expected to hear.

JTA, the Jewish news service, reported that Soros told listeners: "There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that."

If "we change that direction, then anti-Semitism also will diminish," said Soros, a Hungarian-born U.S. Jew who escaped the Holocaust by fleeing to London as a child.

Soros was implying that the hard-line policies of Ariel Sharon's government, and support of that stance by President Bush, have stirred things up for Jews worldwide — with anti-Israel feelings spilling over into anti-Semitic outbursts.

There are many who believe what he said is blaming the victim, when anti-Semitism existed long before there was a state of Israel to blame it on. However, we also recognize that the upsurge in anti-Semitism in Western Europe is mostly being perpetrated by Muslim immigrants, whose ire is stoked by images of Palestinian victimization.

Soros is entitled to his opinion, and he gave it, perhaps even offering insight into why he does not identify strongly with Jewish causes.

However, given that Soros rarely addresses the Jewish community, his words could have been a chance for a real exchange, an opening for Jewish leaders to ask why he does so little Jewish philanthropy. Instead, it just made Soros more of an outsider and resulted in some Jewish leaders calling his speech inappropriate and incorrect.

Interestingly, he also held himself to blame for anti-Semitic actions during his speech.

"I'm also very concerned about my own role because the new anti-Semitism holds that the Jews rule the world," said Soros, whose projects and funding have influenced governments and promoted various political causes worldwide. "As an unintended consequence of my actions," he added, "I also contribute to that image."

Soros obviously feels more attached to his birthplace, Eastern Europe, than to Israel. But there are plenty of Israeli organizations he could donate to that are working toward furthering democracy, advocating co-existence and human rights, the values Soros espouses.


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