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Matzah Ball Soup for the Chinese Soul

The Jews and their excellentness

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Sigmund Freud and cigar.()

The New Yorker reports (subscription-only) on the progress Freudianism has made in China.* And a fantastic Newsweek article (via Atlantic Wire) chronicles the plethora of Chinese books that, seeking to cash in on the widespread Chinese perception that Jews are good at making money (wonder where they got that idea?), cast the Talmud as something of a business Bible. “There’s even a Talmud hotel in Taiwan inspired by ‘the Talmud’s concept of success,’” we learn. “The guides are like the Chinese equivalents of books such as Sun Tzu and the Art of Business.”

The article clarifies several things. Like that this Chinese perception of the Jews is fundamentally different from the anti-Semitic perception of Jews as nefarious (and highly successful) worshippers of Mammon, and in fact has its roots in the history of Chinese business and culture. Also that the Talmud is in fact in no way whatsoever actually a book about how to make money.

But the Chinese really do dig the Jews! According to Google, the fourth-most-asked “why?” question in Mandarin in 2009 was “Why are Jews excellent?”. Which, of course, begs the question: Why are Jews excellent? To the comments with you!

Selling the Talmud as a Business Guide [Newsweek]
Meet Dr. Freud [The New Yorker]
Related: Kosher Chinese

* Almost two years ago, the author of the piece, Evan Osnos, noted China’s bizarre philo-Semitism, including one book, Why Are the Jews Capable of Making Money? Unlocking the World’s Foremost Merchants’ Money-Making Secrets.

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Chana Batya says:

I find this topic creepy. All groups tend to find themselves excellent and are delighted when others agree. But for us to count the ways seems, well, too Chosen People’ish for me.

Dan Klein says:

Chana, I kind of agree with you… But on the other hand, isn’t it nice that we are the most beloved of our new overlords? Moreover, I’m so applying for a job as a lecturer at the Talmudic hotel. All my lectures will begin, “To answer the question, “Why are the Jews excellent, first we must question, why am I excellent?” Then I will enumerate the ways.

Benjamin Bilski says:

“Begs the question” does not mean “raises the question” — which is what you meant.

“Begging the question” refers to a logical circularity in assuming your conclusion. It means something completely different from how you used it.


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Matzah Ball Soup for the Chinese Soul

The Jews and their excellentness

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