I don’t know whether Tim Giethner, President Obama’s Treasury Secretary, is Jewish, and I certainly don’t care. (Update: He’s not). Which is why I was surprised, and pretty creeped out, to see that the search query “geithner jewish” is one of Google’s top phrases surrounding his name. Here’s a screenshot from Google Insights for Search, which uses Google’s search data to show trends:
Data like this are triggering a ‘spidey sense’ among Jews about rising anti-semitism. (One blog doesn’t even seem to think it’s outrageous to ask: “Are we seeing the collapse of the Jewish Empires that control much of the Financial resources on Wall Street?“) Last year at Rosh Hashanah service, my rabbi actually came right out and discussed openly the prominence of Jewish names in the financial world – many contributors to our financial debacle in fall of 2008. And there was much debate and discussion in the Jewish community regarding Bernie Madoff: was it appropriate that he was often identified as being Jewish in the press? Considering that his victims included Yeshiva University and many Jewish charities, we must acknowledge that his Jewishness is relevant to the story.
Back to Tim Geithner. The prominence of “jewish” searches relating to his name might reveal a paranoia or anti-semitism, or (and I hope this is true!), it might just be other Jewish people wondering if he’s one of the tribe. The irony here is that the Jew-haters and many Jews alike will claim that a disproportionate number of prominent, successful people are Jewish. It’s one thing, I suppose, on which they can both agree.