Culture Ethics Politics

By ‘New York values’ did Ted Cruz mean ‘Jewish’? (COMMENTARY)

Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidate U.S. Senator Ted Cruz addresses attendees at the RedState Gathering in Atlanta, Georgia, on August 8, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Tami Chappell *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CRUZ-PP, originally transmitted on August 25, 2015.
Republican U.S. presidential candidates businessman Donald Trump (L) and Senator Ted Cruz speak simultaneously at the Fox Business Network Republican presidential candidates debate in North Charleston, South Carolina, January 14, 2016. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Chris Keane

Republican U.S. presidential candidates businessman Donald Trump, left, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz speak simultaneously at the Fox Business Network Republican presidential candidates debate in North Charleston, S.C., on Jan. 14, 2016. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Chris Keane

(RNS) I’m Jewish. And while it’s true I wasn’t born in New York City to native New York parents, which according to English common law precludes my being considered a natural-born New Yorker, I grew up in Montclair, N.J., from which my father commuted into the City every day to work, eventually at The New York Times.

I know from New York values.

So Ted Cruz goes on Massachusetts radio and says that Donald Trump “embodies” them. And at Thursday’s (Jan. 14) Republican presidential debate, he doubles down and says “everyone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro-gay marriage, focus around money and the media.”

Trump wins the hand by playing the 9/11 card: “When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York.”

All Cruz can do is lamely clap.

“New York” certainly can serve as code for “Jew” throughout what The New Yorker‘s Saul Steinberg (yes, a Jew) famously portrayed as the American Outback — in national politics no less than in other venues.

To Jesse Jackson, the city was ipso facto a Jewish place called Hymietown. As he confided to The Washington Post‘s Milton Coleman when he was running for president in 1984, “That’s all Hymie wants to talk about, is Israel; every time you go to Hymietown, that’s all they want to talk about.” When Coleman reported the remark, all hell broke loose.

Or take the iconic TV show “West Wing,” which in its inaugural episode had an irate Christian conservative say to Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman, “It was only a matter of time with you, Josh. That New York sense of humor was just a little ….”

“She meant Jewish,” Communications Director Toby Ziegler says to Lyman. “When she said New York sense of humor, she was talking about you and me.”

Now I don’t think Cruz was referring to Trump as having a Jewish sense of humor, though I must confess that when I hear his voice I sometimes think I’m listening to Billy Crystal.

Nor was the junior senator from Texas denigrating New York for being all about Israel — since when it comes to foreign policy Cruz is all about Israel himself.

No, the key term in his debate explanation is “money.” You’ll find plenty of social liberalism in, say, Cambridge, Mass., where I was born and went to college and, like Cruz, earned my professional degree. Cambridge is not notably Jewish. But that “focus around money and the media”? That was “New York = Jews” all the way. Don’t kid yourself.

(Mark Silk is professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college’s Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a contributing editor at RNS)

About the author

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service


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  • With all due respect, Ted Cruz’s fans have no idea what a Jew is. they only know in the Darbyist eschatology 144,000 Jews will convert to Christianity and then be killed as part of that which must come to pass to come to pass, i.e., rule by right-wing Christian oafs like Cruz. I think the reference to “New York’ is more about gays (After all, Broadway…), non-Cuban minorities, atheists, Muslims (Ground Zero Mosque), and the super rich in the entertainment business. This isn’t 1915 and there’s no equivalent to Leo Frank. sure there’s a teeny tiny element of anti-Semitism there – the target population to which they are niche marketing hates Jews along with everybody else not exactly like them, but that’s it. And the cozying up with Netanyahu provides their plausible deniability.

  • “New York values” is simply a generalized code phrase for the sometimes extremist liberalism that various New York residents (of ALL colors and ALL belief systems), are well-known for. Does anybody remember the following public statement (January 2014) from New York Governor Cuomo?

    “Who are they? Right to life, pro-assault weapons, anti-gay — if that’s who they are, they have no place in the state of New York because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”

    So if you’re holding conservative political opinions on hot issues, whether you’re Jewish, Christian or None, YOU’RE NOT EVEN SUPPOSED TO LIVE IN NEW YORK, according to the Governor of New York. You’re being told to LEAVE the state.

    So yes, Ted Cruz is correct. “New York values” is simply an Equal Opportunity buzz-phrase about New York in general. It’s not about Judaism. It’s about the over-the-cliff LIBERALISM that is rapidly putting this sin-sodden country in the Rock-Bottom category!!

  • Mark, when you’re right, you’re right, but not here.

    New York’s reputation as a place where money dominates was intact long before the city became associated with Jews.

    And the reason is simple: New York has long been America’s financial capital. And given human nature, whatever a city has, it will worship. Thus Washington, DC is about power and so in Washington, it’s power that is idolized. In Boston, it is knowledge & learning, since some of the world’s finest universities are there. Thus at least among Boston’s elite, it’s intellect and knowledge that become the idol.

    So to say that New York is about money is hardly proof of anti-Semitism by itself. We need more info to make a judgment about anyone who makes such an assertion.

    Second, of course, Cruz’s intended target was Trump. To say it’s Jews violates Occam’s Razor. Trump isn’t Jewish. He is part German, part Scot, and nominally Presbyterian.

  • Cruz’s goal was to push back against Trump’s imbecilic birther nonsense. He realized that Trump fit some of the well-known negative stereotypes about New York and so he decided to link the two.

    New York is a paradoxical place — a place with an exceedingly rotten political culture and bad manners on the one hand, but some of the most sincere and hardworking and conversational people on the planet on the other.

    It was bone-headed to try to use New York to get at Trump, but some times even smart people do bone-headed things.

    The irony is that people who know Cruz say he is far more like New York than he is like much of the rest of the country. He’s a Princeton and Harvard grad, a nonstop talker, abrasive, uber-driven and ambitious, a lover of conversation about anything and everything, intense, impatient, competitive, futuristic, theatrical, part Italian and Irish(mother’s side), pragmatic, stubborn as a mule, a needling sense of humor…

  • Trump appeared on Meet The Press on October 24, 1999, where he had several exchanges with Tim Russert:

    RUSSERT: Do you think gays should be allowed to be married?

    TRUMP: It’s something I haven’t given lots of thought to. I live in New York City, there is a tremendous movement on to have and allow gay marriage. It’s just something that is too premature for me to comment on.

    RUSSERT: How about gays serving in the military?

    TRUMP: It would not disturb me. I mean, hey, I lived in New York City and Manhattan all my life, so my views are a little bit different than if I lived in Iowa, perhaps…

    Then there was this exchange:

    RUSSERT: Partial birth abortion. Eliminating of abortion in the third trimester. Big issue in Washington. Would President Trump ban partial birth abortion?

    TRUMP: Well, look, I’m very pro-choice…and again, it may be a little bit of a New York background, because there is some different attitude in different parts of the country, and you know, I was…

  • No, it does not mean Jewish. It means exactly what Cruz said – pro abortion, liberal and concerned only with money and media. There is not a single word about Jews.

  • The author quotes a liberal Democrat, Jesse Jackson, using the odious word “hymietown.”

    The author then quotes a fictitious Christian conservative saying, “[T]hat New York sense of humor….” Another fictitious character, a Jew, points out that “New York” is a code word for “Jewish.”

    It’s odd that the author couldn’t find an actual person to quote about how “New York” is a synonym for “Jewish.” New York is Jewish, wonderfully so. But, New York is also a whole lot more.

    Democrats are the Jew-haters in today’s world, sir. Conservative Republicans are not. American Jews vote Democrat against their own interests, which is foolish. it’s not just about Israel and its efforts to defend itself against evil actors. It’s also about ethnic hatred of American Jews by various sections of the Democrat coalition. This piece is devoid of serious thought.

    This Southern atheist U.S. gentile has been treated righteously by Jews. I’m proud to call each of them “friend…

  • Is Kommunist Kaiser Bill (the fake Italian) or Governor Quomo of the chosen people?
    Think about it, recently NY city elected comrade Bill de Blasio in a landslide and Governor Quomo said “Conservatives should get out of New York” because there was no place for them in his state. !!!

    Cruz has a point.

  • There may be too much paranoia in the writer’s article. Growing up in the middle of the country; New Yorkers were looked upon as abrasive, a little snobbish, a bit parochial in their views of the other parts of the county and inpatient, However, that applied to all groups not just one group. Having spent time in the area; I found the image overblown and New Yorkers are pretty much like most anyone else in a large city.

    There is both a positive and negative stereotype of each part of the country

    All things considered, better to have New York values then that of a few other parts of the nation.

  • And don’t forget that Andrew Cuomo said that Conservatives are not welcome in New York. Maybe the press should be doing a piece about that instead of accusing Cruz on phony charges.

  • As opposed to a good portion of the Christian Right? anti abortion, not liberal, and concerned only with money and media?

  • Gawshamighty. What discernment.

    I’m Jewish. I’m a democrat. I’m a liberal.

    No wonder our country is going down the tubes when this is the level of discourse.

  • I’m not a fan of Cruz, but that idea is ludicrous!l I’m trying not to use the word ignorant, but here’s some wellknown information. Christians are generally the biggest supporters of the Jewish population. They will stand behind Jews. They will give their lives for Jews (as they did during the Holocaust). Cruz, a Christian, would never make any anti-Jewish comments. (I will that Cruz is reprehensible in many of his comments, and my worst nightmare on most issues, but he would never make an anti-Jewish comment.)

  • “But that “focus around money and the media”? That was “New York = Jews” all the way.”

    Anti-semitism is a definite sign of mental illness.
    Jews are blamed for greedy capitalism and fascist communism at the same time. Yet, what could be more ridiculous?

    Jews are are as varied as any other group. Excepting for the phenomenon that many Jews have been historically forced into ghettos (thanks to Christians) and had little cultural history of owning land, farming or participating on other high paying blue collar jobs which were denied them.

    The result is a Jewish culture which had to make due for 1700 years in the few service industries which Christians allowed Jews to work: Academics, Finance, Entertainment, Medicine, Business services.

    If there is a predominance of Jews in certain industries you can thank the bigoted history of Christian culture for playing a role in it.

  • And your point is? What does it have to do with the topic of discussion? I reiterate – Cruz DID not say a word about Jews. If YOU somewhat believe that being “pro-abortion, liberal and concerned with money and media” means Jewish it probably reflects YOUR opinion about Jews. In psychology it is called projection.

  • It doesn’t appear that way, Ben, if by “dominionist,” you mean someone who wants to replace the Constitution with the Bible as America’s legal system.

    Caveat: The claim that the Constitution is based on a biblical world view, whether right or wrong, is not the same as dominionism. For those of us who care about constitutional governance, it doesn’t matter whether, as a practical matter, one believes the Constitution was based on the Bible, on Greco-Roman ideas, or on whispers from little green men on Mars. It matters that one is committed to the Constitution and is willing to live under it.

  • Ben, the point is that there is no evidence to suggest that Cruz was attacking Jews. Cruz is exhibit A in the contention that even smart people are not immune from saying seemingly stupid things.

  • It’s nice that you purport to view Jews positively in the abstract, Max.

    It would be nicer — and more believable — if you viewed concrete Jewish culture and identity, the essence of what it means to be Jewish, whether one is theist or atheist, in a more respectful way.

    Let me make a simple suggestion to you, Max:

    When Passover comes along toward the end of April, get invited to a seder and maybe you’ll learn something. Go to a seder that is run by people who include agnostics or atheists like yourself.

    I’m serious. You will learn what I’ve been trying to tell you on these boards:

    You can be an atheist without being — to borrow a Jewish word — a real schmuck about it.

  • Alison, it’s safe to assume that Mark Silk already knows about evangelical support for Israel and the Jewish people, unless his head is buried in the sand, which it is not.

    Mark’s human like the rest of us, and simply saw Cruz’s remarks as a good opportunity to take what he imagined would be a good shot at him, because Mark, being liberal, doesn’t like Cruz’s politics apart from Israel and Jews.

    However, I think his article stimulated a pretty good discussion in this comments section, and that’s not bad.

  • What’s most striking about New York, especially New York City, is the disconnect between the economic vibrancy and independent-mindedness of its people and the Neanderthal, regressive, knuckle-dragging uber-regulatory stance of its government. Put another way, New Yorkers live like conservatives and libertarians but vote like socialists. It’s an enduring paradox.

    Put another way, if New Yorkers would vote the way they live, the wealth that would be created would dwarf what is now there. New York would become the world’s number-one econonic growth engine.

  • Jack,
    I plead only partially guilty as charged. It’s clear enough from what I wrote that I recognize Cruz’s support for Israel. And it’s true that my own political values do not incline me in his direction. But I do think was trading in the conventional stereotype of the New York Jew for political gain with his audience. The same way that he traded in the conventional Harvard stereotype in discussing his teacher at the Harvard Law School, Larry Tribe. And when your wife works for Goldman, Sachs, you’re sleeping with New York values. It’s not uncommon for politicians to appeal hypocritically to public prejudices they don’t share themselves. I don’t know if Cruz is personally anti-Semitic, and if I had to guess, I’d say he isn’t, in any meaningful sense. But I think he’s smart enough know what he was doing.

  • Almost. The constitution is based on a world view that was influenced by the bible, but far from solely influenced by it. It would be hard to claim that any western governance document of its time was not influenced by the bible, but I also think the influence of the bible is waning.

    I think it is a good thing to be committed to a Constitution, but I also think that we should regularly look at it critically, and change it if fault or deficiency is found in it -after careful consideration of course. Personally, I don’t find the bible to be very helpful guidance in the modern world; indeed, many of the rules it presents range from crude to absurd.

  • When Cruz made the comment about “New York values,” I took it to mean that the majority of people living in New York or socially liberal, much like they are here in California. Personally, I think Trump is looking for anything to knock Cruz out of the race because his poll numbers have been climbing. and for the record, I do not support either of these candidates.

    Seriously, I wish these candidates would talk about real solutions to the problems we face in this country instead of just using their time on the air to insult each other.

  • I understand, Mark, but again, NY’s association with a preoccupation with money predated the rise of the Jews as a significant NYC group. Again, NYC was America’s financial capital (and briefly its political capital) from the nation’s dawning.

    So we have a very long history of people looking at NY as being about money apart from Jews.

    Of course, once Jews rose in numbers and prominence in NY, the old anti-Semitism, Euro-Christendom’s baggage, reared its head and was put to sinister use by opportunistic politicians.

    But in recent decades, as philo-Semitism has risen, ,the negative stereotypes about NY and money have become mostly divorced from Jews. IN fact, they have been partly displaced by negative stereotypes about NY and political and cultural liberalism, which takes things in a somewhat different direction.

    One more point: It matters who the speaker is. If Pat Buchanan uttered such words, I would be more suspicious.

  • Well, Steve, I would disagree with your assessment of the Bible. The 20th century alone, with the attendant rise of two things — post-Biblical views of human nature that denied realities all around us and repeated incidences of genocide even in allegedly civilized civilized Europe — showed the Biblical world view to as relevant as ever. I would encourage you to read Reinhold Niebuhr’s two-volume set, “The Nature and Destiny of Man.” Niebuhr was no conservative evangelical, but a liberal theologian deeply concerned about the naivete of liberalism, especially regarding human nature and perfectibility. He warned the world quite early about the dangers of both Nazism and Marxism.

    The reason I like the Constitution so much is that it is true to human nature as well. That’s why it disperses rather than concentrates power. It has within it the ability to change via constitutional amendments.

  • @Jack,

    Thanks for the condescending lecture. As one who dated an Orthodox Sephardic Jewish woman for 7 years I can tell you more about Seders and Jewish life than you will ever know.

    But for anti-semites like yourself I would suggest a trip to Auchwitz (where I visited in 2003) to see what happens when people accept your generalized sorts of comments about Jews:

    On September 7, 2015 at 11:19 am
    “Funny, isn’t it, how Jews support massive racial and ethnic integration in every predominately white country on Earth, yet are busy creating a massively segregated, apartheid state for themselves.”

    I denounce your horrible Bible’s role in spreading such blind bigotry:
    “The Jews…they do not please God..the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.”
    – PAUL
    (1 Thessalonians 2:14)

    Religion is a choice. You have chosen a bigoted religion and a bigoted God.

  • @Jack,

    “The 20th century alone…repeated incidences of genocide even in allegedly civilized civilized Europe — showed the Biblical world view to as relevant as ever.


    1) No insights on decency are provided by your god:
    “Kill them all…infant and suckling…bash their heads against the rocks” – God

    2) Enforced Marxism, Nazism, Communism are all faith-based fascist dogmas and do not differ at all from enforced Christianism, Yawhism, or Allaism.

    Regardless of whether Donald Trump, Stalin, Mao or any other leader is an Atheist or not – a religiously indoctrinated nation shall turn religious dogma on itself.
    The cause of mass genocide is enforced religious doctrine coupled with fear of God – whether it is an Agrarian Proletariat Cult, a Rwandan Magic Spell or a Japanese Sun God!


    There is a constant Christian religious hatred which wants to eliminate the Separation of Church and State in the USA. As long as religious people like Cruz keep funding such efforts and working against my freedom to live without religion, I have no choice but to protect my rights by freely speaking in favor of SEPARATION and against RELIGION.

    You have your right to live with religion – but keep it out of our laws!
    Millions of us have no interest in these primitive (and vile) philosophies (“execute them all” – Jesus, Luke 19:27)

    “Blasphemy” is a NONSENSE word created by religion to protect itself from my freedom of opinion – such speech is fully protected by my US Constitution.

    Blasphemy does not equal oppression or persecution.

  • Alison, some Christian supporters of Jews are not really supporters of Jews. They want to convert Jews. They want an Israel with no Jews in it.

  • When you have to quote a fictional character from a defunct TV drama to prove a point, you know your’re grasping at straws. Ted Cruz also appears to be very good friends with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a prominant Orthodox Jewish rabbi.

  • Susan, note that Alison’s post included the important qualifier, “generally.” That is consistent with your view that “some” Christians are as you say.

    “Some” excludes “all” or “most,” and is consistent with the view that most Christians are today pro-Israel and pro-Jewish.

    The fact that they’re usually conservative politically gives you great pause, but it’s okay to have a nuanced view which disagrees with them politically, but appreciates them on Israel and Jewish issues.

    That’s the classy way of handling the nuances.

  • You are truly a low-life, Max. As I said repeatedly, I had zero to do with that post. It is the opposite of what I believe and have always posted and you know it. The fact that you think you can get away with it shows the kind of person you are.

    It is you who are the anti-Semite, and you just proved it by posting a mistranslation of I Thessalonians 2 which neo-Nazi hate sites deploy to stir up hatred against Jews.

    The newer translations, including the New King James Version, usually have corrected the original travesty.

    It’s instructive that of all the verses in the Bible, you have chosen (1) the neo-Nazi and white supremacists’ all-time favorite and (2) the kind of mistranslation of it that these haters use.

    I have pointed this out to you again and again….but true to form, you keep posting it as though nothing was ever said.

    You have the integrity of a rattlesnake and as a result, you drive people away from what you’re promoting.

  • Nice try Max, but on these boards, you have disparaged seders as based on myths and have insulted posters for going to them.

    As I said, plenty of seders are attended by atheists and agnostics, but the difference is, unlike you, they have the emotional maturity to handle issues and controversies surrounding the Exodus story without being utterly boorish and bigoted about it.

  • The Orthodox tend to like Cruz because, like them, he’s pro-Israel and conservative on fiscal, social, and foreign policy matters, but even if they did not, they certainly don’t think he’s anti-Jewish simply because, in his back-and-forth with Trump, he mentioned “NY values.” More is needed to prove that charge.

  • Max, if you weren’t so ignorant of and blinded by bigotry against people of faith, you’d have taken note that in today’s world, the strongest foes of anti-blasphemy laws have been biblical Christians and observant Jews, the same groups you love to hate.

  • Another ignorant post from a biblical and philosophical ignoramus…It is predictably non-responsive to the point being made about the importance of a realistic view of human nature and the calamities that result when such realism is abandoned and people and governments are naively granted the absolute power that opens the door to genocide.

  • * NY VALUES *

    Manhattan: pro-choice
    Iowa: pro-life

    Manhattan: bans guns
    South Carolina: has read the 2nd amendment

    Liberals own Manhattan? Check the election result history during my lifetime.

    And BTW, you owe Ted Cruz an apology. Here is a video of Cruz accepting the “defender of Israel” award:

    I have no idea who you are. You may like Trump, but you have no business deriding Cruz. You aren’t fit to kiss his bootstraps, and you don’t represent the opinions of all Jews. Maybe just those with New York values.

  • What a nutty post….having no conceivable connection to reality, particularly the reality of what the Bible says or what pro-Israel Christians actually believe.

  • Mark Silk blew it on this issue, but so do we all at times. Sometimes we let our politics get ahead of our objectivity. Nobody is innocent of that charge, not you, not I, not anyone.

  • No, I don’t think Ted Cruz is an anti-Semite, I just think he’s a hypocrite. He either knew or should have known that “New York values” is a dog-whistle for Jew, the same way that “welfare queens” meant black. If he meant to convey that meaning to his audience, then he should be shamed. If he didn’t realize that it could be seen that way, then he should still be shamed.
    More importantly, he hypocritically rails against “Wall Street,” when not only is he married to a Goldman banker, he took hundreds of thousands in campaign $ from them, and Citibank too! Of course, it comes out now that he “forgot” to list those loans on his FEC forms. I guess it’s easy to portray yourself as A Man of the People and wear a barn jacket around Iowa when you forget the truth.

  • Garson, I agree with you about the hypocrisy on Goldman Sachs. Cruz has apparently blasted the very place where his wife was employed. It is frankly bizarre, no matter what his motive is.

    But given how Cruz feels about Jews and Israel, given the history of NY as the nation’s financial capital long before Jews reached critical mass there, and given that most of the country viewed NY money men in a negative way long before Jews arrived in significant numbers, it’s really a stretch to imagine Cruz seeing the term “New York values” as being associated with Jews.

    It was a breathtakingly stupid thing for him to say, but there is just no evidence suggesting he meant it to be anti-Semitic.

    Now if it were Pat Buchanan, a conservative who has a clear record of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel utterances, that would be a different matter.

  • The fact that the professor asks that question demonstrates that even he acknowledges the profound influence Jews have on values in New York and those same values that are prevalent in liberal America (gay marriage, tearing down Christianity, promotion of porn, etc.). The fact that he asks it when Ted Cruz, who is a huge Israel supporter and has accepted a huge sum of money from the super wealthy Jew Sheldon Adelson (who has said an atomic bomb should be dropped on Iran) shows that some people use the “anti-Semitism card” at every turn, even accusing their biggest supporters of being “anti-Semitic.”

    I hope Christians take note that when Cruz was praising Israel the other day to a group of Christians and they didn’t approve the brutal, racist state being praised he also pulled out the “:anti-Semitism card” too as he was booed off the stage. That card has gotten a lot of mileage and still does. It’s a license for murder in the middle east.

  • Everybody knows that New York values are anti Christ and anti Christian. New York values is typified by the man with 9 billion dollars. It is all about the money, greed. Senator Sanders is right(the Senator of Goldman Sachs, Miss Hillary, is wrong) about Wall Street and the big banks.

  • Anti psycho-Christian anyway. Fundies have zero sway in the state outside of a few fringes upstate in the rust belt areas. Social conservatives and the religious right in general are not particularly welcomed. Primarily because preaching bigotry, sectarianism and attacks on freedom of religion are not particularly welcomed in one of the most demographically diverse parts of the country.