In A Nutshell
The conspiracies about Jewish bankers go back a long way and are so ingrained that even many people who are not anti-Semitic buy into the theory. Historically, there have been many Jewish people involved in banking, but it was never a conspiracy. In actuality, due to usury laws prescribed by the Jewish scriptures, the Jewish people were considered the logical choice to handle the moneylending. To make matters worse, many Jewish people were barred from other occupations, so they had to take what they could get.
The Whole Bushel
Many people still claim that there is an international banking conspiracy run by a shadowy group of Jewish men who control . . . literally everything in the world. Now, it is true that there are a lot of big Jewish family names in banking and that many of them go back a very long way. But there is no conspiracy. The Jewish people never planned to take over anything or become the banking force that many of them still are today. In fact, when they first started to transform into the forerunners of the modern bankers we see today, they basically had no other choice when it came to a profession.
In medieval Europe and Asia, Christianity and Islam held sway and the Jewish people were without a real home. Almost everywhere they went, they were faced with some form of persecution or discrimination. In many cases, they were allowed to live peacefully but wouldn’t be allowed to own land, join the labor guilds, or anything of the sort. Essentially, they had to find some niche to work their way into.
As it turned out, the world was starting to change—new forms of currency and economic practices were emerging. Soon, the economy of the world had a need for moneylenders. The problem was that according to the prevalent Catholic interpretation of biblical law, Christian lenders weren’t allowed to charge interest on loans (although they could apply fees and other costs). This was because a loan was not really considered a banking matter but something nice you did to help someone out; it wasn’t meant to earn you money.
However, the world was increasingly becoming a place where this was necessary—more lending was needed, and with the increased volume of lending, it became an occupation. Those performing it needed to make a living to feed their families. Luckily, the Jewish usury laws were a bit less strict and only forbade charging interest to other Jewish people. This meant that working as middlemen, bankers, and other forms of go-between business became some of the only viable occupations for a nomadic people that were treated with hostility practically everywhere they went.
The Jewish moneylenders quickly became invaluable to the Christian empire. They helped finance new churches and loaned the Christians the money they needed in the ill-fated Crusades in the Middle East. Unfortunately though, despite being sorely needed, the Jews (who were already looked down upon) were being loathed with even more passion than before. The Jewish lenders often had trouble with people not wanting to pay up later, so they charged high interest rates to recoup some of their losses. Before long, many people were very upset with the Jewish people, feeling that their lending practices were unfair. At times, this led to violent attacks against Jewish communities, and oftentimes they found their roles in society relegated basically to the status of slave bankers.
They existed to perform an important role but were often given as few rights as possible. To make matters worse, they were used as scapegoats by the government so people would be angry at the Jewish people for moneylending practices, instead of being angry at their government for high taxes and poor standards of living. And while the Jewish people do not run a secret cabal that controls the world, they did contribute greatly contribute to our modern banking system—and laid the foundation for the future economy.
Show Me The Proof
Barbarians of Wealth: Protecting Yourself from Today’s Financial Attilas, by Sandy Franks, Sara Nunnally
Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism, by Douglas Rushkoff
A History of Credit and Power in the Western World, by Scott B. MacDonald, Albert L. Gastmann