the schmooze
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

Words:  “That’s what careless words do.  They make people love you a little less.”  (Arundhati Roy, “The God of Small Things”)

A “shylock”  is someone who lends money at excessive rates of interest--a usurer.   In the banking/finance field, a shylock is a heartless or demanding creditor.  If you call someone this term, you are criticizing them for always wanting more of something and for being willing to be cruel (“akjhzoryesdik.”)  Shylock is also a term for a Mafia loan money collector.
 Shylock was a character in Shakespeare’s, “The Merchant of Venice.”  He was a stereotyped Jewish merchant (“soykher”) who is bent on revenge (“fleysh”) out of another merchant, Antonio, if his debt (“khoyv”) is not paid on time.  Shylock hates Antonio because he is honest (“orntlekh”); Antonio doesn’t lend money at interest, and, of course,  fewer people borrow from someone like Shylock, who does.

Al Pacino, who played the part of Shylock, said, “What Shylock is really doing is taking a risk.  He doesn’t know Antonio’s ships are going to sink. It’s a way of standing up to the oppressors, his way of posturing to them.”

Shylock has his daughter and his work.  He has two things to live for. He loses “beyde” (both).

Robert Hendrickson (“New Yawk Tawk”) writes, “Shakespeare’s moneylender, Shylock has also been suggested, as has a racetrack form of the word “shy” (i.e., to be shy money when betting). Some authorities trace shyster to the German Scheisse, “excrement,” possibly through the word shicir, “a worthless person,” but there is no absolute proof for any theory.  In any case, shady lawyers in New York have a long history of being called shysers.”

VP, Biden, used a poor choice of words when he referred to unscrupulous moneylending as “Shylocks.”  He was speaking to a legal aid group when he discussed the need for foreclosure mediation services.  He recalled how his son, Beau Biden, herd about the problem from U. S. troops while he was serving in Iraq.

“People would come to him and talk about what was happening at home, in terms of foreclosures, in terms of bad loans that were being--these “shylocks” that took advantage of these women and men while overseas,” Biden said.

Abraham Foxman said, “The vice president should have been more careful.”  And Rabbi Jonathan Miller, Temple Emanu-El, Birmingham, Alabama, gave a sermon on July 5, 2013, titled, “One Hundred Fifty Years Later.”  He talks about being a 9th grader at Lincoln Jr. High School in Malden, Mass.  His class was assigned to read “The Merchant of Venice.”  He says, “I didn’t really enjoy it very much.  No ninth grader likes Shakespeare.  But for me, as a Jew sitting in a class of kids which was predominantly Italian and Irish, The Merchant of Venice had a unique challenge.  I was not only a Jew, but sort of “THE” Jew...Like Shylock the Jew, I felt the sting of anti-Semitism, the smugness of the Christian majority and the pain and loneliness of being on the outside, shunned and disgraced.”  (Thank you, Rabbi Miller.)

And so, Joe Biden, the next time you have a speaking engagement, perhaps you should remember what author, Jodi Picoult, said in her book, “Salem Falls”:

“Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall.”


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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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