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13 January 2011

A Jewish Attempt at Damage Control

Mother Jones' reporter Nick Baumann, responding to the urgings of a "noted Jewish roots columnist and researcher" (so called by the Jewish Telegraph Agency) has posted this footnote to his report about Jared Lee Loughner, the shooter who killed six people and shot a Jewish congresswoman in the head several days ago:

Tierney says Loughner's mom is Jewish. But a columnist who researched the subject doesn't think that holds up. Tierney also said that Loughner himself was definitely not religious.

While Baumann seems a bit circumspect about the finding of the Jewish "columnist and researcher," the Jewish Telegraph Agency spreads the word without reservation:

Nate Bloom, the noted Jewish roots columnist and researcher, has done the legwork -- and pretty much buries this notion.

We can expect that from now on every apologist for all things Jewish, whenever the name Jared Lee Loughner arises, will immediately, in programmed cult-like fashion, loudly proclaim, Loughner's mom was not Jewish! That's an anti-Semitic canard! It's been disproven!  

At that point you are supposed to be intimidated into silence because you are not really sure of the facts. But he doesn't really have any facts either.

It should take some strong evidence to refute the word of Loughner's friend, who has known him since middle school and was close enough to merit a "final goodbye" voicemail the night before the shooting. What Nate Bloom offers, however, is largely a matter of guesswork, some of it clearly biased.

Bloom's argument against the possibility that Loughner's mother could be a Jew (contradicting the testimony of somebody who has known Loughner perhaps ten years) is full of holes. It neglects possibilities like Jews adopting the religion of a non-Jewish spouse or otherwise converting to Christianity,1  which was very common during the big Jewish influx 100-130 years ago. It neglects the real possibility that a Jew might identify his ethnicity as something other than "Jewish" on a census form.2  It also neglects that a lot of Jewish immigrants to the United States took non-Jewish names. There is a lot of uncertainty about identifying ethnic Jews based on census information -- and that is supposed to trump the word of a close acquaintance?

Loughner's mother's maiden name is Amy Totman, which seems Jewish enough. Her mother's name apparently was Lois May Bleifuss.3  For me, the funniest part of Bloom's attempt at obfuscation was when he announced that the best known bearer of the surname Bleifuss, journalist and editor Joel Bleifuss, is not Jewish. Here is a nice little photo of  the "not Jewish" Joel Bleifuss:


Bloom is thus proud to conclude, "It is exceedingly unlikely that Amy Loughner has any Jewish ancestry."

Others will conclude differently.
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1.  Further confusion results from Jews who attend Christian church services without ever giving up their Jewish ethnic identity, which is more common than one might suspect. The fact that some person had a Christian funeral is no proof of the absence of Jewish ethnicity as Bloom assumes.

2. There are two factors in this. One is the fact that, since the Enlightenment, Jews have customarily represented themselves as "Frenchmen" or "Germans," etc. "of Jewish faith," in other words pretending that there is no such thing as Jewish ethnicity. Another factor is the common Jewish penchant for dissimulation. If you have much experience with Jews you will notice that many of them will change their whole story about their heritage according to circumstances. I've had a Jew that I'd known a number of years claim that he was Scottish, even though both his parents were Jews. Another claimed that he was Norwegian, which, if you could have seen him, you would have recognized as a completely ridiculous claim.

3. Bloom never says "Lois May Bleifuss" in his article; he uses only the married name, Lois May Totman. When he mentions Anton Bleifuss and his wife Jessie Anderson Bleifuss, he does not identify them as the parents of Lois May but as the parents of her sister Helen Medernach. This is a very roundabout and unnecessarily confusing way of admitting that Jared Loughner's maternal grandmother was born with the surname Bleifuss. I suspect that Bloom's avoidance of connecting the names Lois May and Bleifuss is a matter of deliberate obfuscation. He may have hoped, probably correctly, that few people would read it that carefully and see how he had made something simple into something confusing.

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