The Wolf Of Wall Street

I never remember encountering the attitude that it is fine to screw the wider world so long as you take care of your own until I converted to Judaism. That transition opened up my eyes to tribal thinking where the only thing that matters is taking care of your tribe.

Most Jews I’ve met do care about America, but a significant minority (something like 5% in my experience) do not. They only care about their group.

Never once growing up as a Seventh-Day Adventist did I encounter the idea that it is fine to cheat outsiders but I have repeatedly run into that attitude among a tiny number of Jews.

Jews seem to be at the forefront of the good and the bad things in the world.

Rob Eshman writes:

But, just between us, let’s talk about Belfort-the-Jew — let’s go there. In the movie, you never really understand how someone so gifted can be so morally unmoored. But in his memoir, upon which the movie is based, whenever Belfort refers to his Jewish roots, the diagnosis becomes more apparent.

He is a kid from Long Island. His dad, Max, grew up “in the old Jewish Bronx, in the smoldering economic ashes of the Great Depression.” Belfort didn’t grow up poor by any means, he just wasn’t rich enough. The hole in him wasn’t from poverty, but from desire for acceptance. The “blue-blooded WASPs,” Belfort writes, “viewed me as a young Jewish circus attraction.”

Belfort had a chip on his shoulder the size of a polo pony, and so did everyone he recruited. They were, he writes, “the most savage young Jews anywhere on Long Island: the towns of Jericho and Syosset. It was from out of the very marrow of these two upper-middle-class Jewish ghettos that the bulk of my first hundred Strattonites had come….”

It’s not complicated, really. Poor little Jordan wanted to show those WASPs whose country clubs he couldn’t join that he was smarter, richer, better. What he failed to understand is that just about every Jew, every minority, shares the same impulses. But only a select few decide the only way to help themselves is to hurt others.

Belfort, like Bernie Madoff, is an extreme example. These are guys who feel they have nothing, they are nothing, so they will do anything to acquire everything. They cross a pretty clear line and just keep going.

Aron* emails:

I can’t believe that Eshman who is a smart guy actually believes what he wrote.

Belfort is not old. He was born in 1962 so he is now 51 years old. He is not someone who grew up experiencing snobby wasps rejecting him socially. He grew up in a very Jewish town, in a Jewish area of Jewish Long Island. Are we to believe that a suburban Jewish boy in between 1977 and 1980 (when he was between 15 and 18 years old), was subjected to the sort of discrimination that led to this behavior?

The reality is that Belfort is a sociopathic personality coming of age in an America where the main measure of success is financial achievement. The normal restrictions against the sociopathic urges, a strong moral background (usually grounded in religion), a strong ethical background (sometimes based on a fear of violation of law), or an enlightened self interest that acting in this way is ultimately corrupting to society and destructive to the investors, are easily forgotten in the “boiler room” culture where sociopathic behavior is not only condoned but desired.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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