Over the 1993 Passover holidays, then–senior editor Michael Lewis found The New Republic’s offices entirely empty. A self-professed “flaming gentile,” Lewis expounded on the perks and travails of being the “toy goy” at an institution with a large number of Jews. The responsibilities, he wrote, were minor—“to point to the bright side of things; to lend credence to assorted pro-Israel views discounted when voiced by Jews”—while the privileges included the ability to “slough off before and after (but never during) Jewish holidays.” So while his colleagues had chosen “to celebrate one of the great escapes of all time by escaping,” Lewis manned the office. “I would sit in editorial meetings and feel like I was at this huge disadvantage because I hadn’t been Bar Mitzvah’d,” Lewis, who went on to write Moneyball and The Big Short, joked recently over the phone. The article, he added, offered an opportunity to lovingly remind folks that “the gentile pet does have teeth.”
It’s O.K. Really. I don’t mind. My life has been punctuated by vanishing Jews. Some combination of accident and design has conspired to semitize my experience; since early boyhood I have passed seamlessly from one Jewish institution to the next—a Jewish school, the New York art dealer Wildenstein, the New York investment bank Salomon Brothers, The New Republic. Most years I commemorate the flight of the Jews through the Sinai to the Promised Land by witnessing a far more hectic flight of the Jews through the traffic jam to the airport, then looking around to see what they have neglected to finish. Each of these annual occasions revives my sympathies for the much maligned Pharaoh. I too find the prospect intensely irritating that the Jews may have up and left for good.
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