A Curious Case of Anti-Semitism: The World According to Lonny Jarrett


I recently attended a two day lecture given by Lonny Jarrett, a popular lecturer in Chinese Medicine circles who is an authority on a style of acupuncture called “Five Element”.

In the course of his lecture Mr. Jarrett argued that general differences of character and levels of development between cultures can be demonstrated. These are only generally true, he was quick to add, and should not be assumed of individual members of that culture before you meet them and judge them as individuals. Cultural distinctions are true, though, he insisted, and then Mr. Jarrett, who is Jewish, made the following statement : “For example”, he said, “Jews are greedy. Obsessed with money! I’m a natural born entrepeneur- I can’t help it. I should not be judged on that, but rather on my relationship to the trend of my culture ( ie. perhaps I have an enlightened relationship to my culturally conditioned greed as a Jew!)”

Wow!

There are two things wrong with this argument. The first, major one:  Jews Are Not Greedy, at least no more than anyone else. Secondarily, it’s an interesting example of how a stereotype is built. Where, in fact, does this idea of Jewish greediness even come from?

Jews of European descent, known as Ashkenazi Jews, were forbidden for centuries in Europe to own land. This was one of many discriminatory legal restraints intended to control Jews. Most Jews lived in rural villages or ghettoes, and were terribly poor throughout European history. Some became doctors, craftsmen, labourers, or scholars, and some went into trade or banking to make money for themselves and their communities. Banking was considered, with some justification, a dirty business, and over time Christians came to associate Jews with banking (amongst other things like well-poisoning, black magic, cannibalism, and killing God of course). When the Jews of Europe were liberated from discriminatory laws they flooded into other professions. Many Jewish immigrants were very successful in the US. The resultant high numbers of Jews in the the American middle class further fed the old European stereotype of the “money hungry Jew”. Of course American Jews are not particularly money hungry or business savvy, but any time there is a successful Jewish businessman some people will nod their heads sagaciously and say, “Ah, he’s Jewish you know.” There are rich Irish businessmen and Romanian bankers of course but these people will not notice them.

Another problem with this stereotype is that it is based on Ashkenazi Jews, who make up only a portion of world Jewry. A substantial portion of Jews are not Ashkenazi but are Sefardic (from Spain and North Africa) Mizrahi (Middle Eastern), Russian and African (the Falasha and Bene Israel), and even Chinese or Indian. These Jews do not even share the history of involvement in banking that helped to generate the European sterotype! Jews are not a race but a tribe of diverse ethnicity with shared history, formed by marriage and conversion as well as birth. When viewed against the wider canvas of Jewish life Mr. Jarrett’s stereotypes is seen even more clearly as inaccurate.

Mr. Jarrett’s statement is an example of the dangers of generalization. I attempted to post a critique of Mr. Jarrett’s statement on his website, Nourishing Destiny (nourishingdestiny.com). Mr. Jarrett deleted my post (which was substantially the same as this blog entry), canceled my account on his forum, and responded to me with a personal email attacking my motivations and my words, which he claimed were not an adequately sincere, serious, dignified, respectful and intelligent inquiry. After some discussion Lonny re-instated my ability to post on his forum but was not willing to discuss his comments or admit any possibility of verbal misconduct or error on his part.

One side concern with this incident was the lack of reaction I got from several people I told the story too. The response seemed to be, well, that’s kind of true, isn’t it? Or, well he was Jewish, right? One person asked me, “Would his statement bother you if it hadn’t been about Jews?”

As a matter of fact Mr. Jarret caricatured and insulted Buddhism, Indian culture, ancient Chinese sages, tribal peoples, women and men during the course of his lecture as well. My deleted post on his forum and emails to him critiqued these comments as well.

An interesting post-script to this incident occurred when a fellow student at my school posted a response to my critique (which she read before it was deleted) saying that I had been offended simply because I am still attached to self- ie. not spiritually enlightened enough.  She signed her post off with an Islamic phrase (she is not as far as I know a Muslim). A Jewish acupuncturist on the forum objected to her sign-off on the grounds that pre-modern Islamic religious sentiments are not enlightened enough! Lonny then objected that such Islamic sentiments were perfectly welcome on his site and that the objector should chill out (I very much agree). But here’s the kicker: that same fellow student, mentioning this incident, cited it as proof of Lonny’s claim that some cultural stereo-types are true. “You see”, she said, “Like the fact that all Jews hate Muslims.”

Wow! So here someone sees two Jews arguing. One says traditional Islamic sentiments are not welcome, one says they are perfectly fine. She concludes, “You see, all Jews hate Muslims.”

Oy gevalt.


for info on Mr. Cohen see his webiste http://www.andrewcohen.org/

for criticism see:

http://enlightennixt.com/ http://whatenlightenment.blogspot.com/, http://www.integralworld.net/lane9.html

For Mr. Wilber see his website

http://www.kenwilber.com/home/landing/index.html

and for critical assessment http://www.kheper.net/topics/Wilber/Ken_Wilber.htm

http://www.scribd.com/doc/4437630/The-Cult-of-Ken-WilberWhat-Has-Gone-Wrong-With-Ken-Wilber

and http://www.integralworld.net/

For more on Mr. Jarett, including the audio of the lectures I am critiquing, see here:

http://nourishingdestiny.com/

Please note that Mr. Jarett forbids the taping of his lectures, as he said, because he wants to “put out an edited, quality product”. Thus the audio may be edited from its original version.

Author: Matthew Zachary Gindin

Freelance journalist and teacher. I write regularly for the Forward, All That In Interesting, and the Jewish Independent, and have been published in Religion Dispatches, Situate Magazine, Elephant Journal, and elsewhere.

10 thoughts on “A Curious Case of Anti-Semitism: The World According to Lonny Jarrett”

  1. The above critique represents an extremely immature response to my teaching and takes my words entirely out of context. Despite my efforts to explain myself to the author he was unable to embrace civil dialog or to look beyond his own blind reaction to statements he found challenging. After having to remove him from my own newsgroup it seems he has found consolation by posting his rant here.

  2. I am one of the members of Nourishing Destiny and had read this when it was posted briefly. I was wondering why if such a statement as above was so offensive to you, why didn’t you bother to engage with Lonny about it further via emails. Also, as you have written “One side concern with this incident was the lack of reaction I got from several people I told the story too.” has made it even more clear how silly this whole diatribe is. It wasn’t just Lonny that was telling you. It was others as well.

    Lonny has never objected to questions and challenges but has always maintained the integrity of his site by expecting from us that all posts are respectful and sincere, just like we would expect in any relationship.

    Such a response as yours was lost as it does not garner sincerity and respect from others. When you are ready to really understand from the context that the teachings are presented in then we can have a proper discussion. Till then you only have yourself to blame.

    1. Thank you for your comment Anne.

      I did engage with Lonny by personal email. He deleted my original post which detailed a number of criticisms of his lecture (not just his comment about Jews) asking me to write a shorter one focusing only on one point. I did, in a post similar to the blog piece here, thought not identical. He then deleted that one as well. The second one was read by one Doctor of Chinese Medicine and one fellow acupuncture student, both of whom felt it was respectful and thought Lonny had no grounds for deleting it. Lonny and I discussed the matter by personal email for a few days afterwards. He maintained that he had said and done nothing wrong whatsoever and repeatedly attacked my motivations and spiritual maturity for having broached the matter at all. The email exchange ended amicably though, I thought, although it appears from his reply posted below that he is still angry with me and dismissive of my decision to challenge what he said and the way he said it.
      Although some people were not upset by his comments, many were. One was so offended she left (an excellent acupuncturist and yoga teacher) and another (a teacher of acupuncture) stayed but told me he was deeply troubled by Lonny’s comments. He supported me in writing a letter informing the board of my college of Lonny’s comments, which I did. Several students who were there supported me in doing so and asked to read the letter, which I let them. They supported my report of the lecture as accurate and shared my concerns.
      Lonny did indeed tell me that my critique, which he below called a “rant” and you refer to as a “silly diatribe”, was badly motivated and ill-advised. I disagree, and stand behind my criticisms of Lonny’s way of making his points. As Gandhi said, the end does not justify the means because there are no ends, only means. Sometimes calls to consider “context” are justified. Other times it amounts to saying, “If you shared the worldview and convictions that I use to rationalize engaging in a certain harmful behaviour, than you would see it as justified the same way I do.” A much more extreme example would be forbidding birth control to African men, which religious Catholics believe is fully justified in the context of their worldview despite its connections to the spread of AIDS and unwanted pregnancies. Similarly (and of course a much more modestly harmful example) Lonny and some of his followers feel that insulting speech (eg. “the Buddha was a sexist pig”), racist comments, sloppy generalisations, and historical inaccuracies (some of which are detailed in the blog above), are all justifiably used in order to serve the cause of promoting Lonny’s interpretation of Wilber and Cohen’s Evolutionary Enlightenment paradigm. I disagree.
      What I wished to hear from Lonny was a respectful hearing of my criticisms, and at least the willingness to consider that he may have mis-spoken. He did not show any willingness to consider that he may have erred in speaking the way he did.
      You, or anyone else engaged with the issue of my critique of Lonny and his response, might gain further insight from this website: http://www.derailingfordummies.com/
      I wish you and Lonny, and the rest of the ND folks, all the best. I wish that Lonny had maintained a truly open forum, but since he doesn’t I have chosen not to engage there.
      Thanks again for the post,
      Best wishes
      Matthew

  3. Despite Mr. Gindin’s seemingly rational criticism, the simple fact is that he spent 2 full days in class with me without every raising a single point so that we could discuss his concerns in real time, man to man. It seems my teaching struck quite a pluralistic and ethnocentric nerve in Mr. Gindin which it is, in part, meant to do. Perhaps, in the future, Mr. Gindin will have the courage and integrity to risk direct engagement when he feels challenged rather than just digging in after the fact to defend a position. Such a risk, of course, is that he may learn something he does not already know.

    Sincerely, Lonny Jarrett

  4. Not that Lonny Jarrett needs defending, as his scholarly work stands out on its own, but as a long term student of his and an active daily participant on his ND site, I can attest to his integrity and to his deep level of care for his students and patients that we each fulfill our highest potential, as we awaken to an increasingly wider and deeper perspective. And while it’s not always comfortable, his teachings do just that if we are humble enough and interested in that which we don’t already know. I am sorry that you had a bad experience, but often that is when we grow the most–by having longstanding and unquestioned assumptions challenged. And as a Southern Christian, Lonny’s teachings have only helped me grow more deeply in my relationship with Spirit. Yes, he challenged me greatly and I am all the better for it. Engagement and humility are required though.

  5. The promotion of stereotypes based on race is a very repellant activity, and I commend you for your willingness to examine this, as it pertains to a well-known figure in the acupuncture community, in such a forum, sir. Things like that fester in the darkness and must be exposed to the light to keep them from spreading. All the best to you!

  6. Dear Matthew, Thank you for bringing this up. Run in the other direction from folks (esp. teachers) who subscribe to metatheories such as Wilber’s! Just do it! The folks here don’t understand why you didn’t engage with him…. I certainly wouldn’t want to engage with someone claiming to be a teacher and spouting such statements! What good would that engagement have done if someone already has the ego to call himself a teacher and express those things! The issue with metatheories such as Cohen’s and Wilber’s is no matter what you say, you will get categorized and discredited! Whether you are a fiesty firey element or green meme queen. Before you take a Chinese Medicine class, I reccomend critically examining the ego of the teacher. Lonny is notorious for his big ego!! If you are in Massachusetts I reccomend Sharon Weizenbaum.

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