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Wooden figure of a Jewish man holding a money bag and coin

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.622

Modern, painted, wooden figurine holding a metal coin known as a Zydki or “little Jew” in Poland, where it is considered a talisman that brings good fortune and wealth. The figure depicts a Jewish man holding a large, red sack of money in one hand and the coin in the other. The man is wearing a skullcap and has a large nose, sidelocks, and a beard; all stereotypical physical features commonly attributed to Jewish men. The moneybag in his hands is a reference to the stereotype of the greedy Jew. This stereotype dates back to the Middle Ages, when economic and professional restrictions were placed on early European Jews. These restrictions limited many Jews to the occupations of retail peddling, hawking, and moneylending. Additionally, medieval religious belief held that charging interest (known as usury) was sinful, and the Jews who occupied these professions were looked down upon, predominantly by European Christians. They were perceived as morally deficient and willing to engage in unethical business practices. The inability of Jews to legally hold other occupations, combined with Christians’ disdain for the professions Jews were allowed to practice, helped form the canard of the greedy Jew who exploited Gentiles. This statue is one of the more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.

creation:  approximately 1990-before 2016
creation: Poland
Decorative Arts
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
Record last modified: 2022-02-15 09:58:19
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