D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
Jewish Conspiracy Theories
Glass Onion (Lennon/McCartney)
I told you about Strawberry Fields
You know the place where nothing is real
Well, here's another place you can go
Where everything flows
Looking through the bent-back tulips
To see how the other half lives
Looking through a glass onion
On November 9th, 1966, as far as speculation goes, Paul McCartney was tragically killed in a car crash on his way home from working on the Sgt. Pepper album in the studio. Wanting to save their fans from the heartache of losing Paul and dealing with the loss of their bandmate, the other three Beatles decided to conceal the truth and replaced Paul with Billy Shears, the winner of a Paul McCartney lookalike contest.
There is, of course, no evidence to support this story. Although Paul was involved in two car accidents around this time, multiple witnesses and Paul himself confirmed shortly afterward that he was perfectly fine. In addition, there is no evidence that a lookalike contest ever took place, and no trace of a Billy Shear ever existed.
John Lennon was particularly vocal about his annoyance with those who read too much into the lyrical meanings of Beatles songs and wrote ‘Glass Onion,’ the song I began with in response.
The “Paul is dead” story never gained any traction until September of 1969 when an article entitled ‘Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead?’ was published in Drake University’s student newspaper. The “Paul is dead” tale took on a new life as an international conspiracy theory.
While a conspiracy can be defined as an agreement between two or more parties to commit a crime, a conspiracy theory often contains a more dubious and improbable hypothesis, or an intentional lie about powerful and sinister groups conspiring to harm good people, often via a secret cabal. In other words, conspiracy theories differ from actual conspiracies in their relationship to facts, evidence, and logic. These theories have been developed throughout history by individuals, religious communities, and political entities to explain negative events, find scapegoats, or fulfill paranoid fears and fantasies.
A conspiracy theory is often baseless, or based on half-truths. As the Yiddish expression goes, a half-truth is a whole lie. Conspiracy theories present ideas as one-dimension; are linked to political propaganda and totalitarian ideologies and usually demonize certain groups.
The identity of the alleged conspirators can be specific people such as the Kennedy assassination second gunman, or they can be larger groups like all communists or Jews. These groups are generally portrayed as undeniably evil, with a willingness to stop at nothing to achieve their goal.
Conspiracy theories also tend to take what are often complex fundamental ideas or causes and turn them into simplified and easy-to-understand views of reality. Conspiracy theories typically lack evidence, contain distorted evidence, or are false accusations – i.e. the accusation that Jews eat matzah containing Christian blood.
Jews are often accused of being behind a variety of major events, such as the French Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, German losses during WWI; by destroying German culture), the Stock Market Crash in 1929, and more recently, 9/11 and COVID-19.
George Soros and the Rothschilds Family are examples of specific Jews or Jewish families around whom conspiracy theories abound.
Atlantic Magazine Staff writer Yair Rosenberg notes: “Anti-Semitism is arguably the world’s oldest and most durable conspiracy theory. It presents Jews as the string-pulling puppet masters behind the world’s political, economic, and social problems. For those seeking simple solutions to life’s complexities, this outlook offers a ready-made explanation --and enemy.
A survey done by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 2020 of US adults under the age of 40 found that 11% believe the Jews were responsible for the Holocaust, 15% believe the Holocaust is a myth or very exaggerated, and 20% think too much attention is paid to the Holocaust.
Arthur Butz is most well-known for his 1976 Holocaust denial work titled The Hoax of the Twentieth Century. In it, he rejects the claim that Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust and that the whole 6 million dead thing is a hoax that forced the Allies to grant Palestine to the Jews.
Butz believes that Hitler simply meant to end Jewish influence and power in Germany, never to murder Jews. While the phrase Vernichtung des Judentums translates as the destruction of the Jews, Butz believes what Hitler had in mind was the destruction of Jewish influence and power, not genocide. According to Butz, Jews didn’t die en masse, they immigrated to the US and Palestine.
How do we know Butz’s claims are false? – Because there is a vast amount of evidence that has come from survivors, Allied forces, and even the perpetrators themselves.
In a working definition, the International Holocaust Alliance defines antisemitism as A certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Some examples the Alliance provides include:
Perhaps the most famous, or should I say infamous Jewish conspiracy theory kicking around is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the most notorious and widely distributed anti-Semitic publication of modern times. Although the exact origins of the Protocols are unknown, what we do know is that in 1903 portions of the work were serialized in a Russian newspaper. The intent was to portray Jews as conspirators against the state, who manipulate the economy, control the media, and foster religious conflict.
Although the Protocols were known from the outset to be a lie, they continued to spread all over the world. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, anti-Bolshevik emigres brought it to the West. In the US the Protocols became public knowledge in 1919. Louis Marshall, then president of the American Jewish Committee, complained that: it was distributed in every club, and placed in every newspaper. It has been received by every member of Congress and put in the hands of thousands of personalities. It is the topic of conversation in every living room and every social sphere.
In 1920 Henry Ford published a series of articles based in part on the Protocols in his newspaper The Dearborn Independent. The articles later became a book published by Ford entitled, The International Jew, which was translated into sixteen languages. Ford later apologized twice for publishing the book but online anti-Semites continue to use his name to promote it.
Adolph Hitler was introduced to the Protocols in the early 1920s, referring to them in some of his early speeches. Hitler exploited the myth that Jewish Bolshevists were conspiring to control the world.
Protocols continue to spread their lies, especially on the Internet, making it available worldwide, even in countries with hardly any Jews such as Japan. Many school textbooks throughout the Arab and Islamic world teach the Protocols as fact. Countless political speeches, editorials, and even children's cartoons are derived from the Protocols. In 2002, Egypt's government-sponsored television aired a miniseries based on the Protocols 
This past summer, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. shared his thoughts about the nature of COVID-19 (Atlantic article), stating there is an argument that COVID-19 was ethnically targeted to attack Caucasians and Blacks. Kennedy went on to say that the people who are the most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and the Chinese. While he wouldn’t go so far as to say the targeting was deliberate, it seems that for Kennedy, it is an open question as to whether the pandemic was engineered by a shadowy cabal to spare the Chinese and Jews.
Because over a million people in China have died from COVID-19 and I know several Jews just in this congregation who have gotten COVID-19 and one personal friend who died from it; Kennedy is as conspiracy theorists do, playing loosey-goosey with facts, evidence, and logic.
This is not the first conspiracy theory Kennedy has touted but he has now joined the ranks of a diverse set of folks from Marjorie Taylor Green to Kyrie Irving to Elon Musk, who have “graduated from garden-variety conspiracy theories to anti-Jewish arguments.” Paraphrasing Martin Luther King, Yair Rosenberg writes: “For conspiracy theorists, the arc of conspiracy is short and bends toward the Jews.”
Kennedy also loses points for originality since his musings about Jews and the Coronavirus are not new. Jews have been blamed for spreading plagues for centuries, most famously during Europe’s Black Death.
Then we have Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who in 2018 shared her suspicions that the California wildfires were ignited by a space laser controlled by a corporate cabal, including the Rothschild banking firm, Why? Well, according to Greene, the goal was to manipulate the stock market and line the pockets of “Rothschild Inc.,”…..,” and Sen. Dianne “Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum,” both of whom are Jewish.
For more than 200 years, the name “Rothschild has been synonymous with two things-- great wealth and conspiracy theories about what they’re doing with that wealth. Almost from the moment Mayer Amschel Rothschild and his sons emerged from the Jewish ghetto of Frankfurt to revolutionize the banking world, the Rothschild family has been the target of myths, hoaxes, bizarre accusations, and constant, virulent antisemitism. Over the years they have been blamed for everything from the sinking of the Titanic to causing the Great Depression, and—here we go again-- creating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Then we have George Soros. Most recently Soros has been accused of influencing Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who led the grand jury indictment of a former president over a hush money payment to a porn star. What’s the evidence? Well, there is none. It’s a conspiracy theory. The theory is that he made donations to a criminal justice group Color of Change, which endorsed Bragg for DA in 2021.
The Hungarian-born financier, whose philanthropic organization Open Society Foundations supports freedom and democracy initiatives in over 100 countries, is frequently without any evidence to the contrary, accused of being a mastermind of international conspiracies, funding Antifa, Black Lives Matter, violent protests, fraudulent voting schemes, to name a few. In addition, the emergence of QAnon has added fuel to the anti-Soros fire, with unfounded claims that Soros is the person behind an international network of pedophiles.
The conspiracy theorists vilifying Soros, a man who survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary and escaped communism, are pushing the perception of a wealthy Jew working as a puppet master behind the scenes to promote a liberal agenda. In the classic conspiracy theory style, they are promoting Soros as a powerful force outside of our control acting on behalf of the global elite to keep the truth from ordinary people.
As the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks once wrote: The hate that begins with the Jews never ends with the Jews. That may be but no other group aside from the Jews has been blamed simultaneously for being both insular and cosmopolitan; for being capitalists and behind Communist revolutions; for being subhuman but also a chosen people.
As I was writing this sermon a new book came out on Sept. 19th called Jewish Space Lasers: The Rothschilds and 200 Years of Conspiracy Theories. It was written by Mike Rothchild – no relation to the banking family. - In an interview with Time Magazine, Rothchild notes: There's always going to be a need for someone to blame when things go wrong—someone who has gotten too powerful, too rich, and needs to be knocked down a peg…..When you hear terms like “globalists, foreign bankers, or London financiers,” that usually has some reference to the Jews. Unfortunately, these theories travel much faster than any kind of debunking will ever be able to stop. The truth is always going to travel slower than the lies.
I told you about the walrus and me, man
You know that we're as close as can be, man
Well, here's another clue for you all
The walrus was Paul
Standing on the cast iron shore, yeah
Lady Madonna trying to make ends meet, yeah
Looking through a glass onion
 Scott A. Shay. Conspiracy U : a case study (New York : Post Hill Press, c2021) 42-3.
 Ibid. 13
 Ibid. 46
 Ibid. 44-5
 Ibid. 47
 Scott A. Shay. Conspiracy U : a case study (New York : Post Hill Press, c2021) 26
 Ibid. 57
 Michael Hagemeister. The Perennial conspiracy theory : reflections on the history of th eProtocols of the elders of Zion. (New York : Routledge, 2022) 8.