Shady Jewelry Jews in the Current TV Season

For some reason, two Law and Order franchise series and two police series, one fledgling and one long-running, are obsessing on Jews and jewelry. Their Jewish personages were all far from gems in character, if not outright murderers or enablers of murder, advancing anti-Semitic tropes that have been much in the news in recent weeks.

An episode of Law and Order-related FBI: Most Wanted (10-4-22) began with kipah (skull cap) and zizit (fringes)-donning diamond dealer Jared Horovitz (Zachary Fineman) hurriedly handing a rap artist’s blue diamond mouth-piece to an armored car driver, concerned, he says, about keeping it safe over the Sabbath. The driver is robbed and killed as he leaves the store.

This “religious” Jew is depicted as keeping no written records, upping insurance policies and avoiding taxes and mysteriously manipulating funds to afford a suburban home and city quarters to romance a stripper. The latter will describe him as “that super gross diamond dealer,” whom a Cartel sex-trafficker has “put” her “up to” (monitor?).  He says that he is “separated,” and “an open book.” 

Curiously, however, in this episode written by Wendy West, no clear connection is made between the diamond dealer and the robbery-murder. He is trotted out early, briefly (and gratuitously?) as a side show. But why? Does he fulfill some TV quota for requisite representation of seedy Orthodox Jews?

The pilot episode (11-16-22) of new CBS series, East New York, featured a developer named Adam Lustig (Scott Cohen), “the major developer in East New York.” Written by series producers William Finkelstein and Mike Flynn, the hour lost no time exposing Lustig’s false denial of knowing Nikolai Dushkin (Miro Barnyashev), a site foreman on one of his projects.  Are we supposed to wonder whether Lustig is an arrogant American-born Jew and Dushkin a murderous Russian Jewish immigrant?  In a choppy, jumbled, loosely-written plot, Dushkin tries to kill Lustig over a loan financed by blue diamond smuggling (of course) involving the exploitation of a young African mine worker. Lustig’s closest thing to a moral defense is the mantra, “Nothing my lawyer can’t handle.” 

Lustig often calls upon Deputy Mayor Sharpe (Darien Sills-Evans), a shadowy politico whom idealistic just-arrived Deputy Inspector Regina Haywood (Amanda Warren) pegs as an obstacle to justice and progress. Will Lustig be back?

And then there’s Law and Order: Organized Crime (11-10-22). The ace police unit has a brief window of opportunity to capture Mikail Abramov, an “Israeli national based in Europe,” whose international crime syndicate “has been on the NYPD’s radar for months—drugs, guns, human trafficking, all bankrolled by gold he smuggles in from Sudan. Once he gets the gold he melts it down, he makes jewelry out of it and sends it to local businesses for eighty cents on the dollar.” 

Not limiting the villainy to a renegade Russian-Israeli, writers Josh Fagin and Candice Sanchez McFarlane make the Sudanese government and embassy complicit with Abramov’s lucrative machinations, though an embassy official with a conscience helps the police to catch Abramov at an airport. 

Abramov remains an unrepentant exploiter, sex trafficker and murderer. We are told that he had a witness’s wife and two children murdered. We see him torture and kill, with boiling gold, a gold skimmer in his own jewelry-making factory. Later the police find the man’s skull in an oven. Are we supposed to conclude that this Israeli killer perpetuates, in his crimes, the ovens of Auschwitz? The police also arrest a jeweler named Jay, who may or may not be intended to be a Jewish character.

But why this “Israeli” theme at all? The show usually consists of multiple episodes devoted to one case. This was a one-off episode sandwiched in between the close of one cycle and a return to a previous story line. Did the producers and writers need to push through a requisite jab at Jewish jewelers, no matter how gratuitously?

Not to be outdone in Jewish jeweler trashing, CBS’s Blue Bloods highlighted a Teddy Marks (or Marx as in Groucho and Karl?) who has been sharing the names of purchasers of $900,000 watches with a ring of brazen hold-up robbers. Marks (Rob McClure) decided that customers can quickly get over the trauma of being robbed at gunpoint after they collect insurance and buy another watch, thus enriching Marks in the process. The problem is that the criminals start shooting their marks to death, and Detective Danny Reagan (Donnie Wahlberg) nabs the greedy Marks when he mentions a robbery that has not yet been made public.

In addition to the jeweler whose greed is a public danger, this episode, written by producer Ian Biederman, likely featured another possible Jewish character who is an arrogant and rude name-dropper: the first robbery victim, an art gallery owner named Alan Josephson (Allen McCullough), who makes a point of boasting that he hobnobs with the mayor’s wife.

Do prime time producers and writers, many of them Jewish, relish their shady Jewish characters, especially jewelers, thinking that unscrupulousness renders those characters more interesting and edgy and maybe even more fun to write?

Graphic credit: Public domain

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