Local Jewish leaders said Monday that Minnesota U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar's controversial tweet on Israel is offensive because it invokes "age-old" anti-Semitic stereotypes involving money.
The tweet — "It's all about the Benjamins baby" — has drawn swift and widespread criticism. "Benjamins" is a slang term for $100 bills. The phrase, which is followed by a music note emoji in Omar's tweet, is also an apparent nod to a 1997 song by Puff Daddy.
Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, condemned the tweet for invoking "ugly stereotypes." In a statement, he said it echoes anti-Semitic claims that American Jews "manipulate our government with money."
"Jews for centuries have been caricatured by anti-Semites as having power over others in ways related to money, control, conspiracy theories and the like," he said in an interview Monday. "Support for Israel is based upon values common to the United States and Israel. … It doesn't have anything to do with the purported buying of influence in Congress."
Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman of Temple Israel in Minneapolis said the tweet implies that Jews use money to control things like the media or government. Such language erodes trust between the Jewish community and elected officials, she said.
Zimmerman said the tweet has sparked concern in her congregation, spurring a flurry of worried calls, e-mails and texts.
"The community is upset, and these kinds of things make us feel vulnerable," she said. "We can have disagreements about a lot of sensitive issues. Discourse shouldn't descend into stereotyping."