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A Classic Jewish Tale, Starring Indians

Preet Bharara vs. Raj Rajaratnam in ‘The New Yorker’

Marc Tracy
June 23, 2011
Preet Bharara earlier this year.(Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)
Preet Bharara earlier this year.(Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

In his excellent New Yorker report on the Galleon hedge fund corruption case, George Packer makes a leitmotif out of the fact that this Manhattan-set tale of financial misdeeds, vengeful prosecution, and men yelling at one another has a cast of mostly Indian-American characters. And the subtext of that leitmotif is that, certainly 25 or even 10 years ago, most of the characters would have been of a different ethnicity. Packer hints at this in the first paragraph: Contrasting the buttoned-up consultant Anil Kumar, who hails from India, with the garrulous trader Raj Rajaratnam, a Tamil from Sri Lanka, he notes, “In an earlier generation of immigrant financiers, Kumar would have been the German Jew, Rajaratnam the Russian.”

The article’s hero, as well as the prime exemplar of this undercurrent, is Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He “is, like so many others in the Galleon story, a Punjabi.” But he also grew up in Jersey. And got his job because he was Chuck Schumer’s chief counsel. And is married to a half-Indian Muslim, half-Israeli woman (“The Bhararas have three young children, religious affiliation unknown,” Packer adds cheekily). Moreover, Bharara is clearly a type of character with which readers of Tablet Magazine are familiar:

As a Democrat from New Jersey in his forties, Bharara inevitably loves Bruce Springsteen and watches The Daily Show. When Bharara was interviewed at the White House for the U.S. Attorney’s job, he was asked if he had been born in India. Yes, Bharara replied. But was he a citizen of the United States? “Damn,” Bharara said. “You’ve got to be a citizen for this job?”

So are Indian-Americans the new Jews? They are clearly getting there. Then again, the article’s climax comes when the CEO of Goldman Sachs testfies at Rajaratnam’s trial, and is given the celebrity treatment. And the CEO of Goldman is, of course, Lloyd Blankfein.

A Dirty Business [The New Yorker]
Related: Jews in Second Place [Slate]

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.