Navigate to News section

Wanna Get Smart and Rich? Tap the Jews!

A murky Ponzi scheme duped Chinese citizens into believing they could gain wisdom—and money!—through the utmost purveyors of both: Jews

Jonathan Zalman
February 05, 2016

One organization in China—where the stereotype that Jews are inherently smart and know how to make money is peddled as a legendary belief (I mean, the Talmud as a business guide?)—probably made a decent chunk of change in 2008-2009 when it ran a Ponzi scheme called the “Jewish People’s Wisdom Network.” So what’d they sell? Wisdom, of course!

Earlier this week, Foreign Policy published an article about the Jewish People’s Wisdom Network, and other such Chinese Ponzi schemes, despite the fact that evidence of company appears to have more or less disappeared, at least from the publication’s research.

For the Jewish People’s Wisdom Network, the size of the scam and the amount of money its organizers made is unknown, but almost certainly small; the con never even made it into the newspapers. (Foreign Policy was unable to find an email address or a phone number to contact the Jewish People’s Wisdom Network.) Online traces suggest the Jewish People’s Wisdom Network may have tricked people by doling out such pearls of wisdom in its classes as “a model employee gets to work on time,” and “a regular worker is not very smart.” That style echoes the genre of wildly popular Chinese-language books promising to “unlock” the business-making secrets of Jewish wisdom and lore. Such a book may not deliver on its premise, but at least the bamboozled purchaser hasn’t spent thousands of dollars to get it.

The article states that not much in known about the scam, which is believed to have been a “multi-level marketing organization, which compensates salespeople for recruiting others into the organization…where earlier investors are paid not from actual investments but from money taken from new participants.” And what were they selling? Education, backed by Jewish wisdom, as exemplified by slideshows of team-building activities; in a related video, “a young man proudly brandishes a flimsy stack of money.” At least that’s what remains of the Jewish People’s Wisdom Network, along with posts on some online forum in which people wonder if they were swindled.

Sign me up. Oh wait, I already possess this knowledge.

Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.

Become a Member of Tablet

Get access to exclusive conversations, our custom app, and special perks from our favorite Jewish artists, creators, and businesses. You’ll not only join our community of editors, writers, and friends—you’ll be helping us rebuild this broken world.