The media coverage and commentary immediately following Sam Friedlander’s murder of his wife Amy and their two children included a disturbing level of victim-blaming:
Michael Borg: “I have heard from him the abuse she put him through in terms of belittling and emasculating him in front of the kids and in front of friends.”
David Pine: “He looked like an emotionally beaten man… I can’t put a handle on why he would take the lives of his kids, but whatever it was was a result of years of emotional torment that he must have (gone) through in that household.”
A childhood acquaintance asked on his blog: “Did his wife’s remarks bring him back to a time when he really was a small person?
The problem of victim-blaming is sadly widespread, and three different local groups, Hope’s Door, My Sister’s Place and the Westchester Hispanic Coalition staged a rally to raise awareness of the issue.
But I think that the language used here points to a specifically Jewish problem. It strongly evokes certain stereotypes about Jewish women and men: the domineering, emasculating Jewish woman, and the meek, dominated Jewish man. Whoever Sam and Amy really were and however their relationship played out, these stock characters help mask the absurdity of the implication that Amy Friedlander was or even could have been morally responsible for her husband’s murderous actions.