Jewish lightning

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From the stereotype of Jews engaging in this practice.


Jewish lightning (uncountable)

  1. (now offensive) A fire which is deliberately started to collect insurance money.
    • 1974, Francis A. J. Ianni, Black Mafia; Ethnic Succession in Organized Crime, New York, N.Y., : Simon and Schuster, →ISBN, page 133:
      According to Manchu the fire had forced all the families upstairs to get out, the fire department had closed down the bar for repairs. Manchu said the bar wasn't bad off but the Jew collected all he could for fire and water damage ¶ "You mean it wasn't no Jewish lightning."
    • 1992, James Edmist, The Sterling Years: Small-Arms and the Men, London: Leo Cooper, →ISBN, page 45:
      I can refute any charges that it was a case of 'Jewish lightning', but I admit that the fire did happen at the most opportune moment!
    • [1996, William Kleinknecht, The New Ethnic Mobs: The Changing Face of Organized Crime in America, New York, N.Y. []: The Free Press, →ISBN, page 31:
      The torching of overinsured buildings was so common that arson became known as "Jewish lightning." Forty-four percent of the arson cases reported by the New York Times in the 1890s were linked to Jews.]
    • [1996 October 28, Andrew Ross, quoting John le Carré, “John le Carr”, in[1], archived from the original on 2022-05-20:
      The insurance companies, many of which were Jewish, referred to "Jewish lightning" when unfortunate fires burned down warehouses in the East End.]
    • 2012, Jane Genende, Lost Tribe of the Andes: A Jewish-American Family's Struggle With Assimilation, Bloomington, I.N.: iUniverse, Inc., →ISBN, pages 20–21:
      The fire was a mysterious and tragic event upon which Mom is unwilling to elaborate. Was it a case of spontaneous combustion, perhaps due to poor wiring or improper storage of bulk dry goods? Or was it a case of "Jewish lightning" (a suspicious fire caused in order to collect the insurance money)? This is another family mystery left unsolved with all the individuals involved long gone.
    • 2019 December 27, “Being Harley Quinn”, in Harley Quinn, season 1, episode 5, spoken by Golda (Rhea Perlman):
      Why not burn down the place and take the insurance? A little Jewish lightning never hurt anyone.

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