The Well-Grounded Roots of Chosen Stereotypes
Thomas Sowell, economist and historian at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, investigated the roots of ethnic and racial stereotypes in his 1981 book Ethnic America. Many Jewish stereotypes are understood by viewing history. Jews have been stereotyped as being adept money handlers. In medieval Europe, many governments restricted money handling and money lending to Jews and Arabs, believing them to be practices morally inappropriate for Christians. Entry into many fields was barred to Jews. Those who were competent financiers were most likely to succeed in a society where they were essentially personae non gratae.
Jews and the professions
Jews learned by experience to develop skills in professions dependent on intellectual talents they became teachers, doctors, lawyers, accountants. In a Europe where Jews were always considered resident-aliens, subject to expulsion or expropriation at the whim of the political class, it made sense to have a livelihood not tied to the ground. A Jew in exile could resume his profession and offer a scarce and valuable service wherever expulsion landed him.
These money-handling and intellectual skills often gained favor with political power holders, bringing individual or group protection. Many Jews actually became tax collectors or other government officials and advisors. But it also made Jews hated by enemies of the regime and especially likely to become targets in the event of an overthrow.
For much of European history, dangers of popular resentment made it inadvisable for Jews to display any wealth or even evidence of prosperity. The need to flee at a moment's notice made it a bad idea to keep whatever they had accumulated in immobile forms, and more sensible to have it in gold or jewelry
Viewed in this light, it is easy to understand the origins of the stereotypes of Jews as being miserly, as cunning and opportunistic money handlers, and as making excellent doctors, lawyers, and teachers.