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Why is everything Jewish?

  1. Mar 10, 2009 #1
    I refer of course to the ethnic Jews, ie. descendents of Israel. Just about every science book I own is either written by someone Jewish or is owned by a Jewish publisher. Everything from the New Math Library, to the Gelfand outreach programs, the yellow Springer math series, faviorates like Spivak, Rudin, Levine, Strauss, all the 'bergs' etc. I don't think I need to include their success in the financial, media, and political centers.

    What is the most surprising is that they are a tiny portion of the American population (~2%). So my question is, how is it that a small group of people is capable of such success?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 10, 2009 #2
    Perhaps they worked their butts off, knuckled under and did the work.
  4. Mar 10, 2009 #3
    Because Northern European Jewish culture came by various factors to value highly being studious, there are many, many studies on this have a look around the web, partciular you want to look into Ashkenazi Jewish cultural heritage.
  5. Mar 10, 2009 #4


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    Well, first get things straight: Not everything is Jewish or Jewish-owned, including some of your examples. Springer is a German publishing group owned by media conglomerate Bertelsmann. 'Strauss' is not a Jewish name - Nazi composer Richard Strauss would probably agree. And 'berg' is common in all Germanic names and should not be assumed to be Jewish (E.g. 'Blomberg' is a common Swedish name. 'Blumberg', OTOH, is often Jewish) I think you may have some selection bias going on here as well.

    Nevertheless, the Jewish people have done well for themselves, not least in Science. And plenty of people have speculated on the reasons for it. I don't see it as having anything to do with Judaism in itself or the ethnicity, because you don't see quite the same success rate from non-European (e.g. Mizrahi) Jews.

    Really I think it's a quite simple matter of social legacy. For most of the last thousand years, in most European countries, Jews were not allowed to own land or be farmers. They were often not allowed to be craftsmen, since they would not be admitted into guilds. They were encouraged, however, to become financiers, since Christians were not permitted to lend money against interest. In many cases, up until the mid 19th century, a European Jew simply couldn't get a job in the Christian community unless he was either a financier, or well-educated enough to get a job that was important enough to overlook prejudice.

    Is it a surprise then, that well-educated people encourage their children to become well-educated? Or that once the laws were liberalized, that the educated, urban, Jewish population didn't rush out into the countryside to become farmers?
  6. Mar 10, 2009 #5
    It's because you're in love khemix.

    Steve McQueen is Jewish would you believe it?
    He's just like you and I, couldn't you almost die?
    And Cary Grant is Jewish could you conceive it?
    Such a living doll in a prayer shawl
    Marlon Brando's Jewish, Pat O'Brien and Richard Conte
    Not to mention that lovely couple, Harry and Belafonte

    Frank Sinatra's Jewish would you believe it?
    Sean Connery and Lyndon Johnson too
    As a matter of fact the whole world is Jewish
    Since I fell in love with you
    (Rosie McGonegal!)
    Since I fell in love with you.

    Would You Believe It? from the album "When you're in love the whole world is Jewish" by Bob Booker.
  7. Mar 10, 2009 #6
    Thats great Jimmy, I love it!
  8. Mar 10, 2009 #7


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    Another thing that occurred to me, on the subject of social legacies.. I happen to be from one of those families who hasn't done an honest day's work in most of the last 1000 years because my great^20-grandfather was a buddy of the Holy Roman Emperor.

    People with my brand of surname are still disproportionately represented when it comes to wealth, influence, and membership in European conservative parties. If you notice them. Which I tend to.

    John von Neumann happened to be both Jewish and nobility, unusually enough. Come to think of it, I think almost all Hungarian Nobel laureates are either Jewish or nobles.
  9. Mar 10, 2009 #8
    Not being able to own land does not mean you cannot farm it. I don't think they were encouraged to be financiers as much as they took advantage of an opportunity; but this is just speculation. Also what of other non-European groups that were living in Europe who were discrimiated against in equal proprortions (ie. Gpsies, Samaritans). They faced similar restrictions and have not really risen much in terms of status.

    Regardless, in the modern age they are not the only degree holders in America. Their numbers are simply too small for them to hold such a strong footing in many industries. Unless you make the claim that virtually every one of them is more qualified than their non-Jewish competitors.

    I don't love or hate Jewish people. Actually, I'd be interested in taking notes on their stragedy to success.
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2009
  10. Mar 10, 2009 #9


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    It's not just ethnic Jews from Europe that are very successful in their fields - many immigrant populations have high rates of success. In one (quite large) construction company that I worked for, the CFO was a Dutch Jew who made it to the US during the rise of the Nazis. After paying for passage, he got here with little or nothing and started from the bottom. He was a very shrewd manager and he despised waste. The most senior project superintendent for the company came his with his mother and aunt as refugees from Latvia. When the Russians came through Latvia and stripped their farm of all food and livestock and killed all the men, they fled and spent more than a year walking across Europe. These people have grit and determination - both very important to success.
  11. Mar 10, 2009 #10
    Don't forget to mention basketball too. Here's the lineup of the 1946 Knicks:
    Ossie Schectman, Sonny Hertzberg, Stan Stutz, Hank Rosenstein, Ralph Kaplowitz, Jake Weber, and Leo "Ace" Gottlieb.
    http://www.thefirstbasket.com/Story.htm" [Broken]
    There's no real accounting for this stuff.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  12. Mar 10, 2009 #11
    You are forgetting Americans :smile:
  13. Mar 10, 2009 #12


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    But that would require either a European peasant willing to hire a Jew as a farm-hand; possible, but not likely. Or a land-owning noble who was willing to lease land to a Jew (probably risking a village riot). And the aforementioned factor that the Jewish population tended to be urban, if for no other reason than having been forced into ghettos.

    Actually there are plenty of specific examples where Jews were invited to settle in cities, with the express intent of taking advantage of their financial services.

    Samaritans still exist? Only 712 according to Wikipedia. But anyhow. The situation for gypsies is different. They were never forced into ghettos, were largely rural and transient. I'd say the transient nature of their traditional lifestyle is what's largely kept them from integrating.

    Well I haven't and wouldn't make that claim either. All I said was that it's true that Jews are over-represented in Science and some other professions, and that I think this is due to the fact that forces of prejudice lead to a situation where they were strongly encouraged to educate themselves, and that this in combination with social legacy (which tends to be stronger in any minority group, due to their more close-knit nature) is enough to explain this over-representation.

    And I do believe, that if you go back 100 or 200 years and pick out a significant number of top people in Science and Medicine and such, that come from the majority population and see where their descendants are now, that that group will probably still be over-represented as well. The main difference to the Jewish situation would just be that their names and successes would not be identified with any specific group. (Except in the case of nobility, who do have identifiable names. But I already spoke of that)
  14. Mar 10, 2009 #13
    If prejudice leads to education, and social legacy prompts people to take up skills, why are black Americans (who experienced plenty of both) not running the country?

    Your claim about people unwilling to hire farmers is also questionable. People will always open the doors to groups they deem unworthy, as it affords them exploitation. Or are you not familiar with the concept of slavery?
  15. Mar 10, 2009 #14


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    I didn't say that prejudice leads to education in general. I said it did so in the Jewish case. In the same post I also addressed the Gypsy situation, where it quite clearly hasn't. Black Americans were in a situation, post-slavery, in particular in the South, where they were quite strongly discouraged from getting any form of education or career as a professional.

    The fact that blacks in America remain under-represented is another example of that power of social legacy.

    Hiring a farm hand is rather different than forced exploitation through slavery. You couldn't beat up your farm hand, even if he was Jewish. The issue here is that there were plenty of non-Jewish people to hire. The idea that it's exploitative is also wrong. Until the 1800s, the majority of Europeans were farmers. They were the middle class back there and then.

    Anyway, if you don't like the reasons I stated, you best find other ones rather than argue against it, because it's just a fact that relatively few Jews in Europe were historically employed in agriculture. Including, in Eastern Europe, the most exploitative form of labor that existed there - serfdom. There were relatively few Jewish serfs.
  16. Mar 10, 2009 #15


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    Uhhhh. Anyone else notice a problem with this statement? :rolleyes:
  17. Mar 10, 2009 #16
    If prejudice doesn't account for success of some groups, then prejudice cannot be the reason Jewish people are successful. There must be something the Jewish people are doing that, according to you, lets them thrive in enviornments other groups did not.

    This has nothing to do with liking or disliking reasons, I do not find yours that convincing. Jewish people excel in science and industry because their ancestors were encouraged to take up trades, unlike other groups, and as a result what...? They became wealthy and had an edge in every industry?

    What about in arab countires, why were Jewish people there not working in land? Owning land there was not an issue.

  18. Mar 10, 2009 #17
    Obviously because they are shapeshifting lizards from another dimension, don't you know?
  19. Mar 10, 2009 #18
  20. Mar 10, 2009 #19
    Are you implying that they are cold blooded?
  21. Mar 10, 2009 #20
    this is rather long, but it addresses some of the cultural factors.

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
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