Jews, Basketball And The Human Endeavor
We will write more on the subject, but these few ideas came to mind.
Pondering whether or not Jews are 'smarter' than everyone else is like asking if basketball players are taller than everyone else.
The evidence speaks for itself. The real question, is why Jews are smarter. There are of course, many theories. Some point to genetics, others point to culture. Yet others see the Jewish achievement as a combination of factors, giving no added weight to culture or genetics. Let's examine that.
The case for superior genetics is pretty easy to make. The smart Christian kid became a priest, or, if she 'heard the call,' became a nun- and that was that. The smart Jewish kid married the Rabbi's daughter and produced more smart kids- and that was that.
From a cultural standpoint, there is an equally easy connection that can be made. Even in the most religious of households, Jews had to read and write in at least two languages, Hebrew and the 'language of the land.' In addition, Jews were obligated to participate in the welfare the community- not just their own, but the community of which the were a part. While many people have referred to the Jews as 'clannish,' the facts clearly indicate otherwise. As a group, Jews give more charity per capita than any other group. Various studies have concluded that most charity is given to make the donor feel good. Jews, on the other hand, historically give money because it's the right thing to do. Within that community, there is a whole subculture of anonymous giving.
It is to that subculture we wish to look. We believe that there is much that can be learned. We'll start by the world we live in and how we see ourselves within that world. That idea is not as clear as one might think.
We are told that our world can be looked at in one of two ways. We either focus and concern ourselves with personal productivity, managing the information we have, or we look to gather as much information as possible, from as many sources as possible, before we direct our attention to the task at hand.
To be clear, these are not ethereal ideas. This battle of ideas has been picked up by Microsoft and Google. They are slugging it out and the winner will have a huge impact on society and culture as we know it.
Microsoft's new search engine focuses on personal productivity. It searches your hard drive for whatever it is you might need. They believe that web search results mixed in with your own work are too cumbersome and unwieldy. Too much information, from too many sources, only serves to slow productivity down.
Google search engines not only search your hard drive, but the web and email as well. They believe that having as much knowledge as possible at your fingertips is really enhanced connectivity- and that connectivity, shared, is all empowering.
What does all that have to do with the Jews? Everything. They are the embodiment both those schools of thought- and they have the track record to prove it. Personal productivity and shared connectivity, amonst themselves and the human efforts to excel and achieve.
The Jews, it seems, understand that what is on the menu aren't the only things that can come out of the kitchen. With those same ingredients and a bit of creativity, we can expand our choices. We are not limited to what we are offered- or taught.
That may be the lesson we can learn from the Jews- that success and achievement are components, a recipe which we can all put to use.
In other words, maybe the Jews aren't really smarter than us, IQ tests notwithstanding. Maybe it is because Jews, as culture and as part of their faith, accept as dogma certain truths, despite having seemingly opposite foundations. For example, they are as committed to justice as they are to education. They are as committed to helping others as they are committed to God. They commit to personal and communal truths, each in equal measure.
Success is the result of individual effort, initiative and productivity. Knowledge is the result of that connectivity. When fused together, they make for a powerful culture- and belief structure.
What is their secret? How do they know? We can only guess. Still, there must be a recipe. The Jews are the only people that have survived from antiquity. As we and others have noted,
Where are the Hittites? Why does no one find it remarkable that in most world cities today there are Jews but not one single Hittite even though the Hittites had a great flourishing civilization while the Jews nearby were a weak and obscure people? When one meets a Jew in New York or New Orleans or Paris or Melbourne, it is remarkable that no one considers the event remarkable. What are they doing here? But it is even more remarkable to wonder, if there are Jews here, why are there not Hittites here? Where are the Hittites? Show me one Hittite in New York City.
Doesn't get much clearer than that. It is also true that we know the Jews because they know themselves. They have not wiped the memory of their history, faith or culture from their collective minds. They have assimilated- and yet they have managed toretain their identity- an identity clearly tied to the past and an unshakable set of values. They remember the joys and the tragedies, as if they happened yesterday. On the Passover holiday, Jews are taught to regard the liberation from Egypt as if it happened to them. As we noted, there is much we can learn.
While we may not all share the history of the Jews, we all share in the legacy of those men who founded this great nation. As the French Playwright and philosopher, Moliere said, 'The less we are like our ancestors, the less we deserve them.'
The history and memories of a people are comprised of individual lifetimes- not necessarily in detail, but in the collective understanding that by applying certain truths and commitments to family, culture and community, we will succeed, no matter the adversity.