Obama finally released his Supreme Court nomination, Merrick Garland. Surprisingly, like Elena Kagan, his other nomination, Justice Garland is Jewish. Once he gets sworn in, 4 of 9 U.S. Supreme Court Justices will be Jews, who represent than 2% of the general population.
I know everyone’s wondering what this big Jewish conspiracy is about.
6. Millennia of Discrimination
When a group of people is discriminated against for so long, they learn to work extra hard to survive. They couldn’t afford to just be good enough to do a particular task, they had to be so good that no non-Jews of comparable skill existed to hire in their stead. We therefore had to develop a steadfast work ethic that we passed down from generation to generation, as we simply had no choice. We didn’t succeed because we are Jews, we succeeded in spite of being Jews. For example, in the past Jews weren’t allowed in regular hospitals, so we just made our own, and in many cases non-Jews flocked to them because they were better. Many of these hospitals still exist today.
5. Focus on Education and Discovery
The entire ethos of the Jewish religion is built on studying the Tanach (Torah, Prophets, Revelations) and the Talmud, and our tradition is built around lively debate and questioning. That’s why the saying goes that when you put two Jews in a room you get three opinions. That is also why literacy has always been stressed in the Jewish religion, and why science was encouraged in Judaism even when religion reigned supreme among their diaspora neighbors. Science is simply an extension of the Talmudic tradition of always learning, pondering, questioning, growing, and discovering. Meanwhile, one of Christianity’s main mantras is to “trust G-d with all your heart, do not rely on your understanding,” and the word “Islam” means “Total submission to G-d.” Does it therefore surprise anyone that we had a bit of a head start in the discovery arena, with nearly a quarter of all Nobel Prizes given to Jews, who represent 0.2% of the world population.
4. Tradition of Giving
The Jewish People has a long history of giving back. Whether under the concept of tzedakah (“Charity”), Tikkun Olam (“Repairing the World”) or Kol Am Israel Arevim Ze La’Ze (“All of the Nation of Israel is Responsible for One Another”) philanthropy is a big deal. Jews are constantly spending a larger portion of their income on philanthropy than any other group. Indeed, 5 of the 6 top American philanthropists are Jews. The Jewish Nation survived because of the Jewish tendency to look out for one another, as when a Jew is in peril, other Jews are often much more willing to come to their rescue. Whether it means airlifting Ethiopian and Yemenite Jews in peril, or supporting Jewish students, a society that gives is a society that gets. And Jewish philanthropy has reaped the benefits for the Jewish community.
3. Strong Community Networks
Due to the aforementioned history of discrimination and isolation, Jews were forced to rely on each other to survive. That’s why we’ve built strong community networks. After all, “schmoozing” is a Yiddish word! Perhaps this can be due to an ingrained mistrust of non-Jews due to millennia of discrimination and social, political, and economic exclusion, but Jews are generally eager to help other Jews get ahead, because they know that they are indirectly helping themselves get ahead by advancing the status of the Jew in society. The Jewish community, given its small size, in many ways acts like a giant family, and therefore there is a felt need to help fellow Jews. Lord knows this help was sorely needed when a Jew would be lucky to be allowed to go to a given college, let alone get a decent job. And there is always this persistent fear that if we don’t have representatives at the top in every field, our exclusion might return, as we all know that antisemitism never dies, it just changes form. The world has been antisemitic for millennia, what makes you think they’ve stopped now?
19th Century Rabbi Ahad Ha’am said that “More than the Jewish People have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews.” Medical knowledge makes it clear that human beings need rest in order to consolidate the knowledge and skills they had acquired throughout the day. Similarly, Shabbat is a way to consolidate the knowledge and skills that one has acquired throughout the week, while families get a chance to focus on what is important – building relationships. The repetitive Shabbat prayers serve as a form of meditation, centering, and regaining perspective. The key to Shabbat’s effectiveness is its way of providing a day of rest and preventing burnout. Shabbat could very well be the secret to the Jews’ unmatched productivity.
1. Jewish Mothers
And the number one secret to the Jews’ disproportionate success is, without a doubt, the Jewish Mother. The Jewish Mother is like the concern that Jews have for other Jews to the power of kin selection multiplied by infinite. They nag, they complain, they have high standards that are impossible to meet, and they’re so concerned with everything you do that they are always there to make sure you are doing your homework, eating well, and staying out of trouble. Jewish Mothers are also the glue that keep the family together (generally) and provide a seemingly paradoxical combination of grounding stability and temperamental dysfunction that is unmatched. You do not want to feel the wrath of a Jewish Mother, so you avoid it and stay on the path of righteousness (aka an MD, JD, or PhD).
Even when your Jewish mother is long gone, you will still have her voice in your compass, using the quintessential Jewish guilt trip to make sure you’re doing the right thing, working hard, and making Jewish babies. And you wouldn’t want it any other way.