I read a very interesting post by a blogger named Pommygranite, via Kizzie’s page. His post was entitled: “Why are Jews So Successful?” Some of the comments were indeed thought-provoking, and I will share a couple which I felt were worth further consideration and discussion as it relates to Africans in the diaspora.
I would say that the remarkable success of the Jews is probably due to the following factors:
1. The emphasis in their religion on the written word and its exegesis (with vigorous debate being positively encouraged).
2. The experience of exile, which gave even greater emphasis to the importance of their “intellectual” life, there being no opportunity to put energy into temple building, religious institutions and so on.
3. Overcrowding in the ghettos. I have read one suggestion that in the extremely overcrowded world of the ghetto there was little opportunity for personal aggrandizement through personal wealth and ostentatious displays. Once again there was a strong emphasis on books, the written religion, music, the arts.
4. The persecutions and legal restrictions. These led the Jews into certain professions and trades, e.g diamond working, banking, shop keeping etc., which when world trade and the industrial revolution got going meant that they were well placed to benefit financially. In comparison with the mass of gentile peasantry they had a head start.
5. The strong emphasis on monogamy and family life, derived from the ethical religious tradition (strangely since as the Mormons show there is plenty of scope for justifying polygamy via the OT.
6. Multi-linguism. Jewish exile obviously led to a multi-lingual experience, which meant that with the coming of the modern age Jews were often well placed to absorb influences from several cultures and combine them in new and effective ways.
7. The fact that Christian Europe when it liberalized itself welcomed the talents of Jewish people. (We see that Jews trapped in the Islamic world have been far less successful.)
I think the above are the main reasons why Jews have been successful. It is difficult to think of another people who have enjoyed so many advantages and “disadvantages which turned out to be advantages”.
Why do some groups go down? Well one has to look at the Jewish experience in context. During the centuries of persecution and legal restriction Jews were never – or hardly ever – reduced to a slave existence. Their family units were not broken up; they were not made to engage in extreme manual labour; apart from the occasional pogroms their women were not sexually abused; although they were excluded from various educational establishments, they were not actively prevented from owning books and so on. Of course African Americans, were subject to this extremely violent form of slavery for several hundred years followed by a hundred years or more of very violent oppression. That is enough to explain a good deal of the relative positions of Jews and African Americans. During the Nazi persecution, where Jewish family units were broken up, they were actively prevented from educating themselves and they were forced into extreme manual labour. I think we began to see the Jewish community buckling under the pressure – as any group would. Had this slavery been continued for two hundred years, I very much doubt there would be anymore Jewish Nobel prize winners.