The Phenomenon of the Jews: Seven Keys to the Enduring Wealth of a People by Steven Silbiger, 2000
The best part of this book is its summation of Jewish influence, especially in the United States. It shows clearly how Jews, who constitute only 2% of the population, dominate most of the important institutions: academics, politics, the media, the professions, and particularist organizations that influence our culture. Forty-five percent of the Jews live in the United States, 35% in Israel. And the incredible influence of this small group of people has resulted in a vast transfer of wealth from the United States to Israel, due mainly to the political power of the Jewish lobby. And behind this incredible power lies two important facts: Jews have an inordinate amount of wealth (due largely to their high intelligence) and they are extremely cohesive or ethnocentric (that is they belong first to the nation of Jews).
The book tries to describe what a Jew is, but fails to really define it aside from tribalism. The author claims Jews are not a race, but recent genetic studies, coming out of Israel no less, have clearly shown that they have maintained their racial purity while living amongst Gentiles for thousands of years. In all fairness, the author may not have known this data before this book was published, but there was ample data on the differences between Jews and Gentiles published in other academic journals to make Judaism a genetic subset that can clearly be defined as a racial group.
The book then tries to show what makes Jews so powerful and successful: intelligence, ethnocentrism, professionals & entrepreneurs, verbal skill, selectively extravagant but prudently frugal, individuality & creativity, and drive. He argues that any group can adopt this program and become just like the Jews. So the book is an excellent source of data on Jews, but then turns into just another seven-step program for becoming like the Jews. On this point the book fails miserably because it is based on a false premise -- radical environmentalism or cultural determinism, a theory without foundation or any academic adherents outside of a few Marxist cultural anthropologists who have turned their backs on scientific methodologies for a purely political agenda.
He states in the first two pages of the book that the Jews are no different than anyone else with regards to intelligence (and ethnocentrism implied). But simply stating this does not make it so. After The Bell Curve controversy broke in 1994, in 1995 a renewed interest in intelligence produced a massive amount of new data that verified that intelligence is 60-80% inherited, and has been accepted in a special report by the American Psychological Association entitled "Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns." Furthermore, studies have shown that not only are Ashkenazi Jews highly intelligent, they are asymmetrically intelligent. That is, they have an astounding average verbal IQ of 127 resulting from 2,000 years of emphasizing verbal scholarship -- a type of eugenics' program. And, research has shown that Jews are genetically more ethnocentric than Gentiles.
But the real question is not if the book is based on a false premise as it most surely is. But why do most Jews abide by this deception? Surely they must know, as a highly educated people, that genetic intelligence is the primary requirement for success. Frankly, this has always been a puzzle to me. Not that some people can accept cultural determinism. But how can a group of people adhere to this dogma so tenaciously? I can think of only two reasons. First, because of their eugenic selection for a type of mind that is heavily influenced by the ability to take any position in a philosophical argument, a skill needed to rise to the top in Talmudic studies, they are prone to a genetic propensity towards self-deception. Self-deception is an important component of evolutionary strategies. It is easier to be deceptive if you can bring yourself to believe your own deceptions. That is, just like a politician, they are more convincing to the electorate if they can bring themselves to believe that they are seeking public office for the public good, rather than as a form of social display for self-promotion.
Second, Jews may actually know that they are wealthier and have more power because they are genetically more intelligent on average, but they lie about it as a means to protect themselves from what they fear is a hostile gentile world that remains particularistic. That is, they fear the other and they must therefore try and deceive others into believing that humans are really all the same, only our cultures differ. This has been a recurring theme in the academic wars over intelligence, sociobiology, eugenics, behavior genetics, evolutionary theories, the nature/nurture debate, etc. On one side are primarily pure scientists who pursue facts as they find them, and on the other side are politically motivated Marxists who are highly over-represented by Jews. Jews, because of their fears of being singled out for resentment because of their power and success, have adopted a campaign to deceive and hold back from the public the work by academics on the importance of genetic intelligence on social outcomes. That is, Jews collectively and knowingly try to manipulate scientific discourse in an attempt to deny the salience of human genetics. It has been a losing battle, but this book so poignantly illustrates this ongoing attempt to undue scientific advancements in human behavior.
Following are the first few pages of this book that so clearly implicates Jewish attempts at manipulating Gentile opinions by promoting a simplistic seven-step self-help program to wealth, fame and political & cultural domination:
Steven Spielberg. Ralph Lauren. Michael Eisner. Michael Dell. They're all successful, at the top of their fields. They're all fabulously wealthy. And they're all Jewish. Those three characteristics successful, wealthy and Jewish are linked repeatedly in America today. And it is no accident. Jewish-Americans are, as a group, the wealthiest ethnic group in America. But the factors that work together to create Jewish wealth, which I identify in this book, can be applied to individuals and groups from any background.
Throughout 1997 and 1998 both The Millionaire Next Door and The Gifts of the Jews shared the New York Times bestseller lists. But despite this obvious interest in wealth, on one hand, and the Jewish people on the other, the two subjects have not been dealt with together. The Gifts of the Jews confines its discussion to the contributions that Judaism has made to American culture, including monotheism, the Ten Commandments and the Sabbath. But what largely defines Jews in the popular imagination is their economic success and the accomplishments that made it possible. Perhaps Jews and their wealth have not become a focus for discussion because whenever Americans discuss ethnicity and money, the conversation tends to become heated. It does not have to be that way. The extraordinary story of Jewish-American success contains lessons for all of us.
Many authors have written books about business success, trying to find a pattern that we can apply to all business organizations. What makes a company successful? Disney, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft. . . . how have they overcome challenges and become so successful? In examining the phenomenon of Jewish-American success, this book reveals the principles that can be applied to your life. And it is important to note that the wealth created by Jews is much more than just money; it includes advances in the arts, sciences and the humanities that made the money possible.
A recent Los Angeles Times article describes the gap that The Jewish Phenomenon bridges. "The easy temptation is just to offer a laundry list of Jews and their achievements a Hall of Fame of Nobel Prize winners, musicians and artists, a parade of business leaders, movie moguls, educators, journalists and entertainers who have influenced the American scene. Yet in searching for a deeper answer to the question a theory that might explain the contributions of people as diverse as Jerry Seinfeld and Albert Einstein there's a silence in the literature about Judaism and American life." The seven "keys" described in this book bring the silence to an end.
About half of American Jews marry gentiles, prompting experts to project that the Jewish-American community will shrink to half its size by 2050. This statistic lends urgency to the investigation of Jewish success today. As Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple, the oldest Conservative Jewish congregation in Los Angeles, explained to the writer for the Los Angeles Times, "The farther away you get from the source of your tradition, the less of a contribution you might be expected to make in a place like America. We could lose something precious."
The Bell Curve, published with a storm of controversy in 1994, went down a slippery slope by examining the genetic IQ component of the success of Jews and other groups, an approach that alienated Jews and gentiles alike. During the debate over The Bell Curve, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations rightly stated, "As Jews, we know too well how these theories have been used against us . . . to justify hatred, discrimination, even murder and genocide." The Bell Curve's sharp rhetoric and dense statistics serve no useful purpose for two reasons: the science does not pass critical review, and there would be nothing to be learned if success lay in our genetic code at birth. The Jewish Phenomenon takes a positive position, that the Jewish people have been successful because of a combination of factors related to the Jewish religion and culture, and a collective historical experience. These are things that everyone and any group can examine and learn from.
Anti-Semitism has a long history, and it is by no means dead. Throughout that long history, the Jews' success has been decried as the reason for other people's problems. Even President Richard Nixon, in his Watergate paranoia, saw the Jews as his enemies. In the famed "Nixon Basement Tapes," Nixon told chief of staff H. R. Haldeman, "What about the rich Jews? The IRS is full of Jews, Bob. Go after 'em like a son-of-a-bitch!" While institutional anti-Semitism has been virtually eliminated in America, on a personal level anti-Semitism is very much alive.
Today an isolated anti-Semitic act such as the painting of a Nazi swastika on a synagogue makes front-page news and clergy from all denominations condemn it. The random shooting of three children by a madman at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles in 1999 brought worldwide outrage. But just seventy-five years ago Henry Ford, "Mr. Model T," conducted a propaganda campaign against the "International Jew." Ford believed that the Jews were involved in an international conspiracy to undermine the world economy. He spent millions of dollars investigating and publicizing his suspicions, but he could never uncover any evidence of the twisted plot.
Indeed, even today many Jewish people would rather reserve the subject of their success for private conversations rather than fuel the fires of anti-Semitism. Older Jewish-Americans, in particular, have downplayed their success and their Judaism in an effort to avoid unwanted attention and possible trouble. But in recent years the Jewish community has become less reluctant to trumpet its accomplishments. In Schmoozing: The Private Conversations of American Jews, younger American Jews expressed the opinion that "we debase ourselves when we hide our achievements out of fear of what the gentiles will think." In December 1996, the Jewish magazine Moment published a cover story about the Jewish billionaires of the Forbes 400. Such an article would have been unthinkable a few years before, and even today such reporting draws criticism. In any case, Jews remain much more defensive than the facts warrant. A recent study by Daniel Yankelovich and his staff revealed that 25 percent of Americans believe Jews have too much power in American business. But 75 percent of Jews think that others think Jews have too much power!
The wildly successful The Millionaire Next Door concentrated on the factors common to American millionaires. That fascinating book actually inspired me to write this one because it began a discussion of wealth in America, but did not finish it. Conspicuously absent was any mention of religion or ethnicity. However, The Millionaire did list "The Top 15 Economically Productive Small Groups." Ranked No. 1 were Israeli-Americans with a productivity index of 6.8. Those Jewish immigrants from Israel were seven times more likely to have the highest concentration of higher incomes and the lowest rate of dependency on public assistance than any other group studied. But that was all the book said. As I continued to thumb through the book, I thought that someone should take a closer look.
That closer look revealed a picture of a very small group with a great deal of economic and social success. Of course, that was no surprise to me. My parents raised me as a Jew with expectations of economic achievement, education and success. In addition, I had no shortage of role models from my family, my community, the media and the world. Economic success was the norm in my Jewish community.
Did I buy into a stereotype perpetuated out of ethnic pride, or was there a truth to it? Being critical by nature, I quickly uncovered some compelling facts that prove Jewish success is indeed a fact in America:
1.) The percentage of Jewish households with income greater than $50,000 is double that of non-Jews.
2.) On the other hand, the percentage of Jewish households with income less than $20,000 is half that of non-Jews.
3.) "The Jewish advantage in economic status persists to the present day; it remains higher than that of white Protestants and Catholics, even among households of similar age, composition and location."
4.) Forty-five percent of the top 40 of the Forbes 400 richest Americans are Jewish.
5.) "One-third of American multimillionaires are tallied as Jewish."
6.) Twenty percent of professors at leading universities are Jewish.
7.) Forty percent of partners in the leading law firms in New York and Washington are Jewish!
8.) Thirty percent of American Nobel prize winners in science and 25 percent of all American Nobel winners are Jewish.
It didn't end there. In his book Ethnic America, Dr. Thomas Sowell, an African-American economist and senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, created a point-scale index that graphed Jewish economic success compared with that of other ethnic groups:
ETHNIC HOUSEHOLD INCOME
(U.S. Average = 100)
JEWISH -- 172
JAPANESE -- 132
POLISH -- 115
CHINESE & ITALIAN -- 112
ANGLO-SAXON & German -- 107
IRISH -- 103
U.S. AVG. -- 100
FILIPINO -- 99
WEST INDIAN -- 94
MEXICAN -- 76
PUERTO RICAN -- 63
BLACK -- 62
NATIVE AMERICAN -- 60
THE JEWISH POPULATION IS SURPRISINGLY SMALL
The facts are extraordinary considering that Jewish Americans make up just 2 percent of the U.S. population, 5.9 million of America's 263 million people. The high media visibility of successful Jews in the sciences, the arts, the media and in business gives the false impression that the Jewish population is far larger than it is. Only in New York and New Jersey do Jews make up more than S percent of the state's population, and five states contain 68 percent of the Jewish-American population. At the bottom, there are only five hundred Jews in Idaho and five hundred in Wyoming, not enough to support a decent delicatessen.
JEWISH POPULATION OF THE UNITED STATES, 1996
By State (those over 100,000 listed)
State / Population / % of State Population / % of U.S. Jews
New York / 1,652,000 / 9.1% / 28%
California / 921,000 / 2.9% / 16%
Florida / 644,000 / 4.5% / 11%
New Jersey / 435,000 / 5.5% / 7%
Pennsylvania / 325,000 / 2.7% / 6%
Massachusetts / 268,000 /4.4% /5%
Illionois / 268,000 / 2.3% / 5%
Maryland / 212,000/ 4.2% / 4%
Ohio / 129,000 / 1.2% / 2%
Texas / 113,000 / 0.6% / 2%
Michigan / 107,000 / 1.1% / 2%
(American Jewish Year Book, 1997)
In the world of six billion people, there are only thirteen million Jews, only one-fifth of 1 percent. Except for Israel, Jews are a tiny minority in every country. Jews live all over the world, but 93 percent of them live in just five countries. The former Soviet Union once contained more than a million Jews, who now live in many newly independent nations. Tahiti and Iraq have only 120 Jews each.
THE JEWISH POPULATION OF THE WORLD
(Countries over 50,000 listed)
Country / Number / % of all Jews
United States / 5,900,000 / 45
Israel / 4,600,000 / 35
France / 600,000 / 5
Russia / 550,000 / 4
Ukraine / 400,000 / 3
Canada / 360,000 / 3
England / 300,000 / 2
Argentina / 250,000 / 2
Brazil / 130,000 / 1
South Africa / 106,000 / 0.8
Australia / 100,000 / 0.8
Hungary / 80,000 / 0.6
Belarus / 60,000 / 0.5
Germany / 60,000 / 0.5
Total 13,000,000 (from World Jewish Congress, 1996)
Even when it comes to the Jewish presence in any individual city, Jews are small in percentage of the population. Only a handful of cities outside Israel have a Jewish population of any significant size. New York and Miami have the largest percentage of Jews.
METROPOLITAN AREAS WITH THE LARGEST JEWISH POPULATIONS OUTSIDE ISRAEL (Cities over 100,000 listed)
New York, USA; 1,750,000; 13%
Miami, USA; 535,000; 15%
Los Angeles, USA; 490,000; 5%
Paris, France; 350,000; 4%
Philadelphia, USA; 254,000; 6%
Chicago, USA; 248,000; 4%
San Francisco, USA; 210,000; 5%
Boston, USA; 208,000; 8%
London, UK.; 200,000; 2%
Moscow, Russia; 200,000; 2%
Buenos Aires, Arg.; 180,000; 2%
Toronto, Canada; 175,000; 6%
Washington, DC, USA; 165,000; 6%
Kiev, Ukraine; 110,000; 4%
Montreal, Canada; 100,000; 3%
St. Petersburg, Russia; 100,000; 2%
(World Jewish Congress and Information Please Almanac, 1996)
Beyond being a small part of the American melting pot, Jewish-Americans are relatively new arrivals. In many cases, Jews earned their American success in only one or two generations in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. For more than thirty years the Jewish-American population's growth has been flat, and Jews have become an ever-decreasing percentage of the total U.S. population.
American Jewish Population: 1790 to 1990
(A History of the Jews in America, A. Karp, 1997)
DISCOVERING THE KEYS
No doubt about it, the statistics of Jewish success especially given the relatively small Jewish population are remarkable. Of course, there are always individual exceptions to a general rule, just as individuals will vary within any group. However, when we view the complete picture, we see a big Jewish difference, and there must be some reasons for it. That is what The Jewish Phenomenon is all about. What secrets to success have the Jews learned that can apply to any life, any family and any community?
The research held the answer. A wealth of literature and data that chronicles the lives of Jewish people throughout the ages provides the clues. Countless individual Jewish success stories [anecdotes] led me to the discovery of seven core values or beliefs that lay at the heart of Jewish achievement. In various combinations, these secrets have contributed significantly to the economic success of the Jewish people.
THE SEVEN KEYS TO JEWISH SUCCESS
1. Understand that real wealth is portable; it's knowledge
2. Take care of your own and they will take care of you
3. Successful people are professionals and entrepreneurs
4. Develop your verbal confidence
5. Be selectively extravagant but prudently frugal
6. Take pride in individuality: encourage creativity
7. Be psychologically driven to prove something
APPRECIATING THE KEYS
Listing them is not enough. Each has its roots in the history of the Jewish people. None of these secrets is independent of the others. They work together. Of course, education ii very important, but a good education alone does not fully explain such success. As Dr. Sowell discovered, "Even when neither education nor age is a factor, Jews earn more." Among families headed by males with four or more years of college and aged 35 to 45, Jews still earn 75 percent higher incomes than the national average with the same demographics. Other qualitative and cultural differences not captured in the statistics contribute to their success. If it were as simple as just getting an education or developing verbal confidence, just two of the keys, Jewish success would have been emulated years ago.
But nothing is to prevent non-Jews from learning about all seven principles and integrating them into their own lives, just as they already enjoy 75 percent of the $50 billion worth of kosher foods sold in the United States each year. Jews can also take a closer look and understand more about themselves. American society is rapidly assimilating its Jewish people, and a self-examination could be productive. This time the assimilation is not a matter of forced conversions, as had been the case in the Spanish Inquisition; it's a product of the openness of American society.
The Jewish Phenomenon is not a dry academic adventure. Flying in the face of political correctness, there will be a good Jewish joke where appropriate to provide insight to the Jewish way of thinking. I agree with Rabbi Joseph Telushk in that "People who oppose telling ethnic jokes would have us believe that the whole genre is nonsense, that alcoholics, neurotics, oversensitive people and shady characters are evenly distributed among all groups. However, tolerant as it sounds, this assumption makes no sense, for it implies that history and culture have no impact on human beings. But of course, they do. What makes Jews Jewish is a specific religious culture and historical experience that have shaped their values and strongly influenced how they view the world." That's where the keys come from. In addition, all those Yiddish words that many Jews and non-Jews use and misuse in their day-to-day slang will be defined as well. Above all, the book is intended to be accessible so that when you finish, you'll have learned something. First you will learn about how a man turned $75 into a million dollars.
RACE, RELIGION OR TRIBE?
Despite the commonplace references to the Jewish race and the Jewish religion, Jews can best be understood as members of a tribe: "a cohesive ancestral group with particular customs, traditions and values. Those values can be religious and the customs linguistic." Bingo.
An ancestral homeland: Israel;
Traditions, customs and values: celebrations, holidays, kosher foods;
Languages: Hebrew and Yiddish (a German/Polish/Hebrew mixture)
Unlike many religions, Judaism is more than simply a belief system that anyone can adopt. To become Jewish means enlisting in the tribe. The relationship or covenant is between God and the Jewish people, rather than between God and individual Jews. Judaism is a religion with a strong ancestral component. Furthermore, there is no evangelical aspect to the religion. Jews have had enough to worry about without inviting more people. Those who wish to convert have to study and pass through a local rabbi's approval process.
Only children of Jewish mothers are automatically considered Jewish, although in some Reform and Reconstructionist congregations, the father's progeny is considered Jewish as well. Otherwise a formal conversion is required. The State of Israel, in applying the "law of return" that makes any Jew an Israeli citizen if he or she returns to the Holy Land, defines Jews broadly, but it only recognizes conversions to Judaism performed by Orthodox rabbis.
There are approximately 150,000 converts to Judaism living in the United States. Some notable converts past and present include: Kate Capshaw, when she married Steven Spielberg; Sammy Davis Jr., after a serious car accident; Marilyn Monroe, when she married playwright Arthur Miller; Elizabeth Taylor, when she married producer Mike Todd; and baseball player Rod Carew. And let's not forget Ruth from the Bible, who said, "Your people shall be my people, and your God my God."
In the United States, the Jewish population has become much more liberal in its practices than its original Orthodox immigrant roots:
Furthermore, those Jews who are Orthodox are almost exclusively from Orthodox households. The other denominations draw new members from outside their congregants and are growing.
WHY SO MANY COHENS?
An interesting inconsistency in Judaism's maternal lineage can be found in the determination of the class system within Judaism for prayer ceremonies. In particular, some special prayers are reserved for a group called Kohanim. Traced all the way back 3,300 years to the first temple in Jerusalem, a man with male ancestors who were once the temple priests is called a Kohen or Cohen. God chose Aaron from the tribe of Levi and all his descendants to serve as dedicated priests. The "father to son" connection in this case counts the Y chromosome.
A Kohen is authorized to bestow the priestly blessing while extending his hands outward, with the fingers forming a V shape. Leonard Nimoy, Jew not Vulcan, adopted it as the Vulcan greeting in Star Trek. Nimoy said, "I can call that salute my Vulcan shalom, my greeting of peace, my yearning for the blessed peace the age-old quest of the Jewish people, my people." (William Shatner, Captain Kirk, is Jewish as well.)
About 5 percent of modern Jewish men are actually Kohens. A Kohen-sounding name is not proof of the relationship. Many Jews outside of the authentic 5 percent have taken the names Cohen, Kahn, Kagan or Katz and are not entitled to perform priestly blessings. (Katz has its roots in the Hebrew word KohenTzedek, meaning "righteous priest.") On the other hand, many true Kohanim have totally different names, such as the Silbiger family.
The people who worked as the staff at the ancient temple in Jerusalem were called the Levites. Descendants often use names such as Levy, Levine or Segal. Again, the name is not proof of the heritage. The rest of the Jewish followers were named Israelites, and that is how most of Jews today are classified.
THE JEWISH RACE?
But aren't the Jewish people a race? No. The religion started more than four thousand years ago with Abraham, who was already a member of the Caucasian race at the time and who married a non-Jewish woman, Sarah. For more than forty centuries, generations of marriages and intermarriages have precluded a pure bloodline or race. There is no specific genetic code for the Jewish "race" like the genetic code for skin color. There may be a stereotypical look ascribed to Jews, including darker hair and eyes and larger noses, but these traits are common to all Semitic peoples, including Arabs, and the people from the Mediterranean area.
Let's talk about a big stereotype. How about the "Jewish nose"? Sociologists have shown that the "Jewish nose" is no more common to Jews than to Mediterranean people. In 1914 Maurice Fishberg examined four thousand Jewish noses in New York and found that only 14 percent were aquiline or hooked. The other 86 percent were either flat, straight or something other than the classic Jewish nose. With the small total human population that existed in ancient times, it is no surprise that so many people today share similar genetic traits.
HOW DO JEWS CLASSIFY THEMSELVES?
When asked about what a Jew is, American Jews themselves are mixed on the subject. In the Council of Jewish Federations' National Jewish Population Survey of 1990 Jews were asked: "When you think of what it means to be a Jew in America, would you say that it means being a member of:
(a) a religious group
(b) an ethnic group
(c) a cultural group
(d) a nationality."
Given the opportunity to agree with one or more definitions, Jewish opinion reflected the multifaceted nature of Judaism. Indeed, many simultaneously agreed with several definitions:
(a) a religious group 49%
(b) an ethnic group 57%
(c) a cultural group 70%
(d) a nationality 42%
What is interesting is that tribe, as defined at the beginning of this section, encompasses all four categories, including the nebulous "cultural group." Somehow Jewishness is something more than just a religious choice.
But however they define it, 87 percent of Jews polled considered being Jewish an important aspect of their lives. The 1990 attitude survey asked:
HOW IMPORTANT WOULD YOU SAY BEING JEWISH IS IN YOUR LIFE?
Very Important 52%
Somewhat Important 35%
Not Very Important 9%
Not Important 3%
Don't Know 1%
In the context of exploring the success factors of The Jewish Phenomenon, the Jewish identity is clearly an important one to Jews, although it is not always clearly defined and sometimes taken for granted. Being Jewish brings with it a cultural, religious, ethnic and nationalist background that has enabled Jews to become successful in the United States.
THE JEWISH PERSPECTIVE ON MONEY
"WEALTH IS GOOD"
According to the New Testament, the Christian world has, at best, an ambivalent attitude toward money and wealth: "Easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:24, Luke 18:25, Mark 10:25) "You cannot serve God and wealth." (Luke 16:13) "If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction." (Timothy 6:8-9) "For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil." (Timothy 6:10)
For Jews, on the other hand, wealth is a good thing, a worthy and respectable goal to strive toward. What's more, once you earn it, it is tragic to lose it. Judaism has never considered poverty a virtue. The first Jews were not poor, and that was good. The Jewish founding fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were blessed with cattle and land in abundance. Asceticism and self-denial are not Jewish ideals. With your financial house in order, it is easier to pursue your spiritual life: "Where there is no flour, there is no Bible." The Mishna (a collection of books that outline the detailed laws for daily Jewish living) "Poverty causes transgression." (Hasidic folk saying) "Poverty in a man's house is worse than fifty plagues." (The Talmud (a collection of books of rabbinical commentary on the Old Testament))
ANCIENT JEWISH HISTORY
As it has throughout the ages, their history of struggle and persecution continues to shape the Jewish identity today. The following is an extremely brief history of the Jewish people from biblical times to the present.
According to Rabbi Donin's To Be a Jew, "The terms Hebrew, Israelite and Jew have been used interchangeably. Israel was the alternate name for Abraham's grandson, Jacob. Hence his twelve sons and their descendants became known as the children of Israel or Israelite Nation. 'Jew' is derived from Judah, the son of Israel (Jacob), and one of the most prominent of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
"'Jew' became the popular name used for the entire people when the Judeans, from the Kingdom of Judea, survived the downfall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. At that time ten of the Twelve Tribes were led into captivity. Thus today, the people are called Jewish, their faith Judaism, their language Hebrew, and their land Israel."
The Jewish homeland of Israel has been in Jewish control on and off for about three thousand years. The Bible documents three episodes of peril and how Jews survived. In each case, Jewish holidays commemorate these trials and their happy resolution with the help of God. These three major Jewish holidays Passover, Purim and Hanukah annually remind Jews that they need to be on their guard and self-sufficient.
Written November, 2000 by Matthew Nuenke