The verse below has taken on a special significance in recent months as the Palestinian Authority [formerly the Palestinian Liberation Organization or PLO] announced their plans to gain U.N. approval of a Palestinian state.
Now the Lord had said unto Abram, get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
While the world is playing with the promises of Joel and is intent upon dividing The Land with the most cur-rent “Piece Plan,” a quote from American author, Mark Twain, came to mind.
Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also way out of proportion to the weakness of their numbers….
Mark Twain Harpers, 1899
A Golden Age of Blessing
Indeed, the Jews have been heard from in measures disproportionate to their numbers in society. In his book, The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement, Steven L. Pease provides exhaustive research and analysis into this phenomenon. Additionally, Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences; 800 B.C. to 1950 looks at those who achieved excellence over nearly 3,000 years. Author Charles Murray devotes part of his book to what he calls the “astounding” disproportion-ate representation of Jews among history’s great figures.
Following the “Jewish Emancipation” which dates from 1790 to 1870, Murray measures the representation of Jews among the 1,277 great historical figures between 1870 and 1950. Based on their percentage of population, he says 28 should have been Jews—“the actual number was at least 158.”
Michael Hart’s book, The 100: a Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, also records a disproportionately high percentage of Jewish impact on the world. Hart lists eight Jews (Jesus, Paul of Tarsus, Einstein, Marx, Moses, Freud, Pincus, and Bohr) among the 100. “This is thirty-five times what one would expect.”
An understanding of the depth of the blessings brought to the United States and the world through God’s Chosen People will more fully reveal the possible depth of the curses to come when the world turns its back on Israel.
Impact on Culture
Along the entrepreneurial road to America’s rise to capitalistic greatness, Jews pushed the envelope of development. Jews created whole new industries. According to Pease:
Jews pioneered the ready-to-wear garment industry and, in 1885, owned all but seven of New York’s 241 garment factories. Names like Levi Strauss, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and Donna Karan are just a few contemporary representatives of that legacy.
Within the cosmetics industry, names such as Helena Rubinstein, Estee Lauder, and Charles Revson figure prominently. More than half of the department stores were started or led by Jews, including Macy’s, May Company, Bloomingdale’s, Saks, Abraham & Straus, Neiman Marcus and Sears.
Specialty retailing chains were also developed, such as Gap Stores, Mervyn’s, Men’s Warehouse, Home Depot, and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Not to be outdone in the re-tail marketing arena, other Jewish entrepreneurs appealed to the masses via television’s QVC and Home Shopping Network.
Additionally, Jewish entrepreneurs introduced products that have become staples in the daily lives of many Americans. These include Haagen-Dazs, the Dove Bar, Ben & Jerry’s and Baskin-Robbins ice creams —as well as Starbuck’s Coffee.
Jews are also on the leading edge of new technology. They:
• Co-founded the world’s most successful search engine (Google, Sergey Brin)
• Head the world’s largest software company (Micro-soft, Steve Ballmer)
• Co-founded and head the world’s second largest software company (Oracle, Lawrence Ellison)
• Created what was for years the world’s largest and most valuable computer company (Dell, Michael Dell)
• Co-founded, led and served as chairman of the world’s dominant microprocessor and memory chip company (Intel, Andrew Grove)
• Served as CEO or COO at three of the world’s four most valuable Internet companies (Yahoo, Terry Semel; eBay, Jeff Skoll; and IAC, Barry Diller)
• Co-founded and head the communications proto-col/chip company whose chips are in most U.S. cell phones and are slated to be utilized in the next generation of cell phones to be used worldwide (Qualcomm, Irwin Jacobs) And this is just a brief sampling. As Raphael Patai stated in The Jewish Mind:
The suddenness with which Jews began to appear and make a mark in numerous areas, of whose very existence their fathers had, in most cases no idea at all, is nothing short of astounding. It seemed as if a huge reservoir of Jewish talent, hitherto dammed up behind the wall of Talmudic learning were suddenly released to spill over into all fields of Gentile cultural activity. In a few years after they were first allowed to sit on the benches of general secular schools Jews were found among the leaders of industry, of literature and journalism, of music and the performing arts of all fields of the sciences and even in painting and sculpture, two areas from which they had been most strictly debarred by their own religious tradition.
The Jews are not a monolithic people. They have simply been set apart from the remainder of the world as God’s Chosen people. The Biblical mandates of life as defined in the Torah (first five books of the Bible) have set the boundaries of a distinct culture.
In his book The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, Professor David Landes of Harvard defines culture as:
...the inner values and attitudes that guide a population. If we learn anything from the history of economic development, it is that culture makes all the difference.
While Jews have shared some values and beliefs with the cultures in which they spent their diaspora, they embrace a unique and distinctive combination. Within Judaism, differences in specific beliefs are not just tolerated, they are viewed as healthy.
Followers of Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Hasi-dic, Reconstructionist, Kabbalist, and other Jewish de-nominations disagree, sometimes vehemently, but they have a family of shared views derived over a 4,000-year heritage. Because they agree on much more than they disagree, their culture has birthed tremendous innovation and success disproportionate to their numbers.
Decline of the Jewish Golden Age
In recent decades, many threats have risen to crumble the Jewish nation and threaten to end the “Golden Age” of Jewish achievement.
Most recent attempts include the formal acceptance of a Palestinian state that promises to divide Israel into a country with indefensible borders.
However, there are other demographic signs pointing to the further decline of the Jewish people and their culture. A July 12, 2005 projection by the Jewish People Pol-icy Planning Institute of Jerusalem says that by 2020, the world’s Jews will total 13.5 million. By then, the earth’s population will have grown to 7.58 billion. At that point, Jews will be only 0.18 percent of the world’s people. Should the trend continue, they will fall below 0.1 percent before the end of the twenty-first century.
This phenomenon is driven by the following three factors:
1) The low Jewish birth rate (1.8 children per family versus a replacement rate of 2.1). Jewish women tend to have no more than two children, and of Jewish women 30-34 years of age, 52 percent are childless. Many believe high levels of Jewish education and affluence have stimulated the shift to smaller families started later in life.
2) The average age of Jews is now 41 years old versus 37 just ten years ago. The U.S. average population is 35. Children are now only 19 percent of the Jewish population, down from 21 percent just 10 years ago.
3) The rate of intermarriage to non-Jews is as high as 52 percent, with only one child in three of interfaith marriage being raised Jewish. In the 1930s, the intermarriage rate was estimated to be between 5 and 9 percent. Unabated, this could prove a huge force behind a decline in Judaism.
The End of the Story
Between the years of 1492 (when the Inquisition commenced) and 1750, the Jewish population was reduced to 0.2 percent of the world’s population. From that low, they grew to 0.7 percent of the population by 1940. The Holocaust then destroyed a third of them. However, the continued Jewish impact on the world cannot be denied. The future is not as promising. As we continue to journey through the end of days, Scripture defines an-other holocaust, a time when two out of three Jews will lose their lives. It is perhaps a blessing that their numbers have remained low in a growing world population—a population intent on destroying the Jews, their homeland, and their identity as God’s Chosen People.