Is There Truth To The "Smart Jews" Stereotype?

Illustration for article titled Is There Truth To The "Smart Jews" Stereotype?

My Jewish grandmothers would love to read this "Jewgenics" article, where Slate's science guy William Saletan discusses the biological and sociological back-up behind the Jew grandma-approved stereotype that the chosen people's intellectual prowess is above the average and ponders whether Jews are a race, culture or ethnicity. While Saletan never comes to a definitive conclusion about what Jews are, he does quote some impressive statistics such as, "The average IQ of Ashkenazi Jews is 107 to 115, well above the human average of 100," and the Ashkenazis have an average score of "122 on verbal IQ tests." He also notes the Ashkenazi predisposition towards poor spatial intelligence and potentially life-threatening illnesses like breast cancer and Tay-Sachs. But the part I found most interesting as a non-Jew loving Heeb is that "the rate of Jewish 'outbreeding'—procreating with non-Jews—is half a percent. That's the lowest rate of any population in the world today."


Saletan continues:

A culture that trains its young people to procreate only with one another becomes, over time, a genetically distinct population. And if that culture glorifies intelligence to such a degree that it drives less intelligent people out of the community—or prevents them from attracting mates—it becomes an IQ machine. Cultural selection replaces natural selection.

Wait, so am I attracted to WASPs because I'm secretly intellectually inferior? Does my alleged stupidity keep me from snagging the nice Jewish boy that my mother always dreamed of? Or am I just a cultural renegade who wants to keep her potential offspring from crappy spatial intelligence inspired klutziness? Also: don't you find that "half a percent" statistic dubious. My friend group is teeming with half-Jews and I can't imagine that they're a complete anomaly. Finally, it's hard to buy into the high Jew-Q hype when we claim bright lights like Katie Price (Jordan) and Bush crony Paul Wolfowitz as part of the tribe.

Jewgenics [Slate]



Sheesh. There's so many bits of information and opinions being tossed out here and everything in my personal experience contradicts them. Just goes to show you that defining Jewishness is like trying to define the Latino people as a group. As the product of a very multiracial, interfaith marriage, I've never placed much importance on drawing boundaries and lines—I mean, why is this stuff such a big deal, anyway? Can't you just identify with what you want? My dad is Jewish. To an extent, I claim that. No, I didn't learn Hebrew or have a bat mitzvah. Which is why I sometimes don't identify with being Jewish. But then I think about my friends who never go to temple and don't keep kosher, and then I do consider myself part Jewish. A good friend of mine, who is Jewish and Israeli, considers me Jewish. (For the record, my family were Russian Jewish, but they're so non-religious I don't know if they're actually Reform or if they're just really watered-down, lapsed conservative or Orthodox originally.) But it's one thing for me to have moments where I don't identify as Jewish; it's quite another for someone to tell me I am or I'm not. I grew up receiving Hanukkah gifts and suffering through seder dinners. I bristled the first time I heard someone tell an anti-Semitic joke, in 7th grade. I tear up every time I watch Fiddler, because those were basically my ancestors, at around the same time in history—shtetl-dwelling Russian Jews living in the pale of settlement, fleeing the pogroms for America in 1912 and changing their last name to fit in and everything. My grandparents lived in fucking Skokie, Illinois for half their lives, for crying out loud. To an extent, albeit a minute extent, I do identify with the Jewish experience, and I take offense to someone who thinks they can take that away from me simply because it was my dad that happened to be Jewish, and not my mother. I resent that idea that I am supposed to "choose" a side about as much as I resent the idea that someone can tell me what I am and what I'm not.

Anyway, what I wanted to say was, drawing boundaries like this is what ultimately leads to territoriality and jealousy and suspicion and hate. I don't believe that the future will hold these ethnic/racial/whatever boundaries for all that much longer. Love your neighbor, man. We can learn a lot from one another.