The Christian Bible begins with God’s covenant with the Jews, “I will bless you and you ….and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” [Gen 12:2-3] They were selected not solely for privilege if they observed his commands but also to serve the world—the subject of this series.

The Christian Bible begins with God’s covenant with the Jews, “I will bless you and you ….and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” [Gen 12:2-3] They were selected not solely for privilege if they observed his commands but also to serve the world—the subject of this series. Last week I pictured famous Americans, Jewish movie stars to illustrate how Jews have enhanced the film industry. How did God make Jews able to bless? First, he instructed them in family and national life to enable them to endure as a people. This included marriage, family life, and sanitary laws. i.e., the Talmud or first five books of the Bible. Their family life both prepared them and preserved them.

Second, they didn’t follow his commandments and he allowed them to be conquered twice, first to Babylon and for good the second time in 70 A.D. by Rome bringing about their extinction as a nation and dispersal throughout the world (diaspora). The world was not welcoming to Jews for more than 1,700 years. Each persecution brought confiscation of their property, forcing them to specialize in intellectual skills and occupations that could not be expropriated e.g. precious metals and gems, banking, trading.

They re-grouped throughout the Mediterranean in seaport cities where their kin gave them refuge, creating a global Jewish banking and commerce network enduring to this day. Egyptian wheat for Caesar’s “corn dole” moved by Jewish shipping. Paul and early Christian missionaries caught rides on these ships to Rome. This focus on intellectual skills in general and global commerce made them valuable to key people in a world that was then only 5 percent literate. With so few in the world literate, Jews who were almost universally literate and had intellectual skills highly valued by foreign rulers and global traders. Thus, their suffering moved their people toward intellectual skills helping them to survive and succeed. [1]

Bible

The record of the Jewish people is what Christians call the “Old” Testament because we believe Jesus was the “New” covenant superseding yet building on its predecessor. The Jews consider the Bible key to their existence. Here is a summary of how the Jews blessed the world. “Without the Bible we would never have known the abolitionist, prison-reform, antiwar, labor, civil rights, indigenous and dispossessed peoples suffering human rights abuses, antiapartheid (South Africa), Solidarity (Poland), free-speech and pro-democracy (Far East, South Korea, Philippines, and China) movements—all employing language of the Bible.” [2] Of the Christian Bible’s 31,102 total verses, 23,145 or 75 percent are in the Old Testament.

Christianity

Beginning as a Jewish sect, Christianity began being persecuted, suffering, and exiled only to outgrow and quickly surpass Judaism in size and influence globally. In this series I focus on the contribution of Jews but acknowledge Judaism as the root and integral part of Christianity. Hence the nations blessed by Christianity were simultaneously blessed by its Jewish foundation. Like Christian Bibles, Judaism and Christianity are inseparable. Almost all the most developed nations are heirs of Western Civilization (aka Christian) and only Israel solely Jewish.

Beyond the pale

Beginning in the 16th century in the Papal States, Italy, Russia, Austria, many European countries defined the “pale” as the only district within cities in which it was legal for Jews to live. Part of the anti-Jewish animus was fear of some of the competition for jobs by better-educated Jews. This idiom is now used metaphorically meaning beyond the bounds of civilized behavior. This practice created Jewish “ghettos” that endured through WWII. It ended when countries that welcomed Jews benefited from their contributions to national wellbeing and wealth i.e., “blessings.” Paradoxically, Germany’s many principalities found Jews “useful.” Jews supplied the imperial army with money and provisions. “Jews were the most likely to introduce new or more efficient ways of adding to a nation’s wealth.” [4] Later, they killed their greatest benefactors!

Secret of Jews’ Success

Where did all these smart Jews come from the last 3,000 years? The Law of Return governing the return of Jews worldwide to Palestine defines a Jew as “A person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism and is not a member of another religion.” A Jew who has become a Christian is not deemed a Jew. In this definition is contained their secret of success i.e., Jewish mothers.

A term now in common use meaning an overprotective mother is “Jewish Mother” and their obsessive concern for their children and advice extending throughout their adult years. In reading the book, “How Children Succeed,” I was struck by the similarities between methods advanced in both books. [3] Ancient parenting practices of the Jews preserved the Jewish people. Pervasive, perpetual persecution suffering brought responses from them that both educated them for skills and occupations that brought them and their host nations’ prosperity i.e., “blessings.”

Part III next week describes the Jewish way of raising their children for success.

[1] Feldman, David B., and Lee Daniel Kravetz , Supersurvivors: The surprising Link Between Suffering and Success, NY: Harper and Row, 2014. [Focus psychological, not commercial]

[2] Cahill, Thomas, The Gifts of the Jews, Doubleday, 1998, 248.

[3] Tough, Paul, How Children Succeed, Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, NY Houghton-Mifflin, 2012.

[4] Johnson, Paul, A History of the Jews, NY: Harper & Row, 1987, 243-5, 304.