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Jews and Race

Writings on Identity and Difference, 1880-1940

Mitchell B. Hart

Publication Year: 2011

Many people think of Jews as victims of a particular sort of racism, not as active participants in the development of racial thinking in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Yet many Jews did take up racial discourse and used it to analyze Judaism, Jewish history, and the contemporary condition of world Jewry. Race discourse generated by Jews was in part apologetic, a response to racial antisemitism; however, it also served other political and ideological needs.

Focusing primarily on works written at the height of the racial hygiene and eugenics movements in Europe and North America, this diverse anthology shows how Jewish scholars and popular writers in Europe, North America, and Palestine developed racial interpretations of Judaism and Jewish history, thereby raising fascinating and thorny issues about the nature and history of racial discourse in Europe and America. Designed for class adoption, the volume contains annotations and an introduction by the editor.

Published by: Brandeis University Press

Title Page

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pp. v-vii

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pp. ix

It is with great pleasure that we present a volume of the Brandeis Library of Modern Jewish Thought devoted to Jews and racial thinking. Jews were famously the targets of racial thinking in modern times, but they also engaged in it. Mitchell Hart’s fascinating and unprecedented survey of how they did...

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pp. xi

It is a pleasure to be able to thank the individuals and institutions that helped me complete this project. The generosity of Mr. Alexander Grass (z”l), who established the Alexander Grass Chair in Jewish History at the University of Florida, has allowed me the time and resources necessary to research, translate, and write. I am grateful to...

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Jews and Race: An Introductory Essay

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pp. xiii-xxxix

The well-known Israeli writer A. B. Yehoshua insisted some years ago that “Jews are not a race and never viewed themselves as such.”1 These claims are popular assertions, in all senses of the word. They are popular because they are widely held, and because they are appealing and satisfying. They reinforce some deeply rooted and comforting...

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Part I General Overviews

The scholarly debate about the Jews and race emerged as one part of a much broader scientific inquiry into race. The Jewish scholars who thought and wrote about “the Jewish race” necessarily did so using the categories and methods of science at the time. In addition, they sought to make their work scientifically acceptable, so...

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1 Racial Characteristics of Modern Jews

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pp. 3-11

In the following research I have endeavored to bring together all the data, scientific or historical, which bear on the question of the purity of the Jewish race. I have found it necessary for this purpose to scrutinize somewhat closely many Jewish qualities and habits that have hitherto been regarded as peculiarly the results of race. Most of these, however...

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2 Reflections on the Jews

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pp. 12-20

The idea of emancipating the Jews and according them, in the state, the same rights as all other men, is an entirely modern idea, but the idea is so just that in less than one hundred years, and despite inveterate prejudices, it has imposed itself on every spirit by the unique force of its truth. The principle of equal rights applied to Jews was a ray of light concerning...

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3 Preface from Jews, Race, and Environment

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pp. 21-23

This volume is an attempt to present the results of anthropological, demographic, pathological, and sociological investigations of the Jews. Considering that one-fifth of all the Jews in the world live at present in English-speaking countries, and that the migrations of Eastern European Jews tend toward the United States and England with its...

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4 Jewish Race

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pp. 24-29

In zoology, race is defined as groups of individual beings that can be considered to have a common origin and blood relation on account of a unity of identifiable physical and mental traits. Human groups, to which the zoological notion of race applies, today are to be found only within those areas untouched by world history and the mixing...

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5 On the Origins and Race of the Jews

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pp. 30-40

The Jewish people emerged during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries before Christ, when Palestine was controlled by Egypt, and its cities ruled by the nomarchs of the pharaoh. During this time, according to the biblical account, a nomadic people—the “sons of Jacob”—came from the desert, advancing into the eastern part of Jordan,...

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Part II Anthropology

Anthropology was central to the discussion of race. And anthropology, as a discipline, was largely defined before the 1920s and 1930s by research into physical characteristics—rather than, say, cultural practices. Racialism, ultimately, posits a direct correlation between the external and the internal, between physical...

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6 Introduction to the Anthropological Study of the Jews

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pp. 43-52

The Jews appeal to the anthropologist in a very special way: that of an experiment conducted century after century on a people who would have been submitted to the most varied climatic conditions and social surroundings. They are, in effect, a unique example of what differences in habitat, on the one hand, and isolation, on the other hand, as...

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7 Entry on Anthropology from The Jewish Encyclopedia

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pp. 53-59

ANTHROPOLOGY: The science of man, especially in his physical aspects, and of the climatic and social environments determining those aspects. The anthropology of the Jews, who either racially or socially form a separate portion of mankind, should be of special interest to students of the science as bearing upon its central problem; namely, whether...

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8 The Jews as a Race

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pp. 60-70

The present work was originally intended to be the introduction to a study of “the biostatistics and racial pathology of the Jews.” However, as an analysis of the anthropological characteristics of the Jewish Volk brought to light numerous and significant issues, this separate monograph had to be devoted to addressing...

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9 The Brain Weight of Jews

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pp. 71-75

It is known that numerous researchers have dealt with the national and racial traits of the Jews from a variety of perspectives. Physical anthropology, too, has frequently sought to get a grip on this object of study. Since Blumenbach, Pruner Bey, and H. Welcker,3 who gathered the first real facts in this area, observers have been arming themselves with...

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10 The Jewish Racial Problem

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pp. 76-80

Ten years ago I concluded my work on the Jews of southern Russia with the following words: “At any rate, it will not be possible to off er a definitive answer to the question of the anthropological status of the Jews until research on the Jews in Western Europe, Asia, and Africa has been done. Such important research, undertaken following...

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11 Anthropological Research on the Russian-Polish Jews, and the Value of This Research for the Anthropology of the Jews in General

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pp. 81-86

The geographical distribution of the Jews, their dispersal over so many countries of the world, makes the task of an anthropological investigation of this nation quite difficult. Different sorts of social and climatic conditions and different standards of living obscure their external or physical character and make it necessary, before one can possibly...

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12 Are the Jews a Race?

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pp. 87-93

This old and contentious question has now been discussed anew by Professor Hans Friedenthal in issues 1–3 and 4–6 of the 1926 volume of this journal,49 and immediately the answer is given along the lines of what has been proposed by Maurice Fishberg, in his 1913 work Die Rassenmerkmale der Juden,50 and by others, claiming that the Jews represent...

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Part III Medicine and Biology

Inquiries into Jewish racial identity and difference consisted of much more than questions of origins and development, and of physical attributes. The idea of a distinct Jewish racial identity or nature also raised questions related to health and disease. And statistics played a crucial role in this discussion. Working with numbers generated...

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13 The Comparative Pathology of the Jews

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pp. 97-114

The influence of race and nationality on the susceptibility and comparative (because we know of no absolute) immunity to the various diseases that afflict mankind is at present well recognized by the medical profession. The physicians of the United States have especially studied the comparative pathology of the Negro race, owing to the fact...

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14 Contributions to the Jewish Racial Question

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pp. 115-121

The question as to whether the Jews constitute a distinct race is so interesting that researchers are continually inquiring into it. In some Jewish circles the question has been quickly solved, according to the subjective position of a given Jewish individual to the Jewish Question. Not so in science. Here the controversy still rages. Therefore the following...

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15 Heredity and the Jew

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pp. 122-129

Nothing is more confusing than the varied accounts of the shapes of head, nose, eyes, and color of the hair of Jews in different countries, and if one’s only acquaintance with Jews were through the literature of anthropology one would be inclined to think that the “chosen people” had no existence apart from books, and the imagination of the...

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16 The “Nervousness” of the Jew

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pp. 130-136

The subject of racial disease has the added fascination that history, biology, and sociology lend to medicine. On a broad canvas pathology can more easily be traced than on a minute one, for individual and minute variations thus tend to standardize themselves. How much of history is written in racial diseases can easily be summarized...

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17 | The Problem of Tuberculosis among the Jews: A Racial and Socio-Pathological Study

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pp. 137-141

The bulk of the Jewish masses work in those professions that produce the highest mortality rates from pulmonary tuberculosis: peddler, baker, furrier, tailor, shoemaker, and so forth. This Jewish proletariat, in Warsaw, Lodz, New York, and elsewhere, usually lives in small and overcrowded apartments, where the tuberculosis bacillus loves...

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Part IV Society and Economy

The same overarching ideas and assumptions that produced questions about Jewish health and disease also produced debates over Jewish social and economic patterns. Did a connection exist between race and crime? Were Jews predisposed to certain types of criminal behavior? As with health and disease, statistics seemed to indicate...

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18 Is the Criminality of the Jews Racial Criminality?

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pp. 145-149

Over and over again the question of the causes of the criminality of the Jews has stirred debate. Not one year passes that does not bring forth another new work! Most of the opinions revolve around the question whether the criminality of the Jews is predominantly due to occupation or race. Most of this research has already been discussed...

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19 Jews, Race, and Environment

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pp. 150-152

Certain peculiarities have been noted by many authors while speaking of the Jewish merchant and artisan. There appears to prevail a superstition that the Jew is superior to any merchant of other faith, as a trader. Some think he is more “smart,” “clever,” “calculating,” and so forth. Ruppin thinks that all these and other terms are inadequate, and do...

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20 Successes of the Jews in Capitalistic Enterprise

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pp. 153-155

As merchants and entrepreneurs, the Jews were soon brilliantly successful, showing all that great business capacity which for 2,000 years had seemed to mark them out as predestined for commercial callings. It is a mistake to account for the fact that the majority of Jews are occupied in trade, by saying that the Christians of the Middle Ages shut...

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Part V “Racial Mixing”

Much of the language of racial science and theory derived from the world of plant and animal husbandry. This legacy may be most obvious in the analyses produced by racial thinkers about “racial mixing,” or miscegenation. Racial thinkers spoke about pure and hybrid races, about inbreeding and crossbreeding. A species was defined...

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21 The Jewish Racial Question

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pp. 159-169

We must ask, then: What was the nature of the foundational stock of the Jewish race, and what types of intermixture have led to the partial transmutation of this foundational stock? The first question can essentially best be answered through an examination of the human (subject) matter existing today, and the second through a consideration of the fate....

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22 The Mixed Marriage

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pp. 170-173

Until the end of the eighteenth century, the social gulf throughout Europe between Christians and Jews was so great that a marriage between Christians and Jews would have seemed completely impossible, even if such unions had not been prohibited by religious, ecclesiastical, and civil statutes—akin to [the situation] today in the colonies...

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23 Fertility in Mixed Marriages

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pp. 174

This brief piece appears anonymously, but the author is most likely Arthur Ruppin. A significant number of short pieces appeared without attribution in this journal. Ruppin, its editor, noted in his diary that he or his assistant, Jakob Thon, wrote all the unattributed pieces. For biographical information on Ruppin, see the headnote for selection...

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24 The Significance of the Mixed Marriage

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pp. 175-184

What can we say with certainty about the purity of the Jewish race? The answer to this question is of vital importance. For if intermarriage with alien races had in former years played a great role among Jews, it is self-evident that we are not justified in speaking of a Jewish race at all. Are the Jews of today really the pure descendants of Abraham,...

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25 Intermarriage between Jews and Christians

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pp. 185-188

From the standpoint of the preservation of Judaism, intermarriage has been considered a disaster, robbing as it does the Jews of its best adherents. In fact, those who have recently taken stock in Jewish aff airs have arrived at the conclusion that mixed marriages rob the Jews of more adherents than persecutions [do]. The reasons are obvious when...

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Part VI Politics, Polemics, and Apologetics

Texts dealing with Jews and race were unavoidably political. Thus, one might argue that every selection in this volume has some political thrust or underlying motive. The texts in this section articulate political concerns and impulses in a fairly direct and explicit way. Given the centrality of racial theories and ideas to modern...

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26 The So-Called Jewish Race

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pp. 191-202

If the idea that the word “race” awakens is vague, obscure, and contested, the origin of the word itself is no more assuredly established. We want first to recognize in it the Latin radix, or rather radicem, meaning root; but radicem would have given to French the word rais1 and would never have elicited the word razza in Italian. Diez had thought of a word...

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27 The Chosenness of the Jews in the Light of Biology

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pp. 203-209

The idea of the chosenness of the Jews and of its influence on their intellectual, moral, and physical development allows for a thoroughly different interpretation than that given it by Curt Michaelis in the previous issue of this journal.21 The subject is so comprehensive that I must confine myself to offering only highlights...

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28 To Which Race Did Jesus Belong?

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pp. 210-217

It cannot be my task here to enter into the debate over whether or not Jesus existed. A succession of theologians, from Bruno Bauer to Kalthoff ,23 have advanced and contested the existence of Jesus; the silence or the indeterminacy of the contemporary Jewish sources plays a not insignificant role in this. I also would not want to decide this question...

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29 Foreword and Introduction from The Racial Problem, with Particular Attention Paid to the Theoretical Foundations of the Jewish Racial Question

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pp. 218-224

The actual point of departure for the treatment of this theme was the Jewish Question. However, it soon turned out that the Jewish racial problem, in which the Jewish Question culminates, is inseparable from the vast problem of race in general. This fact, as well as the profound significance of the racial question for the worldview of our age...

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30 | “There Is No Jewish Race!” The Testimony of the American Jewish Committee and Union of American Hebrew Congregations before the United States Immigration Committee

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pp. 225-237

The United States Immigration Commission, informally known as the Dillingham Commission, met between 1907 and 1911 to investigate the purported negative effects of immigration, principally that from Southern and Eastern Europe, on the United States. It was headed by Senator William Paul Dillingham of Vermont and included Senator Henry Cabot Lodge...

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31 Assimilation versus Zionism

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pp. 238-242

To the Zionists, the Jews are a distinct, non-European race which has preserved itself in its original purity in spite of the Jews’ wanderings all over the globe. They [the Zionists] hold that the Jews can never merge with the European races and are bound to remain distinct from their Christian or Mohammedan neighbors. The Jewish problem can therefore...

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32 “The Racial Identity of the Jews,” unsigned editorial from Die Welt

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pp. 243-245

At a gathering of the Central Organization of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith44 Tuesday evening, the Berlin anthropologist Dr. [Felix] v[on] Luschan gave a talk on this theme [of the racial identity of the Jews] in the Oberlichtsaal [skylit hall] of the Philharmonia, which was so overcrowded it had eventually to be closed off . His starting point...

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33 “On the Jewish Racial Question,” unsigned editorial from Die Welt

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pp. 246-249

The chairman, Mr. B. P. Gompertz, welcomed those present and pointed out that, given his academic subject, Professor Steinmetz is in a position to speak about the Jewish problem, too. His chosen topic is surely one that must demand the interest of all intellectual circles, (particularly) as so many new works on the topic [the Jewish Question] have appeared...

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34 Concerning Racial Theory

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pp. 250-253

Zionism rests on the fact that all Jews around the world feel some sense of belonging together as Jews. This feeling of unity, which is rooted in the historical origins of contemporary conditions, generates not only a historical but also a living connection, which one might designate...

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35 The Jewish Racial Problem

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pp. 254-258

The blond type of man can be found among the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Incas, and the inhabitants of the South Sea Islands. Obviously, two conclusions can be drawn from this logically: either the ancient Germans undertook expeditions to Africa, East Asia, America, and the South Seas long before the era of trade, or blondness...

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36 Jews and Jewishness

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pp. 259-265

The Jew and Judaism have existed on this planet for a long while; nonetheless, it appears that when it comes to these questions one can’t do without disagreement and controversy . . . Georg Brandes51 dies, and already comes the question, can we include him in the category of “Jewishness,” and can we say that he, Brandes, the great writer, was also a...

Suggestions for Further Reading

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pp. 267-268


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pp. 269-281

E-ISBN-13: 9781611680300
E-ISBN-10: 1611680301

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2011