Why the Jew Has Won

Edward Lauterbach in Herald Magazine February 1 1908

Why the Jew Has Won

Edward Lauterbach in Herald Magazine February 1 1908

Why the Jew Has Won

Edward Lauterbach in Herald Magazine

WHEN Israel Zangwill was asked “Why have the Jews succeeded?” he replied that they had not succeeded, and that as a race they were a miserable failure, and that only here and there could there be found a solitary example of success. He had some figures to support his statement, and these figures were drawn not from the United States, where the Jews have attained the nearest approach to some kind of social solidarity, but from the swarming, confused East. He said that in Russia and Algeria and in Persia the average Jew was not worth five dollars.

Although no Jewwould consider this a real test whether he has succeeded or failed, viz., the size of his bank account, yet judged from this standpoint the Jew in the United States is a pronounced success. From figures supplied by Joseph Jacobs, one of the editors of the Jewish Encyclopedia, in the Jewish World, I find that in the city of New York alone there are over forty millionaires who are Jews; that in Chicago there are thirteen Jews who possess a million of dollars, ten in San Francisco, seven in Balitimore, six in Cincinnati, five in Philadelphia, five in Louisville, three in Pittsburg, two in Denver, St. Louis, Marquette and Paterson, and one each at least in all the larger cities of the United States.

This list was compiled in 1904, four years ago, and it comprised bankers, lawyers, furriers, publishers, shoe manufacturers, dry goods merchants, etc.

It is also significant that there are at least one hundred thousand wellto-do and well-dressed Jews who live in the upper section of New York

city to-day, and many of these have

but lately emerged from the east side districts. There are also hundreds of thousands of refined and cultivated Jews in Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco; in fact, in all the large cities and towns of the Union wealthy Jews can be found.

I do not, however, share the current superstition of the enormous and fabulous wealth of the ordinary Jewish merchant. I believe that either Mr. Carnegie or Mr. Rockefeller possesses more wealth than all the Jews of the United States put together. Those persons who circulate the fabulous tales of the wealth of the Jews see but the Jews of the Broadway and Lexington avenue districts. They do not see the Jews of the east side. They forget these crowded and poverty-stricken quarters of the city.

An old proverb of the Jews says: “Rather sell than be poor.” The Jews in modern times have perhaps too faithfully carried out this maxim. It really is in trade that their success is most easily evidenced. Emerson says: “Trade also has its geniuses.”

But because the Jew has succeeded in trade it is fast becoming a prevalent belief that by nature he is a trader and that he is incapable of anything higher than trade.

Instead of the word “trader” being employed to slur the Jew it really is a compliment to his inherent adaptability, because by temperament* he is anything but a “trader.” Being shut out for centuries from all kinds of civic and political activity, he has simply made the most of his own narrow opportunities, uncongenial though they often were.

Oscar S. Straus, Secretary of the Bureau of Commerce and Labor, himself a Jew, some time ago said: “Instead of the Jew being a härterer

he is the most spiritual man alive. He has been pounded by the ages, robbed and massacred, but he yields neither his traditions nor his ideals. Had he been materialistic he would have sold out long ago and bought peace. Therefore I say that he is spiritualistic or idealistic rather than practical or material.”


For centuries the Jew in Europe has not been allowed to till the land and has been excluded from the trades, which, for the most part, were controlled by antagonistic corporations. He has been expelled from one province to another, like a helpless piece in a game of chess. This caused the Jew to invent the “letter of exchange,” which has since proven of such efficacy to modem international banking.

Having no other opportunities open to him, and desiring power like all other humans, it is not hard to understand why the Jew should take to banking, especially as by nature he is, like the French, of a mathematical temperament.

A story illustrative of the mathematical mind of the Jew is told of the elder Rothschild," who, when summoned by the King of France, assented immediately to a financial scheme which the King had just explained to him. The King was amazed. He asked, “How is it possible that you understand in a few moments what it has taken my Ministers any myself many weeks to comprehend?”

Even in Spinoza, the Jewish mystic, we find this same mathematical sense predominating, and those who dó not understand the axioms of mathematics need never expect to understand the mind even of this dreaming Jewish mystic.

One strong reason why the Jews make such a marked success in this country is because they make such good citizens. After the Jews are here a few years they are not to be distinguished from those of any of the other foreign born races. They assimilate well here. They love the

country and its political traditions. They make good patriots.

Oscar Straus told President McKinley, “I’d shoulder a musket for my country to-morrow.” Haym Solomon never even asked for a dollar back of the $658,000 he furnished to the impoverished government. He also contributed liberally to the personal expenses of leaders like Jefferson, Madison, Lee and Monroe, and endured long confinement in British jails for the cause of American independence.

In other countries the Jews have had to practise all the subtle arts of repression. Here they stand upright and look at the sun. It does them good. See how they scatter into the arts as soon as their fetters have been unbound. In modern times the name of David Belasco casts almost a spell over things theatrical. There are a number of Jewish playwrights— Bernstein and Rosenfeld and Klein coming only to my mind now. Rachel was and Bernhardt is a great actress, not to mention Sonnenthal and Adler. In music there are Joachim, Johann Strauss, “the waltz king” ; Meyerbeer, Rubinstein, Mendelssohn and Rosenthal.

Dr. Madison C. Peters, on the authority of Professor Charles Gross, of Harvard University, has offered evidence to prove that it was a Jew who supplied Columbus with the necessary money to undertake his voyage across the Atlantic; that it was a Jew who made the map that was employed on this voyage ; that both the surgeon and the physician of the ship were Jews, and that it was a Jew who landed first, he being the only one who could speak the Indian language, and they thought they had landed in some part of India. I mention these facts only. I have not invented them, nor do I comment on them.

In astronomy the Jews claim Sir William Herschell ; in painting, Joseph Israels and Millais ; in philosophy, Philo, Maimonides and Spinoza. Emin Pacha, the explorer, was a Jew. Heine, the poet, was a Jew. In philanthropy, Sir Moses

Montefiore, Baron and Baroness de Hirsch, Jacob H. Schiff and Mrs. Esther Hermann all stand out prominently. Dr. Peters has figures to prove their bravery on the battle field. It is significant that Massena, the bravest of all Napoleon’s field marshals, was also a Jew.

In banking, the very name of Rothschild sounds success, and the Pereirres, the Seligmans and the Foulds are all well known names.

In the law the Jews have been eminently successful.

In New York city alone there are upward of three thousand lawyers who are Jews. There are certainly one thousand Jewish physicians. There are six judges of the Supreme Court in the county of New York, viz., M. Warley Platzek, David Levintritt, Joseph E. Newberger, Samuel Greenbaum, Mitchell L. Erlanger and Michael H. Hirschberg, and Otto A. Rosalsky, of the Court of General Sessions, is also a Jew.

I have been giving these different facts to undermine the universal superstition that the Jew is only a trader. He has succeeded also in medicine, in the arts and in the law ; in fact, he has made his mark in all the professions.

Perhaps another reason why the Tew is successful is the fact that he is one of the longest lived of all the races, the Quaker only living longer than him. Through all forms of persecution he comes forth unharmed. “Cast down but never destroyed.” In the Middle Ages he was tortured by the superstitious knights, and the Saracens also burned whole villages of the Jews because they would not embrace the Mohammedan xfaith. Surely this does not seem as though they were materialists, when they died by the thousands rather than change their faith.

For centuries the Jew has been persecuted. For centuries he has been on the defensive. He has withstood and seen all forms of attack. He has learned all the arts of selfpreservation. Napoleon once said: “Do not fight the same enemy too often ; he will learn all your tricks.”

The Jews really have borrowed strength from their enemies.

Scattered all over the world, they are yet struggling and succeeding. Disraeli said: “The world has found

out by this time that it is impossible to destroy the Jews.” As a matter of fact, there are more Jews to-day by five millions than there were in the time of King David.

“If there are ranks in suffering,” Kunz says, “Israel takes precedence of all the nations; if the duration of sorrows and the patience with which they are borne ennoble, the Jews are among the aristocracy of every land; if a literature is called rich in the possession of a few classic tragedies, what shall we say to a national tragedy lasting 1,500 years, in which the poets and the actors are also the heroes ?”

The centuries of suffering that the Jew has undergone has left its impress on his subconscious mind. The Jews as a rule take life very seriously, because for centuries they did not know how long they could keep it. They see the stoical side of life, as the Greeks saw the joyous, although the second and third generations of Jews in this country are certainly lighter hearted than their ancestors.

Look at the face of Israel, the painter, and at Felix Adler’s face. Zangwill’s face is as serious as the grave. Rubinstein and Meyerbeer •both have serious expressions on their faces. Spinoza’s face was sad.

The Jews, however, are not fatalists. “There is no fate in Israel,” is one of their oldest and most respected proverbs. It is the strength of will that the Jews possess that has made it possible for them to succeed in things which were so uncongenial to them. The Jews originally were a shepherd people, and to say they were a commençai nation is absurd, as they were entirely cut off from the sea. They had no great bankers in those days ; they did have many great poets and psalmists.

The Jews take education very seriously. See the books that circulate in the libraries on the east side. Are they fiction? No! For the most part

they are books of science, travel, biography and social economics. It is not an infrequent sight to see a little slip of a Jewish boy with a big volume of Aristotle under his arm. They know the old heroes of literature and science much better than they do the heroes of contemporaneous fiction.

C. J. Ellis, general passenger agent of the Norfolk and Western Railway Company, only a few weeks ago told me a story which illustrates in a homely sort of way the Jews' eager search for knowledge. In this respect they do resemble the Greeks. Mr. Ellis had left a meeting hall on the east side at eleven o’clock for some reason, and he noticed huddled on a street corner a group of Jewish boys. They were discussing political economics. He returned that way two hours later and the boys were still on the street corner, fiercely discussing the same subject, utterly oblivious of the cold and the sleet.

It is said that three-quarters of the students of the College of the City of New York are Jews and that nearly three-quarters of the young women who attend the Normal College are Jewesses.

The public schools are crowded with Jewish children. In 1904 a record of twenty-eight schools of the city of New York showed an attendance of 64,605. Of these 61,103 were Jews. In thirty-nine Philadelphia schools having an attendance of 21,485, it was found that 11,683 of these children were Jews. In nine Chicago schools having 11,430 attendants it was found that of this number 7,929 were Jews. Of course these statistics are made up from schools that are more or less in Jewish sections in the different cities mentioned above.

These young students, when they get out of school, all get into some active business or profession. The Jews are eminently a practical race, and there is a vast distinction between the practical and the materialistic. The French are a very practical people ; they are also eminently artistic and idealistic.

Another reason, and a very strong one, why the Jews have succeeded. They have a great belief in humanity. They love it! In New York city alone they have ten millions of dollars' worth of property which is given up to the service of humanity, such as asylums, hospitals and educational buildings, homes for the aged, etc. The Mount Sinai Hospital is the greatest hospital in the world. It has cost three million dollars, all of which has been supplied from Jewish funds, and there is not a single mortgage on it. On the east side there are the Beth-Israel Hospital and homes for the aged and infirm, and the Hebrew Orphan Asylum now is taking care of 1,100 boys and girls, and the Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society looks after 700 of these unfortunate little people. Nathan Straus, with his milk and coal charities, is a type of the Jew who is interested in the human, and Jacob Shiff is never so busy that he cannot stop to distinguish the cry of his own unfortunate race. He is always devising some new scheme to help it. The greatest of all the organized humanitarian movements among the Jews is the United Hebrew Charities, which last year distributed $360,000.

The Tew has asked no one to help him. He supports all his own charities. The compact the early Jewish settlers made with Governor Peter Stuyvesant has been kept to the letter.

That the Jews are a cultured race, that they have intellectual as well as commercial leanings, is proven by the fact that in the crowded east side they support five daily newspapers printed in Yiddish, which is the patois jargon of the Tews of Eastern Europe, and all of these papers have large circulation.

The Jews have succeeded because they have placed character above everything, because they have treasured the educational and ethical ideals, and also because they have aimed to perfect themselves morally as well as financially.