Why the Jew is healthier than the Christian
H. M. Mortimer
LAST summer a very busy Canadian when in Europe called on a leading London physician. He told the physician that he did not think there was anything radically wrong with him, but that there were times when he felt that he was not doing such good work as he should. He asked the physician to look him over and see whether there was any physical ailment. The physician made an appointment, and a few days later spent over an hour making a thorough examination, but more particularly in getting the man’s history, his mode of life, and the history of his ancestors. When he had finished he put his instruments away, closed his bag, and made an appointment for two days later. He began by informing the Canadian that he was in good general condition, every organ being in perfect order—“But,” said the physician, “you are not a Jew, and you must not overlook the fact that your ancestors for generations back have lived a healthy, open-air life. Most of them have been farmers or soldiers. A man cannot change in one generation from the outdoor life of a sporting English gentleman to the indoor life of a modern business man, without feeling the results. Ten hours a day in an office chair, listening perhaps to the rumble of machinery, worrying over finances, labor problems, salesman’s problems, competition, the many other worries a modern manufacturer or merchant is subjected to, is a life
that requires altogether different constitutional faculties from those possessed by you and your ancestors. The Jew can do this because he is descended from a race who have for generations past sat fourteen to eighteen hours a day in a badly ventilated office, with little or no real physical exercise.”
That it takes two generations to make a gentleman is an oft-quoted axiom, but how many generations has it taken to make the Jew of the present day? When one comes to consider him—the little, dried-up man who drives his single, shuffling horse and loose-wheeled cart through our thoroughfares, offering to buy our cast-off clothing at a price utterly ruinous to himself, pretending to be very foolish, though he is really very wise, one naturally asks the question—How does the poor beggar live? Of course there are Jews and Jews, but a few minutes spent among them any morning or evening will fully gratify one’s first curiosity. In the Jewish quarters of the town there stands house after house, overstocked, unclean and delapsed—children cramming the doorway, the inner porch, the naked, low-ceilinged rooms beyond—unkempt, poorly-dressed children, yet, for all that, happy and bright in their sordid surroundings of empty boxes and cast-off clothing. Soiun how there seems to be no real misery about, the place—not even among the mothers of these immense families. The low, sad voice of poverty, that speaks in querulous whispers throughout the great Christian slums of our home cities is -somehow not to be heard among the Jews. Amid the squalor and filth one hears always the sound of merry voices, and one searches in vain for the sallow, cadaverous face that, in Gentile quarters greets the visitor on every threshold and at every corner.
The atmosphere of the Jewish ward in Toronto, or Montreal, or Halifax, or Winnipeg or Vancouver, is essentially youthful. On one side of the road, beneath the green oasis of a straggling chestnut, picture the hawker’s barrow of mixed, untempting goods. By it, squatted on the dusty pavement, apparently owned by no one and hopelessly lost amid the throng of children, is a long-haired infant of three, watching the scene with wide-eyed understanding. It is not a clean child— it may well be a grimy one !—but it looks strong and healthy under the accumulated coating of earth. Slowly the crowds gather: the gay young Jewess with the painted cheeks and the immaculate dress hob-nobs with her incongruous neighbors, for in this part of the city, at any rate, there is no ungentle class distinction. All are brothers and sisters—from the tiniest mite in the gutter to the dark-eyed hawker himself, and from the bearded curio dealer to the cross-eyed fishwife, who blinks all day from her seat under the awning at the corner shop.
In these day, when so much is said and written on the subject of city health environment, the modes and customs of such people contradict almost all our theories of health and hygiene, The Jewish nation has, for over three thousand years, witnessed the rise and the decay of the great empires ; they have sustained blows and injuries, and can scarcely be denied the crown of martyrdom; and today, in squalor and poverty, thousands of Jews thrive and multiply where the Gentiles of the same conditions of life are ravaged by disease and degeneracy.
During the last epoch the Jews, though a people to themselves, have dragged along with the rush of constantly changing conditions. The way has not been easy for them, by any means. They have been restricted in their trades, handicapped by special taxations, confined to the dampest, foulest, and most wretched quarters of our cities, and yet the record shows us that the death rate among them at the present day is lower than among Christians! In the
next decade, while the poor live on in happy anticipation of old age pensions, and the rich are afraid to die on account of the heavy death duties, we may perhaps hope for a brighter outlook, but for the time being we are forced to regard the downtrodden Jew as our superior in health and longevity.
In the city of Manchester, according to statistics taken six years ago, the death rate among Christian children under five years of age was fourteen per cent; among Jewish children, ten per cent. It has been stated, and I believe with accuracy, that the average Jew lives eight years longer than the average Christian. According to data taken in Berlin, among Roman Catholics and Protestants 19 per cent, of the Gentile children die during their first year, and 14 per cent, among the Jews, while of the destitute and uncared-for children under one year, 35 per cent among the Christians and 33 per cent, among the Jews—showing that even the Jewish infant is better able to survive privation than the Christian infant.
Certainly it seems that the promise of good health and long life as given by Moses has followed his people through their many wanderings. The scarcity of disease among the Jews—their apparent safety in the midst of devastating epidemics, has often been a subject of comment. Towards certain diseases they are almost immune. The only explanation seems to be that some racial peculiarity exists in the Jew that gives him a greater power to resist disease than is possessed by the Gentile.
The Jews have at all times been an exclusive people; pride of race and contempt of the Gentiles around them has distinguished them since the days when they warred with the Amalekites. But what power is it that has kept the Jewish people together—that has enabled them to remain an exclusive people in spite of the many changes to which they have been subjected? It cannot be that the root of their nationality is in their kingdom. which they left ‘ so long ago, and therefore it must be in their religion—in the Mosaic Law, which they have carried with them throughout all 'their wanderings. It is this code of laws that makes the distinction between Jew and Christian, and therefore it is in the relation of this law to health that one must look for enlightenment.
Moses was evidently well acquainted with the rules of health and hygiene. When he drew up his code of divine instructions, he wisely embodied the health directions, so that the conscientious Jew carries out his obligations to God and himself with equal sanctity. He considers it a religious offence to eat fresh meat containing blood, for the Law said that “of the blood thereof which is life thereof shall ye not eat.”
In a Jewish slaughter-house every animal is killed in such a way that the veins and arteries are completely drained, this being carried out with extreme care and skillfulness, and by men who are practically examined before being allowed to undertake the task. The meat is then subjected to a minute examination under the Shechite Board, and if the least suspicion of disease be found it is condemned. Out of twelve beasts killed in Toronto as many as six have been laid aside as unfit for consumption, and this condemned meat, it is noteworthy to add, ultimately found its way to the Gentile market.
Disease germs, as everybody knows, may be introduced into the body by various means. They may be inhaled into the lungs; they may find their way directly into the blood by means of a wound or an abrasion in the skin, such as a burn or scratch; or they may be taken into the stomach with the food. The blood may contain disease germs long before any internal or external signs of disease become visible, and these germs may multiply in the blood without any immediate injury to the health. Disease microbes have a wonderful power of survival. They may be cooked—some of them—they may be dried up or saturated, and yet retain their vital properties.
It goes without saying that the Jew is just as susceptible to the attack of these germs as the Gentile. He is just as likely to inhale them into his lungs, or to introduce them into his blood by contact with an unclean body, and with exactly the same results. But he is not so likely to introduce them into his stomach with the food that he eats, for the total prohibition of the use of blood obviously reduces the danger. Therefore the Jew who conforms to the Mosaic Law stands a bet-
ter chance of escaping blood diseases than those who do not bind themselves by such, restrictions.
It has been proved beyond the possibility of doubt that diseases of this sort may be contracted in man by eating the flesh of infected animals. Several varieties of anthrax, and especially tuberculosis, can be transmitted from the beast to the stomach of a man almost as readily as from beast to beast. Some years ago the number of cases of tuberculosis in the south of England went up with' leaps and bounds, due, it was said later, to eating the flesh and drinking the milk of tuberculous cattle. That the milk supply should become contaminated was, it can be imagined, a very sad business for the many hundreds of little children that were solely reliant on the milk supply for nourishment. Yet milk is a great bearer of disease, and in spite of the care and precaution exercised by our up-to-date dairies, a certain amount of risk from this source is inevitable.
Here again we find the Jew greatly exempt from danger. Every Jewish child, for a considerable time after its birth, is fed on its natural food. Not only does this practice tend toward better health among infants, but it also renders the infant population immune from such diseases as may be picked up from food containing latent diseases, or food that may have become contaminated through contact with the air. This explains then, the scarcity of blood diseases among the Jews, and as these diseases carry off something like 10 per cent, of the Christian population, the Jewish death rate is reduced almost proportionately.
The Jews are certainly a prolific people. At one time, in Austria, no Jew was allowed to marry except by Imperial consent. Only the eldest son of a family was permitted to found a family of his own, but in spite of this restraint they managed to increase, and the Ghetti of that country were veritable hives. Nearly every Jew we meet is a member of a large family. His father and mother and grandfather were also members of large families. Neither did his fathers endeavor in any way tu prevent this increase. Neither will he. This also may be a reason for the exceptional good health of these people, for it is believed by many medical authorities that any impedance placed upon the increase of population has an ill effect upon the generations that come later.
Canada to-day contains 70,000 Jews; Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg alone accounting for 51,000. True it is that the wards of these cities bring home to us the ancient truth that a people who have no history are the happiest people. Yet these Jews are the same Jews at heart as those who, long ago, journeyed to the land of Canaan. They have not broken caste; from a national standpoint it is their mission to work out their self-discipline, and to overcome or restrain their selfish desires.
Their characteristic precaution with regard to matters of health is shown us by their abstinence from the use of alcohol. The Jews love wine and drink it freely, but never does one hear the sad family story of downfall, misery, and ultimate ruin through intemperance that one hears among the Gentiles. Even in the lowest wards and Ghetti we may search in vain for the sodden, drink-warped face of the habitual inebriate. As a result, not only are there fewer deaths from inflammation of the lungs, and other diseases occurring as a direct result of dipsomania, but the deep-seated diseases that occur among the children of inebriate parents are proportionately scarce. It is possibly also on account of their temperance that venereal diseases are less common among Jews than among the Gentile races. But this, more likely, is due to their clannishness, which protects them from the many varieties of disease that could only be communicated from some foreign source.
It is not generally known that the Jew never drinks milk or eats butter at the same meal as he eats meat. At breakfast, for instance, either he leaves meat entirely alone, or else he drinks his coffee black and uses dripping instead of butter, so as not to mix the meat and the milk. Moreover, a dish that is used for greasy foods is used for that purpose exclusively, and likewise a meat dish is used for meats exclusively, and never allowed to come in contact with such items of diet as milk, cheese and butter. This is one of the laws laid down by Moses, though what reason Moses had in mind when he made it is quite obscure. We can see no possible
reason why meat and milk should not be taken together, but evidently Moses was under the impression that such a “mixture” was harmful.
That cleanliness is next to godliness is a condition that no respectable Christian child is given an opportunity of forgetting, and nowadays a substantial fortune is ever awaiting the man who can bring out some new cleansing material that possesses a distinctive feature. Our bill-boards are covered with advertisements setting forth the virtues of various soaps, bath purifiers, and nursery requisites, and yet, in the midst of all this, a London physician has recently written a book on the perils of too much washing. Why soap is bad for the baby he clearly sets forth in his volume, and possibly the Jewish mother is aware of this danger, and discreetly dismisses the sinister wash-tub from her list of household necessities.
To return to statistics — other data, showing the difference in the number of deaths from various causes, brings the facts before us that out of two hundred and fifty suicides through domestic infelicity, only twenty-five were Jews. From the drug habit and other nervous affections, out of fifty-three deaths among Christians and Jews, only five belonged to the latter. The habit of temperance among the Jews, amid abundant intemperance, is also the reason why typhus and other infectious fevers are not permanent among them as among their Gentile neighbors. Even during terrific epidemics of Black Plague, that sometimes crept like consuming fires through parts of Europe, the Jew showed a slightlv lower death rate than the people of other nationalities.
So much for diseases, but we have yet one other great reason why this wonderful race of people still manage to hold their own in all quarters of the world. The feeling oi brotherhood between Jew and Jew—the ancient tendency to cling together and face a common foe, is such that no old and decrepit member of their race is allowed to sink to the level of starvation. When the Jew grows old, and his davs of active service are ended, he is cared for by his people, if unable to support himself. In the same wav a Jewish mother, if unable to supply the means wherewith to provide the necessary medical attendance, is cared for by her relatives, or if she has none, by her neighbors or some charitable brotherhood. This is the duty of Jew to Jew, performed by each in the knowledge that perhaps he or she will some day stand in need of succor.
Without doubt the Christian poor help each other in the same way. There is greater and wider charity in the slums, all the world over, than the casual observer is led to think. Yet only too often the Christian poor, emerging from a severe illness and still in a state of convalescence, take exposures and contract new illnesses, or sink into a pitiable condition of permanent ill-health. Whereas the Jew is nursed back to complete strength by those who have made themselves responsible.
Thus, in summing up, we have four great reasons which may account for the better health among Jews than among Christians. Firstly, the flesh they eat is carefully selected and they abstain from the use of blood, and thus greatly reduce the risk of contracting blood diseases. Secondly they abstain from the intemperate use of alcohol, and consequently are stronger constitutionally, are less subject-
to the various infectious fevers that may be caused or enhanced by intemperance. Thirdly the Jewish children are reared on their natural food, and thus escape the danger that must accompany the practice of artificial feeding. Lastly, the Jew is charitable to his neighbor.
Our Gentile hygienic arrangements are as near perfect as possible. But it must be remembered, that this state of affairs did not exist a hundred years ago. We, as a people, are only beginning to reap the benefit of our improved systems, whereas the Law of Moses, as followed to-day, has been observed by the Jewish people since the time of the Old Testament. Generation after generation the Jews although perhaps neglecting “the outside of the plates” have nursed their health, built up their constitutions, and kept themselves clean from the diseases that have blasted and undermined the strength of other nationalities. Hence the Jew of the present day, blindly following the Mosaic Law of his forefathers in the squalid, overcrowded ward, is safer from sickness than the wealthy Christian or aristocratic ancestry to whom the very thoughts of such an environment suggests disease.
0fïWOMAN’S glance, like a lighthouse, often illumines a dangerous course.
fflffljïORLDLY success is the degree by which we can discount the rest of humanity.