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We Are A Nation of Troublemakers:

A friend of mine who lives and works in Singapore mentioned to me David Marshall, a leading Singaporean political leader and apparently one of the Founding Fathers of Singaporean independence -- and, it turns out, a Jew, of Iraqi extraction of all things.

My tentative survey of Marshall's career suggests that I'd probably have disagreed with many of his positions, though I'd probably have agreed with others. I'm not trying to praise him, or to claim joy in my ethnic kinship with him. But it is striking just how politically active -- and often politically successful -- Jews seem to be, even in places where they're a tiny minority, and where you'd think their alien status might keep many voters from connecting with them and trusting them.

MDJD2B (mail):
When I lived in Nebraska in the 1980's, there were about 6000 jews in the state our of a total population of 1.5 million. United States Senator Ed Zorinsky belonged to our synagogue in Omaha. The chief justice of the Supreme Court, Norman Krivosha, belonged to a synagogue in Lincoln. The Omaha baseball stadium-- where the College World series is played-- is Rosenblatt Field, named for a former mayor.
8.22.2006 3:02pm
JRL:
" . . . or to claim joy in my ethnic kinship with him."

I thought Judaism was a religion. Isn't it open to anyone??? What does it have to do with ethnicity?


/sorry - I went to a state law school and don't know any better
8.22.2006 4:13pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
"Of all things?" My Iraqi-Jewish wife likes to remind me that her maternal family, the Khalatschys, were wealthy merchants in Baghdad for hundreds of years while my family was living in hovels in the Pale of Settlement. More seriously, Iraqi-Jewish merchants spread out to the far reaches of the British Empire, including Singapore, India, Hong Kong, and Burma. They also were probably the ones who originated the Jewish community in China, which eventually more or less died out from assimilation. These Jews were known in these places as "Baghdadi" Jews, and usually had their own synagogues based on the Iraqi tradition. Note that Jews had been continuously in Babylonia since 600 BC, and, among other things, were the authors of the Talmud.
8.22.2006 5:13pm
Houston Lawyer:
Where some see an amused kinship, others see a conspiracy. Anecdotes like the above somehow arouse seething resentment in certain quarters. Other, more self-confident cultures, share in the amusement.
8.22.2006 5:16pm
Adam (mail):
Judaism is both a nation (ethnicity) and a religion. It's very difficult to disentangle the two in many instances. A non-Jew who converts to Judaism is joining both the religion and the ethnicity.

Genesis 12:3: "[I]n thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." I'm not necessarily very religious, but I think of this verse whenever anecdotes or statistics along these lines are brought up.
8.22.2006 5:19pm
Porkchop (mail):
MDJD2B:

Here's an interesting (or maybe not) small world item for you: My wife and I met Norman Krivosha on a one-day tour of California wine country during an ABA convention in San Francisco in the early '90's (after he had left the bench and gone to Bankers' Life). My ears perked up when I heard the last name as we all introduced ourselves on the Grayline bus. It turned out that in my youth, I had delivered newspapers to his uncle Max in a small town in Montana. We had a nice time; he and his wife were charming conversationalists.
8.22.2006 5:35pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
OK, Jews are over-represented as founders of southeast Asian city-states, as Nebraskan jurists and legislators, as Montanan newspaper subscribers, as Hollywood machers, as Ivy League enrollees...

It stands to mathematical reason that Jews must be under-represented someplace. What are those places? (By definition I'm not in those places. I feel like the answer is going to be like one of those titles of the world's thinnest books.)
8.22.2006 6:04pm
Crunchy Frog:
Professional sports. (Hank Greenberg notwithstanding)
8.22.2006 6:08pm
MDJD2B (mail):
It stands to mathematical reason that Jews must be under-represented someplace. What are those places?

The Saudi Arabian air force? :)
8.22.2006 6:27pm
jallgor (mail):
As an American of Irish descent I was similarly amused while taking a bus tour a Santiago and being told that we were passing by the statue of Chile's founding father Bernardo O'Higgins.
8.22.2006 7:12pm
MDJD2B (mail):
Porkchop,

A very interesting story. Thanks.
8.22.2006 7:50pm
ys:
As an American of Irish descent I was similarly amused while taking a bus tour a Santiago and being told that we were passing by the statue of Chile's founding father Bernardo O'Higgins.

Don't be that surprised: here is "the father of Argentine Navy" Almirante Guillermo (William) Brown, originally from County Mayo.
8.22.2006 8:14pm
GeneThug (mail):
It's been argued (on gnxp.org at least) that Jewish traditions/history have been inadvertently breeding for high IQ (rabbis matchmade w/the merchant's daughter &religiously obligated to have large families, resulting in scholars having more resources to reproduce with, centuries of strong selection pressure, &tc.), &there's an interesting article on 'neuronal overclocking' among Ashkenazim here . Might be a just so story, but if you believe IQ tests measure something, then the +15-20 or so IQ point advantage that Ashkenazim get might tend, on average, to get their high performers near the top of any meritocratic organization they're part of, with no conspiracy required.
8.23.2006 3:29am
Adam (mail):
GeneThug: anything you say about Ashkenazim doesn't apply to a Jew of Iraqi extraction, such David Marshall in the post.
8.23.2006 4:31am
GeneThug (mail):
Adam,

> anything you say about Ashkenazim doesn't apply to a Jew of Iraqi extraction

Fair enough - I have no idea what traditions are uniform across the Jewish diaspora, or if the biological IQ advantage predates the Babylonian exile (I'm definitely not an anthroneurogeneticist by training!). That said,
Iraqi Jews do share some of the high risk BRCA1 mutations that Cochran argues may confer a brain development advantage (.pdf file, search for Iraqi), and it's been asserted here (fascinating comment section, if you're interested - razib really knows this stuff) that "The Iraqi Jews... proved to be the most accomplished and successful ethnic group in Iraq before they were ethnically cleansed in the late 1940s... precisely in those realms such as business and administration." Pure correlation, sure, and it sounds unlikely there are that many Iraqi Jews around to test at this point, but it's at least arguable that the success of Iraqi Jews in cognitively challenging gigs may've had a biological component that's also common to Ashkenazim, suggesting it predates the split between the two groups - in which case my initial argument (that Jews've been successful, in part, due to selection pressure for smarts) still holds.

FWIW, I'm of the opinion that this IQ stuff'll probably get proven or disproven authoritatively as a side effect of disease mapping (Alzheimers, Tay-Sachs, familial breast cancer, etc.), as DNA sequencing becomes ubiquitously available.
8.23.2006 1:09pm