The Jewish people are at the center of many of history's great civil and spiritual religions.

Understanding Jewish Exceptionalism

Lord Byron said something to the degree that the Jews gave mankind his first major religion, Christianity, and his second, Capitalism. Milton Friedman pointed out something similar.[1]

That is of course a generalization, but it isn’t too far off.

The Jewish people are at the heart of many of the world’s great civil and spiritual religions including liberalism, capitalism, Christianity, and socialism. It isn’t that the Jewish people single handledly invented each, it is rather that different historic groups of Jewish people helped to translate and popularize each ideology.

Jesus was a Jew, but so was Mayer Amschel Rothschild and Karl Marx… and maybe Hitler (according to some lore and studies it is a possibility, either way the Jewish people are a dark focal point of that story). That is worth noting and examining a little closer.[2]

The reasoning is simple enough, they are an old race who became nomadic early on, experiencing the knowledge of the world (unlike the less nomadic) in their travels, and were forced to be five steps ahead to survive century after century. Of course, in this position, some degree of collectivism is key. It makes sense to share knowledge, to share capital, and to learn to play key roles like lawyer and banker (roles that others couldn’t play, and/or that required little to no permanent structure).

Indeed, it makes more sense for a nomadic people to trade foreign currency on a bench than it does for them to try to buy land and farm (knowing they could be driven out by little more than a change in leadership).

In other words, the Jews were the first to embrace some complex naturally occurring social systems… out of necessity.

When it comes to Capitalism and Banking, it is a matter of a nomadic people needing capital that could be exchanged between nations (so banking and modern Capitalism are both born from necessity; in the trading centers of the Italian Republic specifically).

The old Torah is a fairly conservative document, but its also full of practical advice and liberal virtues. It helps teach a way of life that is needed to stay safe and make advancements collectively. It is the sort of thing one might pick up from studying those Greek texts from 300’s BC at some point say in a library like that of Alexandria (or from any of the world’s cultural sources, certainly a nomadic people had access to all of this as a collective).

The Jews relied on the kindness of strangers when they entered strange lands, is it any wonder (with their trading and foreign customs) that they favored liberalism and protestantism? If you were persecuted and forced into Ghettoes based on your race and faith, you’d likely appreciate calls for social equality and freedom of Religion.

It was in these ways that the Jews were a part of the birth of liberalism, protestantism, capitalism, and many western traditions that have shared roots with the Italian and European Christians (like Machiavelli or Locke).

In the mid-1800’s in Germany, a Jew named Karl Marx invented the new civil religion, socialism. Again, not because of a gene or some plot, but because of Marx was, if only ironically here, a nomadic foreigner intellectual of sorts turning to the art of expressing knowledge in troubling times.

If we consider Hitler a Jew, as he might well have been, we can almost take this semi-light-hearted to an almost funny conclusion: that the Jewish people, scattered across sparse lands, with no real coordination, helped give birth to the world’s most impactful “religions”.

Again, I’m not submitting that it speaks to a Jewish gene or plot (after all, if there was a plot, it probably would not have included the creation of liberalism, socialism, and fascism which all oppose each other), but rather remarking on it generally and insinuating that these highlights of human history were all born out of necessity, liberty, the sharing of culture, and other elements of a people’s nomadic roots and the real human incentive to ensure survival.

When we consider figures like Einstein, the whole thing only becomes more interesting.

Of course with that in mind, this is just the sort of thing that gets mistaken by right-wing nationalists as a giant conspiracy.

If we credit the Jews with enough of the world’s civil religions we’ll certainly be right at some point, but we’ll also be flirting with attributing some sort of plot to a historically nomadic people who live across the globe and share little in common.

Yes, Marx, Jesus, Mayer Amschel Rothschild, William Shakespeare’s Shylock, Mel Brooks, and more are all Jewish, no I don’t think they spent much time plotting as a race. Instead, one should see this for what it is, a naturally occurring advent of the invisible hand (capitalism in-action, our western liberalism with its mixed-roots).

Christians can’t agree on much globally, certainly not left-right social issues, the Jews in Israel (one of many types of Jews) have this same sort of schism. Why on earth we are all so quick to be swayed by racial propaganda is beyond me (although considering Hitler hated democracy, capitalism, liberalism, Marxism, and himself; his vendetta does make a little bit of sense).

PBS The Jewish People A Story of Survival. The title says it all, “the story of survival”. Where survival leads to exceptionalism throughout the ages, through necessity, by working in concert with the other peoples of the world. Showing us the strengths of collectives and cooperation in many different ways.


It is worth noting the story of the great civil and spiritual religions and the Jewish people, and then backing away a bit to avoid any crazy conspiracy theories.


  1. Capitalism and the Jews
  2. Adolf Hitler: Was Hitler Jewish?

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