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.
Understanding Jewish Exceptionalism
Lord Byron said something like, “the Jewish people gave mankind their first major religion, Christianity, and their second, Capitalism.” That isn’t too far off from the truth (as Milton Friedman also noted). This page looks at, Christianity, Capitalism, and the many other things “given” by this group.
The Jewish people were 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 handedly invented each ideology, it is rather that different historic groups of Jewish people from across the globe helped to translate, spread, and popularize each ideology.
Jesus was a Jew, and so were Mayer Amschel Rothschild and Karl Marx… Einstein was a Jew, and so where many more notables. Put this together with the prominence of Jewish people, in one respect or another, across the world today and in history… and it should beg the question, “what exactly is it that make the Jewish people so notable?”
Although one can only theorize on questions like that, one could speculate that a major reason the Jewish people have affected a wide range of cultures across the globe and throughout the ages is that they are an old race who became nomadic early on.
Their traveling of the world meant experiencing the knowledge of the world (unlike the less nomadic peoples). Add to that that they were often persecuted, and one can note that they were forced to be five steps ahead to survive century after century. Add to that their general culture of sharing knowledge and focusing on professions that would be useful no matter what land they ended up in, and you start to paint a picture of a people who, if only as a matter of circumstance, became proficient in certain types of valuable knowledge over time.
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). And, it makes sense to write this down in shareable texts.
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). And, it makes sense for them to have written rulesets that could be shared with others in far reaches of the world (spreading their own knowledge, and sharing the knowledge they learned from afar).
In other words, perhaps the Jewish people 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).
When it comes to religion, although the spiritual side is important, one can also note the very practical and moral (but non-theological) aspects of their religion.
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 the 300s 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 Jewish nomads relied on the kindness of strangers when they entered strange lands, is it any wonder (with their trading and foreign customs) that they favored forms of what today we call 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 too.
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 ideological roots with the Italian and European Christians (like Machiavelli or Locke).
In the mid-1800’s in Germany, a Jewish Prussian named Karl Marx invented the new civil religion, socialism (creating the anti-thesis of the very economic system which some Jewish people of the past had helped create). Again, it is 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 while fleeing persecution (from a few states, including the Prussian state).
If we consider Hitler a Jew (which he might have been; although this is unclear), we can almost take this to an almost absurd conclusion: that the Jewish people, scattered across sparse lands, with no real coordination, helped give birth to the all of the 20th centuries most impactful dogmas.
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 in the face of hardship.
Of course with that in mind, this is just the sort of thing that gets mistaken by right-wing anti-internationalists as a giant conspiracy. We see a range of successful people who share a trait, and we start attributing malice to them (rather than asking ourselves “what can we learn here?”)
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… and that is not my intention here.
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 resulting from the position that a people found themselves in over time.
Christians can’t agree on much globally, certainly not on left-right social issues. Nor can they agree on much nationally (pick any nation and this is true). Likewise, the Jewish people of Israel (one of many types of Jews) have this same sort of schism (having a left-wing and right-wing who agree on little). It is interesting to ask why we have seen so many successful Jewish people and so many successful Jewish inventions (especially in terms of major ideologies), but we have to be careful not to confuse ourselves into thinking that a given individual is perfectly representative of a group, or that a group is perfectly representative of a person.
In America, you might find a disproportionate amount of rock stars, celebrities, start-ups, and gammers living in their parents basement. That isn’t a conspiracy, it is a result of culture and history. It doesn’t speak to individuals, but it is a result of a spirit of individualist spirit breed into the collective. Still, no American would confuse a conservative from the Deep South with a liberal from San Fran. They share some culture, and they share a country and name, and they might even share some genetic heritage, but it is a mistake to lump them into a group and assume they could stomach each other long enough to coordinate much of anything. With the Jewish people it is no different. The advents noted on this page are likely a result of both individual spirit and a shared culture.
TIP: See the video below for some of the origin and history of the Jewish people and how that relates back to Jewish exceptionalism.The Origin and History of the Jewish People and other Ethnoreligious Groups.