Is Your IQ Jewish Enough?


List of things that make me cringe a bit:

1) Karaoke love ballads sung earnestly;

2) Restaurants that combine multiple ethnic groups’ foods, like my local Pizza-Sushi-Tacos place – only illness can come from those spicy tuna rolls; and

3) The study that says Ashkenazi Jews are much smarter than everyone else, and the people who get all “Wooo!” about it.

ShalomLife is talking about Cambridge UP findings that say the average IQ of Ashkenazi Jews is 20% higher than the global average.

Now, I enjoy a nice catalyst to eugenics as much as the next gal, but my bigger issue here is the reaction of the writer.

Not to brag or anything, but according to USA Today, “Ashkenazi Jews comprise 2.2% of the USA population, but they represent 30% of faculty at elite colleges, 21% of Ivy League students, 25% of the Turing Award winners, 23% of the wealthiest Americans, and 38% of the Oscar-winning film directors.”

Wait, that’s not all!

According to the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies,

“Since 1950, 29% of the Oslo awards have gone to Ashkenazim, even though they represent only 0.25% of humanity. Ashkenazi achievement in this arena is 117 times greater than their population.”

But “not to brag or anything.”

When we accept these kinds of findings at face value and just run with them because, hey, it’s just fun to “win” these sorts of things, right? {And then your next line of argument drops the H-bomb:} ‘But Halley, after the Holocaust, doesn’t this let us give the finger to everyone who thought we were dirt? Haven’t we earned this?’

And this kind of thinking is why I cringe a little.

To celebrate this, we also have to fracture the Jewish community again. There’s already enough of a problem where the Ashkenazi experience is often taken for the whole of Jewish experience, as our Sephardic friends will remind us. We have to step on, once again, Sephardi, Mizrahi, Yemenite, Bukharan, and other Jews, who probably weren’t identified as isolated groups to be measured in the study.

We’d also have to forget that IQ tests favor certain types of intelligence and learning. It favors the types of education our families have often stressed. As much as I like it when people call me smart, I’m pretty sure these results have something to do with opportunity, broad cultural and family support, and the types of questions asked by IQ tests.

By grasping on and creating an identity around this idea of inherent intelligence, it discounts any Jew who doesn’t fit into that “smart” category in obvious or traditional ways, supporting those who would like to fracture us into who is really a Jew and who isn’t. That seems like such a stupid thing to do.

And of course, nobody likes a braggart.

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2 Responses

  1. […] a Jew.  A proud Jew.  And I’m proud to be a proud Jew.  To be a proud Jew isn’t wrong – as Halley C. at the DC JCC suggests.  Rather, pride in Judaism is the only way we can save American […]

  2. I absolutely think people should be proud Jews. To say that I’m against being proud of being Jewish, or that I’m “afraid or embarrassed to admit [I’m] Jewish” is a deep misreading of what I said.

    I said we shouldn’t prioritize Ashkenazi identities over other Jewish identities. They are all valuable, even if there are more Ashkenazi Jews than others.

    I said that we should not take those study results and make super-intelligence a defining characteristic of Jews, because then we leave out those Jews who do not fall into that category. By that logic, if “real Jews” are so smart, and some people don’t have that super high IQ, then they *must* not be “real Jews.”

    I am arguing for a Judaism where ALL of us are valued – Ashkenazi or not, super-intelligent or not. *That* is the Judaism and Jewish culture that I’m proud of.

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