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Friday, May 17, 2013

Krauthammer's Law

Charles Krauthammer, physician, columnist and commentator, has propounded a theory that has been borne out time and time again.  He named it Krauthammer's Law.  This law posits that

Everyone is Jewish until proven otherwise.   

Like Moore's law, this seems thoroughly counter-intuitive, but once you are aware of it, it will uncannily come up again and again, explaining all sorts of behavior.  As Dr. Krauthammer (writing in 2006) pointed out,

 First, it turns out that John Kerry — windsurfing, French-speaking, Beacon Hill aristocrat — had two Jewish grandparents. ( NOTE; Mr. Kerry is currently U. S. Secretary of State.)  Then Hillary Clinton — methodical Methodist — unearths a Jewish stepgrandfather in time for her run as New York senator.A less jaunty case was that of Madeleine Albright, three of whose Czech grandparents had perished in the Holocaust and who most improbably contended that she had no idea they were Jewish. To which we can add the leading French presidential contender (Nicolas Sarkozy), a former supreme allied commander of NATO (Wesley Clark) and Russia's leading anti-Semite (Vladimir Zhirinovsky). One must have a sense of humor about these things. Even Fidel Castro claims he is from a family of Marranos.
That Fidel Castro might be descended from Marranos, as he claims, does not surprise me.  His behavior and opinions certainly are consistent with such ancestry.  But if the one-time Governer and Senator of Alabama, the son of a football coach, a dyed in the wool good old boy/high society redneck, George Allen, can be outed as a Jew, then we've fallen down the rabbit hole.  
I mention this rule because of the latest news out of Caracas, Venezuela, where Chavez' successor has been accused of being Anti-Semitic.  His response-  "Who, me?  My grandparents were Jewish!"
 In President Nicolas Maduro's  own words, 
“My grandparents were Jewish, from a [Sephardic] Moorish background, and converted to Catholicism in Venezuela… The mother of [Minister of Communication and Information] Ernesto Villegas also comes from a similar background,” Maduro said last week, according to Aporrea, a Venezuelan news portal supportive of Chávez’s socialist platform and reform initiatives.
“I’m sorry to hear about the statements made by Claudio Epelman, director of the Latin American Jewish Congress, who I know and have received many times, saying that there’s anti-Semitism in Venezuela and implicating Chávez and me in it,” Maduro said.
“He can accuse me, but he should leave Chávez out of it,” he added.

So not only is he Jewish, but half his cabinet is Jewish, too.

As Mr. Krauthammer says,
There are 13 million Jews in the world, one-fifth of 1 percent of the world's population. Yet 20 percent of Nobel Prize winners are Jewish, a staggering hundredfold surplus of renown and genius. This is similarly true for a myriad of other "everyones" — the household names in music, literature, mathematics, physics, finance, industry, design, comedy, film and, as the doors opened, even politics.

And you have to realize that this disproportionate and remarkable prominence only takes note of the individuals that admit or know that they are Jewish.  How many of the others  either are hiding or are simply unaware of their background?

And in the news recently,

The city of Los Angeles went to the polls on Tuesday, May 21 (2013) and were faced with a choice between City Councilman Eric Garcetti, whose mother is Jewish – but not his father – and Wendy Greuel, LA’s City Controller, who would have been its first female Mayor.  Greuel’s husband is Jewish and her son attends Hebrew school.  Also, Greuel’s mother’s first husband was Jewish.  And the third highest vote-getter in LA’s March primary, Jan Perry, converted to Judaism.
Yes, it’s California, where almost everybody is a little bit of everything.
In a tight race that remained tough to call until early Wednesday morning, Garcetti came out on top with 54 percent of the votes and Greuel with 46 percent.
“Thank you Los Angeles–the hard work begins but I am honored to lead this city for the next four years. Let’s make this a great city again,” Garcetti tweeted.
Garcetti’s mother is Jewish, although his father is Latino and was raised Catholic.  Before Jewish audiences, Garcetti has referred to himself as a “kosher burrito.”  His family attended synagogue on High Holy days, but he also attended Jewish summer camp and told the Los Angeles Times that he attended minyan while a graduate student at Oxford University.

And welcome to The Most Rev and Rt Hon the Archbishop of Canterbury/York, who ranks next in precedence to the Royal Family and above the Lord Chancellor, Justin Welby, who just found out that his father was Jewish.

A recent visitor, Rabbi Ari Listowsky, argued that this prominence stems not from inherent talent but rather from a culture that emphasizes and honors education.  This is so true as to be a truism.  As the joke goes, two things can always be found in schools- fish and Jews.  The issue he raises derives from Frances Galton's discussion of what he named "the Nature/Nurture" question.  But I believe that the argument goes nowhere.  First, in the nature nurture debate I believe that Thomas Bouchard's discovery of the Jim Twins laid to rest the argument that Human Beings are infinitely and fundamentally malleable and no more than products of their environment.  In any case, while outside cases of identical twins it is reasonable to assume some cultural influence, it stands to reason to recognize the reality of inherent and intrinsic character traits and skills.  And more- there happens to be a branch of the Jewish People that does not share the European compulsion towards a good education, and they are at least as prominent and successful as any other segment of our people- the Sefardic Jews.  As one Syrian Jew said in an article in the New York Times Magazine,
Syrian Jews have always regarded advanced secular education with something like suspicion. Not only does it promote outside values, it also distracts a boy from his proper role as an apprentice in the family business. “To understand us, you have to know that we are profoundly Middle Eastern,” Suede said. “Education is never the most important thing. People in the community thought we were weird because my older brothers and I became professionals.”
So Arie, no, it's not our love of books.  It's just what we are.

This is not a triumphal assertion of superiority.  For one thing, individuals are not populations, and there are plenty of Jews that are untalented and unmotivated.  Furthermore, being talented and brilliant and creative has no correlation with being decent or kind or civil.  I know plenty of brilliant and talented people that are extremely unpleasant to be with.  For example, even in the field of virulent anti-semitism, we Jews have pushed our way to the forefront, cases in point being Noam Chomsky and George Soros.  We have plenty to be ashamed of as far as wholesale shfichas damim: there's Bugsy Siegel and Leizer Kaganovich, the Wolf of the Kremlin.  We even have some Neo-Nazis, who, when the awful truth came out, had to seriously re-assess their philosophy; some became Orthodox Jews.  Others knew their history all along, but tried to hide it.  And there's also Helmut Newton.  But whatever it means, the talent is undeniable.  Whether this brilliant light brought us to our unique relationship with God, or is a consequence of that relationship, I don't know.


chaim b. said...

Next thing we'll discover Obama is really Jewish too : )

itchiemayer said...

Michelle Obama's cousin is a conservative "Rabbi" in Chicago.

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

Well, almost anyone can become a Jew. What I find interesting are the cases where we find out that some prominent person was a hidden Jew.

I've always wished that I would find out that Alexis de Tocqueville was Jewish. His piercing insight and prescient analyses are amazing. But no luck there. He was a member of an ancient Norman aristocratic family. I suppose you need someone to fulfill Chazal's dictum of Chochma Bagoyim Ta'amin.