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No Physical Degeneration of Jews, Says Jacob Lestschinsky

(Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

There is no physical degeneration of the Jews, Jacob Lestschinsky, Jewish statistician, declares in a volume on “Problems of Population Among the Jews,” to be published shortly by the International Statistical Publishing House “Metron” in Padua.

“We can assert,” Mr. Lestschinsky writes, “that all the allegations of a degeneration of the Jews in the Diaspora, which have disturbed Jewish public opinion for half a century, are biologically unfounded. It is true that there are withered branches on the Jewish national tree of life and other branches which are withering. But they are branches far removed from the roots of national life, and have ceased to take fresh sap. The trunk of the tree, however, the Jewries in the East, are still sound and fertile.

“East European Jewry,” Mr. Lestschinsky states, “had a natural increase before the war which was not less than the rate of increase of the German people. In the eighties of the last century, European Jewry had an annual increase of 130,000 to 140,000. In 1900 the figure was 155,000. In 1914, the year of the war, it well to 115,000, largely as a result of the mass emigration of Jews overseas.

“West European Jewry,” he proceeds, “has a smaller rate of increase than the Jews of Eastern Europe. In the eighties of the last centuries the rate of increase among the East European Jews was 17 to 18 per thousand; among the Western Jews it was 12 to 14. At the beginning of the twentieth century it was among the East European Jews 17 to 18 per thousand and among the Western Jews 6 to 7. On the eve of the war it was, among the Eastern Jews, 12 to 13 per thousand, and among the Western Jews 2 to 3.

“In a period of 35 years, from 1880 to 1914. East European Jewry, if the East European Jews in America are included, practically doubled its numbers. This result was brought about by a very low rate of mortality and a comparatively high birth rate.

“The rate of increase was especially favorable among that section of the East European Jews which had emigrated to America.

“It seems to me,” Mr. Lestschinsky remarks, “that American East European Jewry is a unique appearance in the population movement: together with a very high rate of births it has a strikingly low rate of mortality.

“Biologically,” he concludes, “East European Jewry can compare with the healthiest and most fertile peoples in Europe, and if we take all the facts into consideration it seems to be superior, since the other peoples achieve the same result with much less expenditure of energy, and the Jews have long had to economize their forces and to concentrate not so much on generating a large number of offspring as on maintaining a large proportion alive.”

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