Arthur Ruppin’s Authoritative ‘the Jews in the Modern World’
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Arthur Ruppin’s Authoritative ‘the Jews in the Modern World’

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THE JEWS IN THE MODERN WORLD: By Arthur Ruppin, PhD. The Macmillan Co., New York, $5.00.

While there has been a superabundance of monographs and books about the Jews, there has been a notable scarcity of authoritative studies of the racial, social and economic traits of the people chosen as scapegoats in many modern European countries when things go wrong politically or socially. The reason is obvious: Scattered all over the habitable globe. under a variety of geographical, social, and economic conditions, affected by a variety of political and statutory laws of different nations, the Jews obviously can not be treated as a sociological unit. Hence, while there have been published many excellent monographs about the Jews in some cities or countries a rounded-out work about the sociology of the Jews as a whole has been scarce and most of those published have left much to be desired.

It has been the merit of Dr. Ruppin to supply this long-felt want in several books which no produced, the first published in German forty years ago, followed by several others, culminating in his authoritative “Soziologie der Juden,” also in German, and he has finally given us the book under consideration now out in English.

In an introductory chapter on the ethnic traits of the Jews entitled. “Who should be called a Jew?” it is shown that the Jews are by far not as pure racialiy### some Jewish Chauvinists and especially anti-Semites have attemptes to maintain. Ruppin arrives at the sound conclusion that “with regards to race, no clear line can be drawn between the Jews and the non-Jews. There are no racial characteristics peculiar to Jews only.” He also shows that the differences in mentality between Jews and non-Jews are “neither fundamental nor constant.”


The chapters on Numbers, Distribution, Migrations and natural increase are a veritable mine of reliable statistical information, not available in any book recently published. The reviewer is inclined to consider Dr. Ruppin’s estimate of a total of 15,846,000 Jews in the entire world as much under the actual number. Those interested in the future of the Jews in various countries will find ample and trustworthy material about the mass migrations during the past fifty years. It is refreshing to find that Ruppin arrives at the rational conclusion that with but few exceptions emigration can not settle the Jewish problem in Eastern Europe:

“Emigration can at the almost remove from Eastern Europe thirty to forty thousand Jews a year, i. e. only one-third of their natural increase.”

In other words, even with intense emigration there will remain more Jews in that region year by year. However, his statement to the effect that:

“It is an open question whether under these conditions the economic conditions of the Jews in Eastern Europe, and especially in Poland-which in the last fifty years emigration alone has rendered tolerable-can be preserved from catastrophic collapse.” is rather a far cry. The national and racial madness observed at present in Germany and threatened in the wild Fascist movements in neighboring countries can not last long. Why not trust the trend of economic changes at present going on all over the world, especially in Eastern Europe, to take care of the Jews as well as their hosts? Has this not happened in Russia?


But even here there is some doubt. Professor Namier in his introduction to this book says very suggestively: “Capitalism, in its individualist outlook and its original demand for economic freedom was international; communism aiming at nationalized economy, is basically national, and its internationalism will probably disappear like that of the French revolution. And then woe to him who in a socialist community will be considered a stranger. He win be what the declasse is in Bolshavik Russia.” However, such madness as is being manifested in Germany along racial lines is inconceisable in other countries.

The most controversial chapter in this book is the one dealing with anti-Semitism, especially the pages discussing recent phenomena in Germany. We are told that there the Jewish problem is unique in its kind.

“It is foolish to believe that anti-Semitism can be combated by scientific arguments, however cogent they may be; it was a fatal mistake of the Jews when, in their rationalism, they believed that popular instincts could be met by reason.”

It seems to the writer that those who maintain that this is the only sane way of meeting the problem in any country, even in modern Germany, are on safer ground. I am also convinced that Dr. Ruppin’s suggestion as to the virtue of submissiveness, or even of a cringing attitude charcteristic of many Jews in Germany and their brood scattered in other countries, will not be acquiesced in by groups of Jews whose view of their predicament is not tinted by the phantasmogoric German Kitten with which no mean proportion of their Teutonic coreligionists have been affected.


The chapters dealing with Assimilation, Baptism, Mixed Marriage and vital statistics in general are up to the standard set by Dr. Ruppin in his previous publications. The author points to certain trends in Jewish life leading to a break-up in the traditional cohesiveness of social units, a disintegration of communal life and a weakening in the consciousness in the vital importance of a common descent. It is shown that there has been an ascendancy of American Jewry during recent years; today it forms “numerically the biggest unit and exceeds all others in wealth and political influence.” Ruppin is, however, somewhat skeptical about the ultimate outlook, because, as he says:

“The old Jewish values have faded or disappeared and Jewish life in America has lost much of its distinctive characteristics. Even in those circles where Jewish national consciousness is comparatively strongest, it is merely a faint glimmer, occasionally fanned into a blaze by tragic events-such as anti-Semitic pogroms in other countries-but is normally obliterated by other thoughts and preoccupations. This lack of intensity in Jewish life makes it seem doubtful whether, in the absence of fresh immigration and in view of the progressing Americanization, the American Jew will in the long run maintain a leading position in Jewry which their political and economic importance has secured for them since the War.”


It is noteworthy that in his introduction to this book, Professor Namier also refers to the “fading aenemic Judaism” in the United States. He worries about “how deep and how far will assimilation and amalgamation proceed? Or will they be kept together by anti-Semitic pressure, after their own values have disappeared? If so, on what will they live, culturally and morally? Will they at least maintain themselves economically?”

The final two chapters discuss Zionism and Palestinian problems This portion of the book should be read by all interested in the present status of, and the future outlook for, the Jews every where. I consider it the most authoritative in any language that has been my fortune to read and meditate over. We find here a reliable discussion of the achivements of Zionism in Palestine and its influence on the diaspora. Ruppin says: “With the East European Jews, Zionism has converted a vague hope or idea into a concrete, practicable programms, and focused their desire for national survival; through it Jewish life has acquired sense and substance. For many West European Jews especially the younger generation. Zionism has called a halt on the road to assimilation.” Dr. Ruppin is very optimistic as to the absorptive capacity of Palestine. He concludes:

“If in ten years the Jewish agricultural population were to increase by 50,000, the total Jewish population (including the natural increase) would grow to about half a million. Then 3 per cent of world-Jewry would live in Palestine, forming about 30 per cent of its population. It is probable that in the following decade### similar, or even larger, programme could more easily be carried out; hitherto every mass immigration of Jews has proved that, once the initial difficulties are overcome, immigration increases automatically.”


Those worrying about the relation of the Arab population to the present and potential Jewish settlers will find in this book a sound, though conservative, view by one who has mastered the problem by understanding, as well as by long and serious study on the spot. While Ruppin doubts the feasibility of the establishment of an economic symbiosis so long as the Arabs look upon the Jews as a political danger to themselves, he is optimistic nevertheless. He says:

“It seems probable that in a calm political atmosphere an equitable solution could be found for the economic differences between Jews and Arabs, and that, in accordance with the Mandate, the Jews could enter Palestine and create economic possibilities for themselves without the Arabs suffering any damage.”

The book should be read by all who are interested in the social and economic problems of the Jews, and no library catering to Jewish readers, especially those in Jewish clubs and educational institutions should fail to have it on its shelves.

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