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Why Jews Are Smart

Copyright 2005 By Marsh Kaminsky

Outside of loving and caring for their children, the next most important thing parents can give them is a very high intellect.

Throughout the ages, Jews have had a reputation for having a very high intellect. In fact, it is said that on average we have 15 IQ points more than the rest of the world. That's a considerable amount. There are many who would like to know why and that's why I wrote this essay. They know it did not just accidentally happen that one day we just woke up very intelligent. There must be a causative factor(s). Is it our Jewish culture or genes or something else? Maybe a magic brain building elixir?

This may sound utterly preposterous, but our high intellect was a direct result of our ancestors who assiduously followed God's commandments in the Shema, Judaism's most well known prayer. It's short, a little over a hundred words. But short as it is, it contains a very powerful commandment from God. The relevant sentence reads: You shall teach them (God's laws) diligently to your children. With those few simple words, God told us how to unleash much more of the brain's intellectual power. In effect, by putting that commandment in a Jewish prayer, He chose us to be highly intelligent.

Our ancestors must have reasoned that one of the best ways for their children to learn God's laws was for them to read them in the Torah. That turned Jewish parents into reading teachers. But the Shema said nothing about at what age to start teaching reading. As a result of God's silence on the matter, many Jewish parents began the reading instruction process as soon as their children began to walk and talk, at a year or two old.

Our ancestors may not have known it at the time, but early reading acts like a brain growth catalyst From everything I have read and from my own experience of teaching my two year old son, reading is by far the best brain stimulant. It makes a child think and thinking is a wonderful brain exercise.

Magic occurs when you teach tots and toddlers how to read. Yes, it can be done!

To avoid any possible confusion here, I am not talking about reading books to a child, but instead, teaching a child how to read books to his/her parents. There is a world of difference between the two.

As a result of teaching their children how to read, our ancestors became the most literate people on earth. Jews were busy spreading literacy and learning among themselves while the Christians, fearing an educated and literate population, discouraged literacy for all but their elite. The Christian clergy wanted blind obedience while the Jews enjoyed intellectual freedom. Discussing and arguing ideas became a way of life with us. It is no wonder so many Jews became eloquent lawyers in the courtroom.

The very young human brain is by far America's greatest wasted natural resource.

An atmosphere of learning and scholarship developed among Jews. We reveled in our way of life, our one God, and our intellectualism.We hardly knew about sports and certainly did not study or practice warfare. Jews wanted nothing to do with such nonsense. No other people ever developed a culture like ours.

Besides the literacy, we also became very intellectual. So much so that the Talmud is literally replete with tales of Jewish child prodigies.

But still, how did we become so smart? Was it our genes or our culture?

About twenty-five years ago, in the early eighties, a team of scientists headed by Dr. Marian Diamond at the University of California at Berkeley came to the rescue. Her team discovered that a stimulating environment has a huge influence on the ultimate level of intelligence. Up to then, it was generally accepted among neuroscientists that the human brain and its intelligence was created by the genes and could not be changed.

Dr. Diamond's research changed all that. She demonstrated that we could increase intelligence by stimulating the brain. That was revolutionary brain science. She showed us that intelligence is created by both our genes and the stimulation from the outside environment working together. The genes creates the brain and its cells (neurons) in the first place, while most of its intelligence is created after it experiences environmental stimulation, with the most important being during the first three years. Our culture of reading, discussing, and learning was precisely the stimulating environment needed for our Jewish intellect to flourish.

To illustrate this brain phenomena in simple terms, think about what happens when a body builder strenuously exercises his muscles. With enough exercise, his muscles will grow larger and stronger. That is nothing new, everyone knows about body building. But what is new is that scientists have demonstrated that the very young human brain when stimulated or exercised grows in power like our muscles.

If ten minutes a day of an ordinary amount of brain stimulation and creates an average IQ, what happens if a child is given an hour a day? Or two hours? Three? Do we then get child prodigies or super geniuses with IQ's in the 200+ range? Would we get children who routinely enter kindergarten already reading at the fifth grade level or above? This author says we would get that and so much more. There is no known limit to how much our brains can grow and how intelligent we can become.

It is a fact that much of our intelligence depends on how much teaching and quality time Jewish parents are willing to invest with their tots and toddlers during their crucial first three years.

I believe that our survival depends on our high intellect. Our Jewish students must be the best of the best and the smartest of the smart. That means that we must never lose sight of our ancestral learning culture or buy into America's dreadful educational system. Untold thousands of our Jewish children have already been miseducated in America. Enough is enough.

There is nothing in science or anywhere else that holds nearly as much promise for humankind as very early brain stimulation.

Most American educators, Jews and Gentiles alike, delike what I have written about early reading.Worse yet, some of them do their best to dissuade parents from teaching academics to their preschoolers. They call themselves developmentalists and I know they are all wrong. Sadly enough, most Jewish preschools have the developmental philosophy. That's why parents must do the teaching job, just as our ancestors did.

For the sake of our intellect and our culture, Jewish parents must be prepared to follow the Shema and home school their children for the first three years.

Early reading and brain stimulation of our tots and toddlers is the wave of the future in education. The movement is here to stay and cannot be stopped. It may take twenty or thirty years for it to happen, but it will, sooner or later. Just envision our children entering kindergarten already reading at the fifth grade level and sporting IQs that Einstein would dearly envy. Can you hear these five year old savants speaking in Japanese, French, and Chinese besides English? Nothing would make the likes of the Vilna Gaon, Rashi, and Maimonides happier.

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