Friday, March 04, 2011


In 1899, Harper's published a remarkable piece by Mark Twain entitled "Concerning the Jews". A link to the entire article is below, but here is a summary and a question for your table:

I have received from Jews in America several letters of inquiry [that may be summed up by this]: Will a Jew be permitted to live honestly, decently, and peaceably like the rest of mankind? What has become of the Golden Rule?'

Twain begins his answer with a full-disclosure statement:

I will begin by saying that if I thought myself prejudiced against the Jew, I should hold it fairest to leave this subject to a person not crippled in that way. But I think I have no such prejudice. A few years ago a Jew observed to me that there was no uncourteous reference to his people in my books, and asked how it happened. It happened because the disposition was lacking.

I'm not going to print the bulk of his answer to the readers' question, you can click below and savor it yourself. But here is Twain's immortal conclusion:

If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in the world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.

The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind.

All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?

Question for your table: What is the secret of his immortality?

Shabbat Shalom

Today's blog is an excerpt from the Amazing Jewish Fact-a-Day Calendar. We are considering an Android version, and maybe one for the new Blackberry Tablet. If you have an opinion about this investment, please click reply and send it along!

Here's the full original article.
Here's a related 1-hour video on the remarkable survival and thriving of the Jewish People.
Here is rabbi Becher's entertaining answer to the question. (If you want to download the mp3 into your iphone etc, click here.)

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