“The Super Achievers” by Ronald Gerstl reveals the remarkable disproportionate Jewish contributions to world knowledge of science and heath, and the surprisingly high number of Jewish Nobel Prize Winners in these fields. Although Jews are only 0.2% of the world’s population, Jews were awarded 24% of the Nobel Prizes in science and medicine. Similarly, while Jews account for only 2% of the American population, they received 37% of the US Nobel Prize awards in these fields.
Gerstl tells us much interesting information that most people do not know. In 130 pages, he discusses the rarified world of the Nobel Prize, identifying who is Jewish among the winners is not always evident and can turn up some surprises, Germany’s loss of Jewish scientists who fled the Nazis was America’s gain, women nobelists, about science and religion, the outcome in the future, as well as eight pages where he discusses why Jews are exceptional, and more. In the remaining 115 pages, he gives dozens of selected biographical profiles of Jewish Nobel prizewinners, including their pictures. He also includes a bibliography and index
Why are Jews exceptional?
Some Jews unfortunately accept Yehuda Halevi’s view that he wrote in his classic “Kuzari.” Gerstl does not discuss his unusual idea. Halevi taught that Jews are biologically superior to all other people. Non-Jews, he insisted, are somewhere in-between animals and Jews. Even converts to Judaism are unable to reach the level of Jews because they lack their biology. They remain in the lower class. Most Jews reject this pseudo-science notion. They think that God created all people and loves all people, and we should respect all people. Gerstl gives a rational approach in his eight pages.
He writes, “Jewish cultural values based on family upbringing, dedication to education, self-motivation, persistence, resilience in face of adversity, and just plain hard work undoubtedly contribute to their success.” He describes the generally stable Jewish family life, the absence of family strife and other social ills. He emphasizes that education has been a goal for Jews for millennia, that Jewish parents encourage their children’s love of learning. He speaks about the Jewish drive to excel. He quotes the former Israeli Prime minister Shimon Peres, “There is something in our DNA that makes us Jews never feel satisfied,” and notes that Jews frequently succeed when others give up. He also reveals that Jews generally have a higher IQ than people in other cultures and that IQs are frequently inherited.
But despite these observations he admits that these factors do not tell the whole story; we really do not know why Jews are exceptional achievers.