Group Vs Individualist Strategy

When I became interested in converting to Judaism, around 1990, I had weekly conversations with a friend who like me grew up as a Seventh-Day Adventist in Australia. This man worked as a pastor for many years before quitting and become an insurance agent to better provide for his family.

Like me, this bloke didn’t have much experience with Jews, but he did have this distinct memory: “When most people shop for a home, they bring their spouse, but when Jews buy property, they bring their accountant, their lawyer, their friends.” My friend found this distasteful.

I was not bothered by this accusation, but I didn’t understand its significance. Now I see that Jews have a group strategy for life while WASPs tend towards an individualist strategy. Most of the time in the struggle for scarce resources, a group strategy will out-compete an individualist strategy. WASPs come from northern Europe where life’s competition was historically much more against the environment and much less against other competing groups. Jews come from a history of group competition more than environmental competition. Almost all the prayers in the siddur (Jewish prayer book) are in the collective.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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