Jewish Eugenics “The topic of Jewish eugenics has been systematically suppressed and is only now being timidly taken up by a handful of Israeli and American scholars. John Glad lays bare the deepest roots of the Middle East political standoff – roots that are little known even to experts in that field. Even discounting the topic’s Jewish aspects, Glad’s study stands alone as a unique narrative history and essential reference tool on the entire historical and current eugenics movement. The author, himself an early participant in the Holocaust Memorial Movement, argues that the ubiquitous presentation of eugenics as ‘anti-Semitic’ is a distortion of reality and that both religious and secular Jewish culture have always been eugenic in thrust – beginning with Biblical times and continuing up to the present day. Citing a mountain of cross-indexed sources, he shows that Jews have been welcome members of the eugenics movement, often even its leaders. Glad’s dispassionate biopolitical opus is the first to systematically document the incredible disconnect between eugenics and its depiction in the popular media. And he explains how the ongoing assault on eugenics poses an existential threat to Jewry itself.”

Within the forward: “For all its excesses, eugenics has been an astounding, indeed an existential success for Jews, molding them into a uniquely resourceful and intelligent people, and the current assault on eugenics by an understandably emotion-driven minority Jewish faction represents a frontal assault on the very essence of Jewry.”

* For 700 years, the Library of Alexandria in Egypt housed scrolls from all over the world. The library also made room for proto-scientific experiments, whose results were handwritten on the ever-mounting stacks of scrolls. By 415 A.D., the Library of Alexandria had almost one million scrolls. All the human knowledge of the ancient West–physics, mathematics, literature, astronomy, and the arts–was encased inside those walls. The Roman Empire, however, was on the verge of collapse, and the growing Christian Church was revving up its campaign against paganism. Long kept ignorant about the treasures of the library, local mobs burned it down. Very few copies of ancient works survived, and the Dark Ages followed suit.

Viewed through the lens of metaphor, Jewish people are akin to the Library of Alexandria–the genes that Jews carry being the equivalent of the ancient scrolls. Just like that ancient library was destroyed in stages, Jews have been persecuted, tortured, and killed through much of their 4,000-year-old history. As John Glad, retired professor of Russian studies at the University of Maryland, argues in his second book Jewish Eugenics, Jews carry in their very blood genes for high intelligence, high creativity, and high culture. Though a mere 1 percent to 3 percent of the population of the typical country–outside Israel–Jews have historically been the bulk of world leaders in a range of fields, Glad contends. These fields include literature, engineering, music, art, business, and statesmanship. Jewish contributors to human knowledge, for example, include Sigmund Freud, Franz Boas, and Karl Marx, writes Glad in Jewish Eugenics. What exactly is it about Jewish genes that has made Jews the “nobility of the human race”? According to Glad, de facto Jewish eugenics, the selective breeding of Jews with Jews for millennia due to their social segregation, ghetto culture, and Judaic prohibition of intermarriage with Gentiles. In Glad’s words, “Eugenics–inadvertent and explicit, historical and current–lies at the very core of Jewish identity” (64).

By the late 1800s and early 1900s, John Glad writes, Jewish scholars, activists, and especially, Zionists became deeply involved with the new science, founded by Francis Galton, of eugenics (the artificial selection of humans). Why did so many Jews–ranging from sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld to anarchist Emma Goldman–join the eugenics movement? According to Glad, because the standard view then was that Jews were physically weak and prone to feeblemindedness (e.g., the madness of genius). Jewish eugenicists like Max Nordau proposed the creation of a Jewish state (not necessarily Palestine). This, Glad types, was to be a land where the ghettoized Jews of the world could immigrate to in order to practice agriculture. The agrarian way, Glad continues, was seen as the antidote to the “effete” Jew. Why? Because as eugenicists like Nordau believed, hard work in the fields would, over time, create “muscle Jews” (illustrated in the cover of Glad’s book). In addition, Glad writes, Zionists wanted a place of refuge for Jews from the Diaspora. In this Jewish state, Jews would no longer face the threat of intermarriage with Gentiles, assimilation into non-Jewish culture, and persecution. As Glad argues, Zionism (the ideology espousing a Jewish state) and Jewish eugenic concerns (the preservation and improvement of the Jewish gene pool) emerged as two faces of the same coin. Put another way, Lamarckism (the belief that changing the environment will alter heritable characteristics in future generations) shaped Zionism. Zionism, in turn, led to the founding of Israel in 1948, Glad contends. To this day, Glad writes, Israel continues to practice compassionate eugenics. For example, Glad continues, genes for Tay-Sachs are screened in Israel because this disease has, till recently, been high among Ashkenazi Jews. Due to abortion, birth control, and even sterilization, Jews with the genes for Tay-Sachs are no longer passing along this mortal disease, Glad writes. Although Israelis use terms other than “eugenics,” Glad contends, eugenics is nonetheless what Israel has been openly endorsing, with amazing results.

All of the above facts, John Glad argues in Jewish Eugenics, contradict the myth–popular among the public and scholars since the late 1960s–that eugenics was “the ideology of the Holocaust.” On the contrary, Glad contends, Hitler’s Final Solution was the very anti-thesis of eugenics, for it was an attempt by the Nazis to exterminate a high class of human beings. The Holocaust, Glad concludes, was not eugenic but dysgenic.

For John Glad, the problem facing humanity in the 21st century is that “Whereas previous human evolution occurred thanks to genetic selection via differential mortality, current selection operates via differential fertility: … [emphases mine]” (12). Simply put, Jews everywhere are either leaving no offspring in order to pursue careers or are having less than the 2.1 children per couple required to keep a population stable. To make matters worse, Glad writes, intermarriage rates of Jews with Gentiles are about 50 percent nowadays. These trends, Glad postulates, are not merely dysgenic (lowering the frequency of good genes in a population); these trends are a “Silent Holocaust” in the making (22). Genocide, after all, means destruction of genes. The Holocaust Memorial Movement, Glad laments, has given a cold shoulder to this reality.

The book Jewish Eugenics could become an earthquake in the Jewish community–both in academia and in the laity. For John Glad not merely touches but plucks the strings of a lute that few people–Jew or Gentile–want to hear these days. To be sure, Glad’s efforts to educate the public and academics about the ongoing demographic crash of Jews vis-à-vis the loss of this genetic treasure is commendable. Someone, after all, needs to scream this to a sleepwalking public!

Unfortunately, John Glad sidesteps the bigger picture. It is not just Jews who are facing extinction as a distinct group of people–regardless of whether one defines Jews in genetic, racial, religious, cultural, or secular terms. In country after country, non-Jewish Caucasians are facing demographic collapse as well over the next few decades, while non-Caucasians and interracial peoples are multiplying. As Glad writes in a section titled, “To Be or Not to Be”: “Modern society is in self-destruct mode, but biology-blind models hold sway over biological explanations [of human diversity]” (19). This gets to the gist of the problem. Since the late 1960s, hereditarian models (arguing for biological differences between the human races) have been downplayed or eliminated altogether in both academia and civil society in favor of cultural determinism (calling for Lamarckian color-blindness). Any talk of race, genetic differences between ethnic groups, variations in IQ between human populations, and, thorniest of all these topics, the possible link between human biology and human intelligence have become no-nos in postmodern society. Any mention of these subjects, and one is quickly labeled “racist.”

What John Glad could explore in future works is the following: Why have mass emotions–both in academia and in the public at large–become so volatile in the post-1970 era? And not just about eugenics but also about other topics. Glad, for example, writes, “By 1982 emotions [about the controversial new field of sociobiology] had become so intense that he [sociobiologist E.O. Wilson] had to have a police escort to deliver a lecture on `the coevolution of biology and culture'” (77). That same year, mass emotions were running high on a host of other issues–child abuse and incest. Like the Holocaust Memorial Movement, these other social movements use the term “survivor.” These, of course, are legitimate issues of protest and grievance. But what is it about the post-1960s epoch that has turned much of the public into a frenzy of irrationality, one that, instead of peaking, continues to escalate to the point where any rational attempts to discuss and deal with these issues–including the subject of genetic decline–are met with hysteria?

Despite its shortcomings, Jewish Eugenics tackles the core question that has plagued not just Jews but all minorities for time immemorial. That crucible has always been whether to assimilate or separate. Sources in John Glad’s book include editorials from newspapers; quotes from magazines, journals, and books; speeches from meetings, conferences, and congresses of eugenicists; and statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. Part II is a macro-chronology and micro-chronology of quotes from eugenicists and their critics, dating from the 19th century to the present. A works cited section, a glossary, and an index wrap up the book.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in Eugenics, Jews. Bookmark the permalink.