The fact that Jews are disproportionally successful in many fields of endeavor is undeniable. The statistics simply speak for themselves. Jews make up less than half of one percent of the world’s population but they consistently have made up more than twenty percent of the Forbes 400 list of the world richest people.
But it is not just making money that a disproportionate amount of Jews seems to excel at. Thirty percent of Nobel Prize winners in science are Jewish, and major Hollywood studios, like Paramount Pictures and Universal Studios, are also run or owned by Jews. In virtually every industry successful Jews are disproportionally represented.
Most non-Jews also know this. This was demonstrated to me during the summer when while visiting more than a dozen major cities across the United States I asked random people whether they thought that Jews were disproportionally successful in business. The majority answered yes. I recorded their answers on video which can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpjWK9BmYDs
As a Jew, however, the fact that we seem to be taking more than our fair share of success often makes us uneasy. We therefore try to downplay Jewish success and we often consider those who talk about it as borderline anti-Semites. But is this really fair? Facts are facts and the statistics don’t lie. When it comes to success and achievement we Jews do punch higher than our weight. There is no way to deny this reality.
In fact in my opinion this is something we must embrace, analyze and ultimately share with others. While some people think that Jewish success has to do with genetics, and others surmise that it is related to our intense persecution, it is my contention that Jewish success has to do with Judaism itself. Inherent within Jewish religious teachings and Torah stories are ideas that relate directly to behaviors and attitudes that lead directly to successful outcomes.
“Jewish Wisdom for Business Success: Lesson from the Torah and Other Ancient Texts” is a book I have written together my friend and business expert Sam Jaffe. The book, published this month, relates stories and ideas that are found within the Torah and then demonstrates how they relate directly to successful business practices.
But what I found most amazing was that after the book was completed I found that many of the most successful business advice books came to similar conclusions as we did.
For example one of the main points made by Jim Collins in his bestseller “From Good to Great” was that all leaders of the greatest companies in the world are what he describes as Level Five Leaders. Remarkably our analysis of Moses’ leadership in the Torah reached the exact same conclusion.
Obviously all those who studied the Torah properly had learned how to be a Level Five Leader thousands of years before the concept was “discovered” and then coined by Jim Collins and his team of researchers.
Another example of this is Seth Godin’s bestselling book “The Dip” where he explains that early on in any endeavor or enterprise a person will experience a dip where things become difficult and seem insurmountable. It is in this dip phase that most people give up.
But winners, says Godin, love the dip and they lean into it because they know that success lays waiting for them at the other end of it. Anyone who has studied the story of the Splitting of the Sea in the Torah knows this lesson intuitively and I outline it in my book. The list goes on with areas such as negotiations, positive thinking, will power, the approach to failure and reactions to fear. –the Torah has wisdom for all of it.
It is therefore little wonder that Jews who have studied the greatest book of wisdom ever written—the Torah—are disproportionally successful in every arena of endeavor. And even those who do not actively study the Torah still benefit from its wisdom in the form of attitudes and teachings that Jewish parents and communities teach and pass down, albeit mostly without being aware that they originate from the Torah.
If this divine blueprint for success exists and it has helped us as Jews become successful it is about time we both recognize where the wisdom comes from and share it with others. With this in mind I wrote “Jewish Wisdom for Business Success: Lessons from the Torah and Other Ancient Texts.”
Rabbi Levi Brackman
is executive director of Judaism in the Foothills ,
and is the author of "Jewish Wisdom for Business Success"