读书笔记anonymous 06/08 534
Book report: The Jewish Phenomenon: 7 keys to the enduring wealth of a people by Steven Silbiger
I read this book in the middle of a heated discussion about affirmative action. The book forced me to think what is fair, what benefits society, and what we can learn from others. This book gave me a lot of inspiration and much to think about.
I knew Jews are successful, but I was still astonished to discover just how successful they are. While reading, I kept saying “this is incredible, this is crazy, this is amazing, and this is astonishing!” Overall, Jewish Americans rise to the top of the business and professional world in numbers staggeringly out of proportion to their percentage in the US population. Though just 2% of the US population, they make up
- 30% of US Nobel prize winners in science and 25% overall
- 40% of the top 40 richest people in the US (Forbes 400) and 31% of the list
- 40% of partners in leading law firms in NY
- 2 out of 9 supreme court justices
- 20% of professors in top US universities
- 1/3 of multimillionaires in the US
- 1.72x of average household income (Chinese is 1.12x)
- The list of achievements goes on and one.
Such astonishing accomplishment naturally begs the questions of why and how. More importantly, what can others learn from them? The author identifies seven traits that contribute to the enormous success of Jewish people. Among these traits, Chinese people share some and definitely can learn some others.
First, understand that real wealth is portable, it is knowledge. Jewish people value education enormously. Among the specific practices mentioned in the book, I would like to highlight the importance of developing informed and literate habits, namely encouraging reading, watching and discussing news, and spotting trends. Jewish people have shown tremendous success in spotting trends and leading industries or creating new industries, such as the garment industry. Another characteristic is to value heritage, which, for Jewish people, take the form of thinking of themselves as the “chosen people”. In the process of raising my kids, I have thought a lot about heritage, race, and stereotype, both in terms of ourselves and our kids. I increasingly recognize myself as an American, yet with a proud Chinese heritage. This is also what I wish for our kids.
Second, take care of your own and they will take care of you. During Jewish immigration to the US, despite caste-like divisions among the Jews, the rich made a great effort to aid the transition of their “poor cousins”. Furthermore, they worked together when it came to their relationship with non-Jews. This is definitely something that we need to learn.
Third, successful people are professionals and entrepreneurs. A key message in this section is to think about entrepreneurship and how to proceed in a savvy manner, namely, one does not need to quit a day job to be an entrepreneur. There are many opportunities that one can start on the side and build from small. This spirit meshes well with that of spotting trends.
Four, develop your verbal confidence. Verbal confidence is the ability to speak up, say your piece, ask questions, and make demands. Verbal confidence is also not something that exists in a vacuum. It goes hand to hand with watching and discussing news, spotting trends, cultural awareness, and critical thinking skills. This is something that we have started trying at the dinner table. We discuss current events, ask for our children's opinions, and articulate multiple aspects of a given event. I myself find such discussions interesting and enlightening, especially when listening to what our kids say. As a community, verbal confidence is definitely something we can improve significantly. It is definitely getting better - I see people paying more attention to language skills, speech, debate, and performing arts.
Five, be selectively extravagant but prudently frugal. The first step is financial literacy. Chinese culture teaches this well: save, accumulate wealth, invest, and spend within or below your means. Raised this way, I was shocked to see that financial literacy is not common sense to a lot of other people. The second step is the extravagant part. One area we certainly go extravagant is education, including education and experience for ourselves.
Jews self-identify as a cultural (70%), ethnic(57%), and religious(49%) group, as well as nationality (42%). They say being Jewish is very important (52%) or somewhat important(35%) in their lives. This self-identification is critical to making the Jewish culture strong and lasting. In comparison, first and second generation Asian americans do well compared to the national average. Yet, the difference diminishes for further generations. That basically means that some good traits are lost from generation to generation. The question is what we should and could do about it.