Popular Science Monthly/Volume 82/March 1913/A Study in Jewish Psychopathology

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THIS is preeminently the day of preventive medicine. The campaign started many years ago to educate the people in the manner of avoiding contagious diseases has gradually been extended to other fields, until now the prophylaxis of insanity is almost as freely discussed as that of puerperal fever. And this is as it should be. Though the recovery of the already insane and the feeble-minded is seldom permanently accomplished, the outlook for the final prevention of these conditions among the potentially insane is by no means hopeless. The work undertaken by such organizations as the National Committee for Mental Hygiene, and the various allied state organizations and societies having the same general end in view are well known, and although the good already accomplished in the way of educating the people in those habits of life and thought which tend to make the development of mental afflictions less likely, is as yet inconsiderable, it promises, in the long run, to bring forth excellent results.

More and more we are coming to a realization of the importance of a good heredity. All medical men are practically agreed upon this subject. In the prevention of feeble-mindedness it is the one essential factor. It is of hardly less importance in the prevention of insanity. In an article on the hygiene of the mind, a recent writer has said "An individual who comes from normal stock, abstains from alcohol, and is free from syphilis, and escapes accidental head injury is not threatened with mental alienation."[1]

Conklin in the "Mating of the Unfit" refers to the offspring of one normal man by two separate women, one a feeble-minded girl and the other a perfectly well-balanced individual. The descendants of the feeble-minded woman were 480 in number, and of these 143 inherited the tainted mentality. The normal woman had 365 descendants and not one of them was to be classed among the mentally defective.[2]

It is also universally agreed that the propagation of tainted stock is much more likely when there is a close inbreeding of such stock. The best should be bred to the best, but different types of the same strain and close blood affinities should be avoided.

A fact so generally conceded should be applied as far as possible to the principles of marriage between individuals of both the same and different races. If the science of eugenics deserves any practical application at all, it should insist upon a careful study of the every-day violation of its cardinal principle by a whole race who persistently refuse to practise the very doctrine which is essential to the preservation of a sound and healthy mentality. I refer to the Jews.

In order to further elucidate the subject and to make good this rather bold assertion, I propose to prove the following propositions: First, the Jews are a highly inbred and psychopathically inclined race. Second, the prevalence of mental affections among them is almost entirely due to heredity.

That the Jews are as a matter of fact racially pure is a statement that must not be taken absolutely in a literal sense. All races have received admixtures of some outside blood, but it is undoubtedly true that, since the time of the prophet Ezra and his campaign for racial purity which was begun at the time of the return from the Babylonian captivity, 536 years before Christ, the central stem of Judah has remained practically free from admixture with other races. Any student of the old testament can easily substantiate the statement that violations of the law against marriage with the heathen races, by which they were surrounded, were, from that time on, most summarily punished. The feeling against such procedure grew in intensity until, at the time of the fight for the maintenance of Jewish independence under the Maccabees, it had reached such a degree of fervor that rabbinical decrees forbade friendly social intercourse with the Gentile on any pretext whatever. There is no doubt but that the Jews inter-married and inbred among themselves on an ever increasing scale clear up to the time of the fall of Jerusalem.

After the Dispersion, there is some difference of opinion as to the degree with which they maintained the racial purity which they had been over 600 years in establishing. The weight of evidence, however, is all in favor of the view that they did not abandon the time-honored doctrine of racial solidarity. During Roman times and the dispersion throughout the Mediterranean littoral, the rabbinical decrees were still vindictive in their treatment of the subject. To such extreme lengths did they go, that the Goy or Gentile party to the contract was regarded as having no right at all, but was considered like the slave, as having a status that rendered him incapable of connubium with the Jews.[3]

Those anthropologists who cite the fact that there were a great many converts to Judaism immediately after the fall of Jerusalem, and that the Jews thus received a great deal of Roman blood into their veins, overlook the fact that these converts were the very ones from whom the Christians in turn drew the majority of their converts. Thus the Judaized Romans were almost immediately lost to Judaism. Likewise the alleged conversion of the Chazars, a Tartar tribe of Russia, was in reality confined to the ruling classes and their immediate court dependents, the main body of the people remaining free from the admixture with the Jewish proselytes.[4]

During the middle ages the Christians themselves put a ban on intermarriage and thus the rule against its practise was doubly enforced.

Since the time of Napoleon and the consequent removal of the political disabilities of the Jews, there has been no increasing tendency to take outsiders into the Jewish fold. Even in New York, where the social and business relations between Jew and Gentile are perhaps closer than in any other city in the world, there is practically no tendency to encourage mixed marriages. Although it is manifestly impossible to obtain exact figures upon this subject, all the obtainable data go to support the view that the inbreeding is going on here as much as in any other place in the world. M. Victor Safford, who has investigated extensively the results of immigration upon the ethnic composition of our population, has said that a study of the marriage certificates in New York City, while not giving sufficient grounds to absolutely prove the contention that intermarriage between Jew and Gentile is rare, does, nevertheless, justify the belief that such is the case.[5] The children resulting from such marriages almost invariably marry either Jews or persons who, like themselves, are only half Jews. Thus, what little departure there is from the principle against mixed marriages has no tendency to introduce fresh blood into the central stem. Hirsch has said that if all the Jews had remained Jews since the time of Christ that there would be 100,000,000 in the world to-day.[6] If we grant the truth of this rough approximation, it only serves to show that the result of all this "marrying out" has been an ever-increasing practise of inbreeding in the pure central stock. When we consider that the total number of the race is small, being probably not much over 12,000,000 altogether, we can easily see that there is not enough variety of blood among the members of the different Jewish families to avoid frequent consanguineous marriages.

Theoretically, the Jews are compelled to observe marriage customs which result in racial incest. Practically, it is well known that they really do marry their own cousins much more than do the people of other races. Jacobs says that they are probably three times as guilty in this respect as others.[7] I think we must concede the point that they are a highly inbred and closely related race. This fact undoubtedly accounts for the very strong racial characteristics which they possess. I am not here concerned with any of those characteristics except the psychopathic ones. If they are endowed with exceptionally great mental gifts, it is beyond the scope of this paper to consider them. What I now propose to show is that they suffer from constitutional mental inferiorities, or psychopathic tendencies to a degree entirely out of proportion to the occurrence of such infirmities among the general population. First we will consider our own country. As fully two thirds of the Jews in the United States are in New York, it will be unnecessary to go out of that state to procure the evidence. In the year ending September 30, 1909, out of a total of 5,222 admissions to all the New York State hospitals for the insane, 488 were Jews.[8] While these statistics do not show the total number of Jews insane from all causes to be greatly in excess of the ratio which they bear to the general population, they plainly indicate that they do not fall below the general average, and when we come to analyze them in detail we find that they show a disproportionate number of cases due to constitutional mental inferiority. Taking those insanity groups which in all classifications are universally admitted to be due to bad heredity, the total number among the non-Jews was 2,297 or 48 per cent, of the total number of non-Jewish admissions. On the other hand, 65 per cent, of the Jewish insane belonged to the constitutionally inferior groups.[9]

Table of Admissions to the Manhattan State Hospital for the Insane
Classified by Race and Nature of Psychosis for the
Year ending September 30, 1908[10]
Psychoses Irish Jewish German U.S. Italian Negro
Senile psychoses 9.80 2.87 6.70 7.14 3.70 9.8
General paresis 7.59 14.05 20.10 17.46 9.87 29.41
Alcoholic psychoses 27.69 .32 11.85 11.90 8.64 7.82
(Dementia præcox) 13.48 27.47 14.95 16.66 23.44 13.72
(Manic-depressive insanity) 16.66 28.43 12.89 18.25 13.58 9.80
Epileptic psychoses 2.20 1.59 4.64 3.17 4.93 3.92
Other psychoses 22.58 25.27 28.87 25.42 35.84 25.53
Total number of each race 408 313 194 126 81 51

The practical freedom of this race from the alcoholic psychoses is a matter of common knowledge. Now alcohol was responsible for over ten per cent, of the insanities admitted to the New York state hospitals for the year ending September 30, 1909. But the Jews admitted for alcoholic psychoses for the same period constituted less than one per cent, of the total Jewish admissions. Notwithstanding the fact that the Jews are thus almost entirely uninfluenced by the greatest of the acquired or accidental causes of insanity, their total number of insane does not fall to the level of the average for the general population. Thus out of 1,762 admissions to the Manhattan State Hospital for 1910-11, there were 455 Jews; that is to say, they made 25.9 per cent, of the total admissions. This is nine tenths of one per cent, more than their usually estimated relation to the general population of the community from which they were recruited.

Reliable data from foreign countries serves to show that, notwithstanding his freedom from alcohol, the Jew still contributes more than his share to the general insane population. Thus in Germany for the period 1890-1902 there were to the 100,000 of population, an annual average number of 67 insane and feeble-minded Jews as against 49 of the non-Jewish population. The congenital idiocies and congenital imbecilities showed an especial disproportion against the Jews, they having 4.51 as compared to 2.75 among the non-Jews.[11] That the proportion of the constitutionally inferior is especially large is shown by a reference to the subjoined table, which is taken from De Fursac's and Rosanoffs latest work on psychiatry. It will be noted that notwithstanding the fact that they have practically none of the psychoses which are due to alcohol, the Jews come second in point of number of admissions.

In this connection the percentage of the Irish admitted for alcoholic

Table of Mental Defectives among Immigrants (Idiots, Imbeciles, Feeble-minded). Annual Report Commissioner General of Immigration, 1911. Rejected for the Year 1911
Total Mental Defectives Per 100,000
Finnish 9,779 0 0
Russian 18,721 0 0
Spanish 8,068 0 0
Magyar 19,966 1 5
Greek 37,021 2 6
Dutch and Flemish 13,862 1 8
Scandinavian 45,859 4 9
Bohemian (Czech) 9,223 1 11
Ruthenian 17,724 2 11
Pole 71,446 9 12
Slovak 21,415 3 15
Italian (North) 30,312 5 16
Croatian, Slovenian 982 2 22
Italian (South) 159,638 36 23
English 57,258 13 23
German 66,471 15 23
Scotch 25,625 6 23
Irish 40,246 11 27
Hebrew 91,223 26 28
French 18,132 6 32

psychoses exactly equals that of the Jews admitted for dementia prsecox. Now, dementia præcox is classed as one of the insanities depending upon a constitutionally inferior mental make-up, as is likewise manic-depressive insanity. These two constitutional inferior groups which are universally agreed to rest upon a bad heredity, alone account for over 55 per cent, of the insanities among the Jews in the above table. Statistics could be multiplied almost indefinitely to show similar results.

Among the frankly feeble-minded, the Jews stand next to the top of the list of those immigrants who are deported on this account. The report of the Commissioner General of Immigration for 1911 shows that the French are the only ones who surpass them. In this connection it is well to note that over one half of the French immigrants for the year 1911 was recruited from the ranks of the French Canadians, who are a notoriously inbred and defective stock.

If it be objected that the foregoing table represents one year alone and can not be properly used to aid in drawing such wholesale conclusions, the answer is two-fold. In the first place this was a year in which the general average of Hebrew defectives was proportionately smaller than in other years. For instance, in 1907 nearly one third of those certified at Ellis Island as mentally defective were of this race, although they did not average over 14 per cent, of the total number of arrivals.

In the second place the number of feeble-minded children in the public schools of New York City is disproportionately large among the Jews. Thus of 317 mentally defective children selected at random from ungraded classes, Miss Anna Moore in 1911 found that there were 130 Hebrews, 40 Italians, 35 Germans, 20 Irish and 9 negroes.[12]

An attempt has been made to deny the ethnic or racial relation with the greater prevalence of feeble-mindedness and insanity, which the foregoing data would naturally seem to indicate. Thus it has been said that the birth-rate among the Jews being lower than that of the general population, there is consequently a larger proportion of adults among this race as compared with others, and insanity being chiefly a disease of adults, it follows that its greater prevalence among the Jews is apparent rather than real.

To explain the large number of feeble-minded the argument runs in this wise: Although the birth-rate among the Jews is low, Jewish parents take better care of their children than others, consequently more survive those illnesses which result in mental deterioration.

The chief fallacy in this argument lies in the fact that those who use it neglect to state that feeble-mindedness is overwhelmingly a ease of childhood, death for one cause or another intervening in, the majority of instances long before the age of the natural expectation of life is reached. When we consider this universally admitted fact, it becomes apparent that at least one of the aforesaid explanations must be wrong. For, if children of Jewish parents survive in such disproportionately large numbers as to account for the seeming excess of feeble-mindedness, it naturally follows that this survival must offset the diminished birth-rate and serve to maintain the normal relation between child and adult population.

If the difference in the relation of adult to child population really exists in a sufficient degree to be a factor at all in the explanation of the degree of prevalence of insanity and feeble-mindedness, the logical argument would be as follows:

1. The proportion of Jewish adults to the general population is greater than among others, consequently the proportion of the child population is less.

2. Feeble-mindedness is a disease of childhood.

3. Conclusion: Being fewer Jewish children there are fewer feeblem-inded among Jews than among others.

If we reverse the argument and assume the premise that more Jewish children survive than among others we should have the following syllogism:

1. The proportion of Jewish children to the general population is greater than among others, consequently the proportion of the adult population is less.

2. Insanity is a disease of adults.

3. Conclusion: Being fewer Jewish adults there are fewer Jewish insane.

A consideration of the foregoing examples of reductio ad absurdum only serves to confirm the belief that, after all, there must be some intimate relation existing between the racial, or inherent ethnic characteristics of the Jews and the greater prevalence of insanity and feeble-mindedness among them. In no instances shall we find any reliable data that show the proportion of feeble-minded and insane among the Jews to be less than among the general population; in most countries it is undeniably larger, and in every instance the number of Jews suffering from mental defects are recruited from the ranks of the congenitally inferior in a far greater proportion than is the case among the non-Jews.

In the light of our knowledge of the laws of heredity, there can be but one thing responsible for the above-described condition. It must necessarily have been brought about by too close inbreeding.

That the excessive number of constitutional inferior insanities has a partial explanation in the fact that long centuries of inbreeding have produced a race with a paranoid make-up seems not altogether improbable. The general paranoid attitude of the race is shown in an almost universal tendency to assume the possession of superior racial mental qualifications, and when these are denied or in any way gainsaid, to fail to appreciate the point of view of the one who opposes them.

This idea of superiority to other people is so inbred that it has probably become a hereditary character for which the individual is entirely irresponsible. But a paranoid make-up is not particularly dangerous to its possessor who is otherwise normal, unless by great stress or a very unusual combination of disagreeable experiences this tendency be diverted into abnormal channels.

The chief danger lies in the accentuation of the character by too close inbreeding with those having a like tendency. In fact, the general attitude of the person who has this paranoid make-up in a mild degree may be said to be an enviable one rather than otherwise. He is aggressive in upholding his rights, suspicious of attempts to thwart him in the pursuit of the same, and strives constantly to reach the goal of his ambitions. These are all admirable traits. It is only when they become accentuated to the point where they are pervaded by delusions of grandeur and persecution, that they render the person possessing them a menace to society.

To return to the thought expressed at the beginning of this paper, that the prevention of mental diseases is quite the most important part of their treatment, it would seem that the Jews have it in their power to ultimately stamp out the feeble-minded and insane from among their race. The way in which they can do this must be plain to whoever has followed the gist of my argument. It is all a question of eugenics. A little more care in the matter of consanguineous marriages and a quick and thorough departure from the old beaten tracks which forbid the introduction of non-Jewish blood into their veins, will, in the course of a few generations, redeem them from the unhappy mental state info which they have fallen.

  1. A. J. Rosanoff, reprint from New York State Hospital Bulletin, November, 1911.
  2. Editorial, The Lancet Clinic, March 7, 1912.
  3. Ephraim Feldman, "Intermarriage, Historically Considered," p. 19.
  4. W. D. Morrison, "The Jews under Roman Rule," p. 413.
  5. M. Victor Safford, private communication, June 29, 1912.
  6. William Hirsch, "Religion and Civilization," p. 579.
  7. Joseph Jacobs, "Studies in Jewish Statistics," Appendix, p. 4.
  8. Twenty-first Annual Report of the State Commission in Lunacy, Statistics of the Insane, tables 4 and 14.
  9. These percentages are deduced from tables 4 and 14, Statistics of the Insane, State of New York, 1908-09.
  10. De Fursac and Rosanoff, quoting Dr. Kirby in "Manual of Psychiatry," p. 6.
  11. Maurice Fishberg, "The Jews: A Study of Race and Environment."
  12. Miss Anna Moore, Report published by State Charities Aid Association, 1911.