Thursday, September 17, 2015

Yom Kippur reflections on our place in the world

Here (and below) is Harry on a day in 2011
A friend of Harry’s said she knew he was an intellectual and Zionist from his columns on Israel and Judaism in their synagogue newsletter. But she didn't know the other facets of Harry's life revealed in his writings on this blog. On the other hand, some of you knew Harry as the sweet family man and friend who sent you surprise packages, or the community activist, or the military news analyst. But you didn’t know that Harry wrote articles about Judaism. 

So, here’s a look at the latter – Harry the writer about Judaism and Israel, or as I like to think, “My dad, the authority on Israel.” Since most of us didn't see the article below in his October 2011 synagogue newsletter, it may give us thoughts to ponder on this Yom Kippur.

No, this was not on the day of Yom Kippur.

The introspection and meditation during the Yom Kippur period in October gave us a chance to reflect once again on the truly remarkable achievements of the Jewish people and their contributions to humanity. One of the primary goals of Judaism is to help “repair the world” following the principle of Tikun Olam, and in this sense the Jewish people have tried throughout history to fulfill their destiny. Thus, it came as no great surprise that of seven new winners of Nobel prizes recently awarded, five were Jewish. The statistics are worth reviewing once again.

On the world scene right now, Jews account for 0.2 percent of the total world population. That’s two tenths of 1 percent. They amount to only 2 percent of the US population. Yet, between 1901 and 2010, 22 percent of all Nobel prize winners worldwide were Jewish and 38 percent of all US prize winners were Jewish.

In some disciplines the statistics are even more impressive. In the field of economics, for example, 42 percent of the world total was Jewish, as was 55 percent of the US total. In physics, 26 percent of the world total and 37 percent of the US total were Jewish. In chemistry, 20 percent of the world total and 27 percent of the US total; in medicine 28 percent of the world total and 41 percent of the US total.

Jewish women are also well represented among prize winners in these various disciplines, accounting for 38 percent of the world total and fully 50 percent of the US total. Such achievements by so small a segment of the world’s population are more than noteworthy, they are positively miraculous and in keeping with the words of Isaiah: “You shall be a light unto the nations.”

The latest group of Nobel Laureates announced shortly before Yom Kippur included Adam Ross and Saul Pelmutter, American Jews, in the field of physics; Daniel Shechtman, an Israeli, in the field of chemistry; Ralph Steinman (posthumously) and Bruce Beutler in the field of medicine. Now, as more and more intellectual and technological marvels emerge from Israeli scientific institutions such as Technion and the Weizman Institue, the Jewish contribution to mankind's well-being can only multiply. 

In view of all this, it is difficult to understand the kind of anti-Semitic fervor that would motivate a group of Swedish academics to call for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions. They would actually boycott a number of Israeli scientific advancements that would benefit all mankind, a number of which are on display right now at the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem.

Harry wrote about the Bloomfield Science Museum in a post on this blog titled Inventions on Display. And, can anyone name the Jewish Nobel Laureates for the years since 2011?

No comments:

Post a Comment