Mel Brooks on being a Jew:
I may be angry at God or at the world, and I'm sure that a lot of my comedy is based on anger and hostility...It comes from a feeling that as a Jew and as a person, I don't fit into the mainstream of American society.
Feeling different, feeling alienated, feeling persecuted, feeling that the only way you can deal with the world is to laugh - because if you don't laugh you're going to cry and never stop crying - that's probably what's responsible for the Jews having developed such a great sense of humor. The people who had the greatest reason to weep, learned more than anyone else how to laugh.
Based on the accomplishments of individual Jews, Nobel Prize winners and heroes of modern culture, as well as the amount of attention Jews get in the media, you'd never believe the correct answers: There are little more than 13 million Jews in the world, comprising less than 1/4 of 1% of the world's population !!!!
Do you think it's just a coincidence? Twenty-one percent of Nobel Prize winners have been Jews, even though Jews comprise less than one-quarter of one percent of the world's population. Choose any field, and you will find that Jews have excelled in it.
Think of the names of many modern-day figures most responsible for the intellectual turning points in history - MARX, FREUD, EINSTEIN - and you will find proof of the Biblical verdict: "Surely this is...a wise and understanding people." There simply is no way to deny it.
Jews really are smart. There must be a reason - and I can give you three:
HEREDITY, ENVIRONMENT and A UNIQUE VALUE SYSTEM:
HEREDITY - Historians have pointed out a fascinating difference between Jews and Christians. In Christianity, as well as in many other religions, holiness was identified with asceticism, great spirituality with the practice of celibacy. For centuries the finest minds among Christians were urged to join the church and become priests. That effectively condemned their genetic pool of intelligence to an untimely end.
Jews, on the other hand, took quite seriously the first commandment to mankind - to be fruitful and multiply. Sex was never seen as sinful, but rather as one of those things created by God that he surely must have had in mind when he declared, in reviewing his work, that "Behold everything was very good."
Among Jews, the most intelligent were encouraged to become religious leaders. As rabbis, they had to serve as role models for their congregants as procreators and "fathers! of their countries." Brains got passed on from generation to generation, and Jews today are still reaping the benefits of the frequent sexual activities of their ancestors.
ENVIRONMENT - If challenge and response are the keys to creativity and achievement, it's no surprise that Jews are smart; they've been challenged more than anyone else on earth. The school of hard knocks is a wonderful teacher. Jews had no choice but to learn to be better than anyone else since the odds were always so very much stacked against them.
When you're born with a silver spoon in your mouth, you tend to get fat and lazy. When you're born with the lash of a whip on your back, you quickly learn to become crafty, street smart, and knowledgeable in everything that will help you make it through life.
A UNIQUE VALUE SYSTEM - We still haven't touched on the most important reason of all. Jews are smart because they have been raised in a tradition that treasures education above everything else, that considers study the highest obligation of mankind, and that identifies the intellect as part of us created in "the image of God." To be illiterate was unheard of in the Jewish world, not only because it was a sign of stupidity, but, more significantly, because it was a sin.
Jews are obligated by law to review the Bible in its entirety every year, dividing it into manageable weekly sections. The widespread custom when a child turned three years old was to write the letters of the Hebrew alphabet on a board in honey and have the child learn them as he licked them off, equating their meaning with the taste of sweetness.
Jews studied the Midrash, and it taught them: The Sword and the Book came from Heaven together, and the Holy One said: "Keep what is written in this Book or be destroyed by the other." Jews studied the Mishna and it taught them, "Say not when I have leisure."
Philosophical Tevye , that delightful creation of the Yiddish writer Shalom Aleichem and the star of Fiddler On The Roof, explained that Jews always wear hats because they never know when they will be forced to travel. What he didn't say, which is probably more important, is that they always made sure to have something under their hats and inside of their heads - because physical possessions could be taken from them, but what they accumulated in their minds would always remain the greatest" merchandise" a Jew possesses.
And you thought Mel Brooks was only a funny man.