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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/189

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175
THE RACIAL GEOGRAPHY OF EUROPE.

of New York; despite the unsanitary tenements, the overcrowding, the long hours in sweat shops; that nevertheless, a viability is manifested which is simply unprecedented. Tailoring is one of the most deadly occupations known; the Jews of New York are principally engaged in this employment; and yet they contrive to live nearly twice as long on the average as their neighbors, even those engaged in the outdoor occupations.

Is this tenacity of life despite every possible antagonistic influence, an ethnic trait; or is it a result of peculiar customs and habits of life? There is much which points to the latter conclusion as the correct one. For example, analysis of the causes of mortality shows an abnormally small proportion of deaths from consumption and pneumonia, the dread diseases which, as we know, are responsible for the largest proportion of deaths in our American population. This immunity can best be ascribed to the excellent system of meat inspection prescribed by the Mosaic laws. It is certainly not a result of physical development, as we have just seen. Hoffmann cites authority showing that in London often as much as a third of the meats offered for sale are rejected as unfit for consumption by Jews. Is not this a cogent argument in favor of a more rigid enforcement of our laws providing for the food inspection of the poor?

A second cause conducive to longevity is the sobriety of the Jew, and his disinclination toward excessive indulgence in alcoholic liquors. Drunkenness among Jews is very rare. Temperate habits, a frugal diet, with a very moderate use of spirits, render the proportion of Bright's disease and affections of the liver comparatively very small. In the infectious, diseases, on the other hand, diphtheria and the fevers, no such immunity is betrayed. The long-current opinion that the Jews were immune from cholera and the other pestilences of the middle ages is not. to-day accepted. A third notable reason for this low death rate is also, as Hoffmann observes, the nature of the employment customary among Jews, which renders the proportion of deaths from accidental causes exceedingly small. In conclusion, it may be said that these people are prone to nervous and mental disorders; insanity, in fact, is fearfully prevalent among them. Lombroso asserts it to be four times as frequent among Italian Jews as among Christians. This may possibly be a result of close inbreeding in a country like Italy, where the Jewish communities are small. It does not, however, seem to lead to suicide, for this is extraordinarily rare among Jews, either from cowardice, as Lombroso suggests; or more probably for the reason cited by Morselli—namely, the greater force of religion and other steadying moral factors.

[To be continued.]