Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/43

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

is a day of rest among the orthodox Jews in eastern Europe, and not of drink and dissipation, to find a reason for greater immunity to certain diseases, and to a lesser liability to accidental death. Their occupations also are mainly of the kind in which violent or accidental deaths are not of frequent occurrence. There are, relatively, very few Jews engaged in shipping, mining and dangerous trades generally. The deleterious effects of the indoor occupations in which the Jews are largely employed are mostly manifesting themselves in the anemia and poor physique which are characteristic of them. But, on the other hand, they are rarely exposed to the inclemencies of the weather, and thus acute articular rheumatism, pneumonia, etc., are less often a cause of death among them than among others. In fact, diseases of the respiratory organs, including tuberculosis, have been observed to be less commonly a cause of death among the Jews in Russia, Hungary, Austria, England and America.[1] Their partial immunity to consumption is astonishing, considering that they are mostly engaged at indoor occupations, working long hours in unhealthy sweatshops, and living in the most congested parts of the cities. Perhaps a good explanation may be found in the confined Ghetto life in which they have been compelled to live for centuries, and which has adapted their organism to indoor life much better than other civilized peoples, who have a large proportion of agriculturists and outdoor workers. During the long years of Ghetto life most of those whose organism could not adapt itself to the confined atmosphere succumbed and were thus eliminated. It is a general observation that races that are not adapted to indoor life quickly succumb to consumption as soon as they attempt to live in modern dwellings. Among the uncultured 'blanket' Indians of our western plains, and among the Indians of Peru, the Khirgiz Tartars and other savage tribes of Africa and Australia, all of which live outdoors, the disease is almost unknown. But as soon as the same people are taken to modern cities, they can not stand it, but soon contract various diseases common in large cities, particularly tuberculosis. They have not had the opportunity to slowly adapt themselves to an indoor existence, as was the case with the Jews.



That purely social factors are the underlying cause of the low mortality rates of the Jews, and that with changes in their social conditions there occur also changes in the death rates, are well illustrated by the frequency of suicide among them. Statistics collected by Morselli (' Suicide,' p. 122) show that during the third quarter of the last century Jews only rarely committed suicide. He attributes it partly to racial, and partly to religious influences, and maintains that individuals fervently devoted to religion, especially women (nuns and

  1. See 'The Relative Infrequeney of Tuberculosis among Jews,' by the author, in American Medicine, November 2, 1901.