Ask A Genius 544 – Ashkenazim: Smarts, Escaping the Nazis, and Genetic Diversity even in Homogeneity
April 30, 2020
[Beginning of recorded material]
Rick Rosner: My various people, my stepdad’s family came from Germany, they got out long before the Nazis came into power.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: And at one part, if I may, and I do not mean to be rude, but just for those reading this later on you, all the family is Ashkenazi. So this is coming out of Germany and that kind of contact is very serious.
Rosner: Yes, so they got out, though, some branches of the family didn’t get out. Of my step family, my step dad side. Of my genetic parents, grandparents came out of Eastern and Northern Europe. Latvia, may be Lithuania, Romania. The kind of hinterlands of Europe, not the central countries that everybody knows, but some of the smaller or poorer countries.
My kid did 23-and-me came out like 99.7 percent Ashkenazi Jew, which surprised me because, the point three percent was North Africa and somebody out of Libya, or who knows, like three centuries ago or something.
So, I was surprised at the high percentage of Ashkenazi because I figure if you were Jewish in countries that abutted Russia 200-300 years ago. I thought it’d be likely, your people would likely get raped by Cossacks occasionally, but apparently that didn’t happen.
So we were pretty, I guess, lucky not to be raped. Also among genetic and whatever you call it, subsets, enclaves, or whatever, we’re lucky in the Ashkenazi, even though they maintained a pretty strict genetic lineage of having enough genetic diversity; we’re not completely inbred.
There are some genetic diseases that pop up among the Ashkenazi. Tay-Sachs disease where you’ve got to get screened for that if you’re Jewish. And if you’re Jewish and married to non-Jew, you have to get screened.
With two Jews, you have to get screened because any fetus with Tay-Sachs, you do not want to be born because that child will only live for two years. It is a devastating and catastrophic disease. The Ashkenazi are renowned for being smart.
Intelligence is, I guess you might know, different, one of the least pinned down genetic traits. Probably, if there’s statistical evidence that intelligence has a genetic basis, at least to some extent. But I do not think anybody’s ever hung it on a specific group of genes.
And there’s a lot of evidence that intelligence is cultural, that the Jews have prided themselves on academic achievement and hard work and hard academic work. Jobs that take a lot of training. Part of this may come from the racist policies in Europe where Jews worked in some countries in Europe.
Jews weren’t allowed to go into most businesses. I should be better informed on this, but this pushed us into mathy fields like accounting. So I know that’s about all I know about my people, genetically.
[End of recorded material]
American Television Writer
Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Founder, In-Sight Publishing
 Four format points for the session article:
- Bold text following “Scott Douglas Jacobsen:” or “Jacobsen:” is Scott Douglas Jacobsen & non-bold text following “Rick Rosner:” or “Rosner:” is Rick Rosner.
- Session article conducted, transcribed, edited, formatted, and published by Scott.
- Footnotes & in-text citations in the interview & references after the interview.
- This session article has been edited for clarity and readability.
For further information on the formatting guidelines incorporated into this document, please see the following documents:
- American Psychological Association. (2010). Citation Guide: APA. Retrieved from http://www.lib.sfu.ca/system/files/28281/APA6CitationGuideSFUv3.pdf.
- Humble, A. (n.d.). Guide to Transcribing. Retrieved from http://www.msvu.ca/site/media/msvu/Transcription%20Guide.pdf.
License and Copyright
In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com and www.rickrosner.org.
© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, Rick Rosner, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, Rick Rosner, and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.