Darwin's Jews: Online Reader

Yisrael Rubin



  1. Introduction
  2. Primary source: 'Kibbutz Galuyot mi-Bechinah E'ugenit' (Hebrew)
  3. Primary source: 'The Ingathering of the Exiles from a Eugenic Point of View' (English translation)
  4. Select bibliography
  5. Discussion forum


1. Introduction ⇧ top

Dr Y. Rubin (b.1890), the penname of Yisrael Rivka’i, was a psychologist, educator and literary scholar who led the Paedological Institute for Parents in Tel Aviv from its establishment in 1930, which sought to teach parenting skills through courses and exhibitions. He wrote books and articles and gave radio broadcasts in the 1930s and 1940s on children’s education both in general and as practiced in Palestine. He co-edited a series entitled Mother and Child Yearbook (1934-36), which was innovative in offering health advice that drew upon the literary and visual arts, and a textbook entitled Mother and Child: Medical and Pedagogic Handbook (1945). After the establishment of the State of Israel, he was appointed to the ministry of education.

While Nazi racism was denounced as early as the 1930s, and one might assume that the elimination of irrational race theory from culture and science was inevitable from that point on, in fact only a small proportion of the educated public in Britain and the US reformulated their attitudes on the question of race in response to the rise of the Nazis. The nineteenth-century categorization of race as a scientific concept continued well into the twentieth century, although questions about its unscientific nature were posed by some anthropologists and biologists well before the Nazis. (See Barkan 1992, 1-2.) Some European Jewish pioneers of the social sciences, including Durkheim, who were concerned to encourage integration and assimilation, argued that Jewish similarities stemmed from their common humanity and that any differences were socially mediated or constructed, rather than intrinsic or racial; as a result, racial theories about Jewish differences were to be regarded as inconsequential for the purposes of assimilation into European or American society. (See Morris-Reich 2008, 125-128.) How did Zionist eugenicists in Palestine relate to such views? Obviously, they shared the assumption of many Europeans and North Americans in the 1930s of race as a scientific category, even if they sought to distance themselves from Hitler, as Rubin did. At the same time, in contrast to the pioneering social scientists, there was a tendency to focus on Jewish difference, and even the idea of a superior Hebrew type, and to regard it either as intrinsic or as the potential eugenic result of the mass immigration and the assimilation (and therefore interbreeding) of numerous Jewish groups.

Rubin’s article on ‘The Ingathering of the Exiles from a Eugenic Point of View’ was published in Mozna’im or Weighing Scales, a periodical of the Hebrew Authors’ Association, in 1934. His literary flair was apparent in the poetic, religious language he used on occasion to allude to a national spirit or destiny. In expressing the view that the return to the Land represented a remarkable opportunity for the study of eugenics, he suggested that ‘The Lord of the Nation has commanded us in every place: Go forth and improve yourselves, and make every effort to create a new Jewish type’. Even at that time, he felt the need to distance his views from those of Hitler's scientists who were not to be regarded as representative of true eugenic science. He was convinced that the unique conditions of Palestine, including mass proletarianization as a result of the new socialist Zionist ideology, the transition of so many to a recently revived language, the new sense of rootedness following centuries of wandering, and the shift from an urban to a rural lifestyle, demanded a unique approach to the understanding of changes to the collective Jewish psyche and thus to the study of psycho-eugenics in Palestine. Eschewing Freud and other European theorists, Rubin claimed that the formation of a new Hebrew type had no parallels elsewhere in the world, especially considering from how many different geographical locations Jews had gathered. He was excited by the potential eugenic benefits for a future people which had resulted from the mixed marriages of so many different peoples. As such, Palestine promised to be the ‘eugenic salvation’ of the Jewish people.


2. Primary source (Hebrew) ⇧ top

Yisrael Rubin, 'Kibbutz Galuyot mi-Bechinah E'ugenit (Dvar la-Rofim ve-la-Morim)' in Moznayim 1:4 (1934): 89-93. (0.6MB, PDF)


3. Primary source (English Translation) ⇧ top

Yisrael Rubin, 'The Ingathering of the Exiles from a Eugenic Point of View (An Address for Physicians and Educators)' in Moznayim [Weighing Scales] 1:4 (1934): 89-93.

[p.89] This pairing I have made in the parenthetical subtitle for this short article – the pairing of “physicians and educators” together – is not only “a good match” but also necessary when it comes to discussing racial improvement. In this field, more than in any other, the truth concerning the connection between physical and mental developments is obvious and clear, concerning that which is termed in the professional language of psychology, “psychophysical parallelism”. No physical improvement [tikkun] in man can be thought of without a mental improvement serving as a “twin brother” for it, and vice versa. Every educated person knows about the mental manifestations that every bodily phenomenon has, and also vice versa. In this respect there is no doubt whatsoever that for the benefit of all concerned, the artificial and harmful partition between “physician” and “educator” must be demolished as soon as possible: just as every physician will have to be armed with broad psychological and pedagogical knowledge, so every educator will have to know more about medical problems. All the more so in practical eugenics. This will not succeed without full co-operation between physician and educator.

This partnership is most significant for our life in this land, this life which is, in its very essence, first and foremost a great and audacious national endeavor in the eugenic sense. Any person who does not see the return of the sons to the land of the Fathers as a great eugenic revolution in the life of the nation, fails to see the wood for the trees; he is dazzled by the details so that he cannot see the whole, which is the end and aim of those same details.

“Some small measure of economic relief for those suffering and persecuted in the diaspora” – by all means. “A degree of political liberation” (alas, how microscopically minute is, for the time being, this “degree”!) – yes. But all these are but details, just numbers to be calculated; the main thing is the sum total: the creation of the new Hebrew type, improved and perfected. And therefore, a psycho-biological approach to the problem of populating the Land of Israel [Eretz Yisrael], is a duty for us all!

Not only the issues of settling Palestine, but all the many, varied and widespread endeavors and attempts in the lands of our dispersion to move our nation onto another path, different from the one along which we have been walking – or limping – for many long generations, should be seen as containing decidedly eugenic kernels. Such kernels should be seen, for instance, in the great Jewish migration movement during the last fifty years, and in our own day – in that movement which is encompassing nearly all the places of our dispersion, the transition to productivization. The Lord of the Nation has commanded us in every place: Go forth and improve yourselves, go and make every effort to create a new Jewish type, perfected and reformed.

The sounds of the Lord of the Nation’s command are heard, and strike roots, in the settlement of Palestine [the Yishuv] more than anywhere else. In other places, the “we will hear” triumphs over the ‘we will do” in the nation’s response to that commandment [mitzvah]. I.e., rather than fulfilling eugenic aspirations by changing their ways of life, the Jews in those places can but feel the need for such changes. By contrast, in the settlement of Palestine, the “we will do” is put before the “we will hear”, and the former subjugates the latter.

The issue is great and complex. If anyone were to attempt to assess what has already been achieved, he should not argue beyond the limited evidence. Can one say that a new Jewish type already been [p.90] created in Palestine, and, moreover, one that is significantly improved and perfected, after fifty years of modern settlement? Who could dare annunciate about this with any certainty? However, Palestine provides certain conditions for its formation [i.e. the formation of the new Hebrew type], and it is emerging here, it is being created and, as pointed out above, to a greater extent than anywhere else in the Jewish world.

There is no doubt that, all his defects notwithstanding, the Jewish peasant-farmer in Mosesville, Argentina, is superior, in terms of beginning for a new and improved Jewish type, to his predecessor and ancestor, Sholom Aleikhem’s “Tevyn” of the small towns of Russia and Poland; that is on the one hand. At the same time, there is also no doubt, on the other hand, that the farmer in Rosh Pina, with all his defects – alas, how great his defects still are – and still more the farmer in the moshav [smallholders co-operative settlement] and kevutsah [collective group working a farmstead on national land], is superior, again when observed from a eugenic perspective, to one in Mosesville. And both together are still unsatisfactory.

We have within the boundaries of Rosh Pina (even Rosh Pina) and Kefar Yehezkel and Ein Harod greater objective and subjective capacity, a greater number of components necessary for the achievement of the eugenic revolution in our national life than can be found in Mosesville and the environs of “Tikhonka” in Birobidjam!

These components are many and varied. Here, I wish to deal with one of them: the ingathering of the exiles.

There is indeed an ingathering of the exiles wherever Jews immigrate, but nowhere is it as multifaceted and rich in composition as in Palestine. In all the rest of the lands of Jewish immigration, the well-known Jewish tendency for settling in a concentrated and dense manner, which is known in the language of migration statisticians as “familial immigration”, has one of the following two consequences: either it brings to a particular place immigrants from one particular country or even a particular part of that country (as shown by the population of the Hebrew immigration to South Africa, the greater part of which are from the Kovno district) or it brings about settlement in communities that are separate and ordered by country of origin and which, due to the large size of the immigration destination, are able to remain homogeneous in composition, to the extent of avoiding nearly all contact and mixing with each other. E.g. the Jewish immigrant population in North America: relations and contacts between the Russian and Hungarian “landsmanschafts” [welfare and cultural associations] are characterized by distance and dissociation, as they were in their countries of origin.

It is different in Palestine: from the point of view of both this land’s small and limited area, and the sentiment for the fusing and unification of all parts of the nation – a sentiment that is in the hearts of all those who come to Palestine, to a greater or lesser extent – the ingathering of the exiles is here not only an objective and static fact, but also a subjective and dynamic one, a voluntary intention. The ingathering of the exiles here is unique in its variety and many-sidedness, as I have remarked above.

And this kind of ingathering of the exiles can and does represent an invaluable eugenic factor. The famous British statistician Karl Pearson demonstrates in his introduction to his Annals of Eugenics (Vol. 1, Oct 1925), on the basics of well-founded and detailed research, the eugenic values of the Jewish immigration to Britain for the indigenous British. We only need to draw an analogy and reason from minor to major: if this is the case for others, how much more so regarding the value of the Jewish immigrants for their own nation!

Actually, due to a limited fondness for Jews, it would seen, Pearson limits the degree of the positive influence that immigrant Jew have over the inhabitants of Britain. He selects for positive influence only the highly cultured elements among the immigrants. In his view, only those elements can add anything positive [p.91] vis-à-vis the current inhabitants. We will not follow him in making “high culture” the exclusive benchmark for determining the good and positive influence which is exercised by one part of the nation on another in our settlement of the land. It is clear to us that we, the Ashkenazi Jews, superior in terms of “high culture” to our brothers from the Yemen, on the face of it, etc., can nevertheless and despite this, acquire and receive much from these brothers of ours, Yemenite, etc. The mental influence surpasses by far the boundaries of external culture.

The high eugenic value of mixed marriages between different peoples and races, for instance, is an elementary eugenic truth. The pouring of new blood has only a strengthening and invigorating effect. If mating takes place only within the enclosed and limited domain of a single nation, the consequence is nothing but the degeneration and withering of that nation. And if an incidental remark may be permitted, the “racial theory” from the school of Hitler’s scientists (which fights vehemently, although for the benefit of the German nation, against mixed marriage with a non-German, with non-Aryans) that theory has nothing whatsoever in common with the true science of eugenics. On the contrary: “the racial theory” of Hitler is in total opposition to the “science of eugenics”.

And the ingathering of the exiles in Palestine makes possible “mixed marriages” not between Jews and non-Jews, but between Jews and other Jews, between Jews from different communities and geographical origins. Does not this alone already carry within itself a high degree of eugenic salvation?

But while there is a “maximum progress” scenario for the desirable eugenic influence of the ingathering of the exiles, there is also a “minimum progress” scenario, which is the product of interrelations between all the different kinds elements within the ingathering of the exiles, elements having differing cultural levels and psychological traits.

We can assume with certainty: every Jewish community, each and every part of our diverse ingathering-of-the-exile in Palestine, has brought with it psychological virtues. And if it has its shadows as well, then, it is a case of not only shadows but also shadows, that is to say: it also has lights, and it happens that the light is more than the shadow, and when these lights fuse together, the result could be a great light.

This truth is particularly relevant in the field of children’s education: when Jewish pupils from different communities are studying and being educated in the same school, we may suppose that, provided the educator knows how to direct the mutual influences in a manner both selective and desirable, there can and should emerge a blending of all the pupils’ positive psychological qualities and traits.

What should be a cause for the greatest anguish, and be denounced with the most unambiguous language of opposition, is every trace of separatism in the field of our education; and likewise any attempt to organize pupils by their communities of origin. If there is still, for instance, a special kindergarten for Yemenite children in Rehovot, where an Ashkenazi Jewish child may not set foot, if there is a special kindergarten for Georgian children in Jerusalem, and the like, then it proves the feebleness of both our national and our educational outlook. The eugenic imperative teaches us in plain language: An end to “landsmanschafts” [exclusive welfare and cultural associations] in education! An end to segregation based on the geography of our countries of origin.

However, what should be done first and foremost is to exploit, with the aim of assessing the achievements (and, no doubt, the errors), the observations that we have from our experience in Palestine so far:

On the one hand: what are the changes that have taken place in the physiological and psychological constitution of those born through “mixed marriages” here, i.e. of those born to couples from different communities of origin? One particular issue among such questions [p.92] is, for instance, the peculiar phenomenon that it is in Palestine of all places that there is such a large number of children with chestnut-coloured hair. Dr. M. Berachyahu has determined, on the basis of counting, that our children in Palestine are surprisingly superior in height to Jewish children abroad; it would be worthwhile finding out to what extent this advantage is the result of those born through “mixed marriages”, in comparison with the rest of the Jewish children in Palestine. And there are so many similar examples.

On the other hand: what are the changes in the psychological constitution of our children in Palestine generally, of those being educated in the mixed institutions shared by children from all the different communities? What is the psychological specificity by which they are distinguished, for good and ill, from Jewish children abroad?

As for an original [national] Hebrew psychology in Palestine, there is nothing to be said, since it barely exists at all. Our psychology was born of foreign theories [torah] at an ill-omened hour and “swallowed whole”. The psychologists who form the exception are a tiny minority: a praiseworthy, distinguished elder psychologist, still not past him prime, is Dr Yitzhak Epstein who, from the start, knew to address in his scientific work specific questions concerning our settlement of the land (I am referring to his dissertation on bilinguality), and who, in his continuing original studies, focuses on issues raised by the place and the time [Palestine, then and now]. Dr Velikovski, too, deals with the application to Palestine of general psychoanalytical truths through a series of studies suited to the life of the land and the specific conditions of the Jewish psyche in Palestine. And the rest of the psychologists, the large majority of them – and we do have, since recent times, an abundance of important psychologists in Palestine! – do nothing but copy from there [Europe] to here [Palestine].

And this failure should and must be decried loudly: It is here of all places, with us in Palestine, that psychology takes off its abstract, theoretical, speculative festive attire and becomes – at any rate, should become – a practical science and at the same time of course, original, in accordance with the conditions of our rejuvenated [national] life. We can infer this from other sciences that are easier to copy from there to here: if agronomy, hydrochemistry etc. etc. that were unchanged since the days of creation, if they nevertheless began again here with deep and fundamental re-examination [of their own disciplines], how much more so for psychology, whose whole interest in Palestine is in nothing other than an attempt to establish the degree of renewal in Jewish man here, in the new life that continues to take hold and develop. Why is it deemed sufficient to popularize [Sigmund] Freud, [Alfred] Adler, etc, etc, to transfer their theories as they are, without changing a single apostrophe? And why do we fail to recognize the possibility, and the necessity, of original studies with the aim of establishing novelty and difference in the psyche of the Palestinian [Jewish] adult and child?

This writer is not a fan of psychological testing, but where are the attempts, at least, to adapt the general tests to the reality of Palestine? A blessing upon Dr Arenstein of Haifa, who is undertaking this work to some extent, but how many like him are there?

I examine myself, and re-examine this idea that I would put forth. Perhaps it suffers from the narrow specialist view of a professional who is inclined to raise his own profession above all else? Following examination and self inspection, my conclusion is: in this case, it is not so, and the person putting forward the idea is not biased towards his profession at all. And what is this idea?

Of all ten measures of importance, psychology should take, in Palestine, nine whole measures for itself. The vitality and relevance of psychological research, and, as stated above, most particularly the original kind that investigates the specificity of renewed Jewish man in Palestine, are greater than those of other sciences. Because [p.93] in a place of geological tremors, the first concern should be that of the setting up a seismograph to note shocks; in a place of frequent climate change, the concern should be for an accurate barometer. And psychology in Palestine, it may be supposed, surely has the role of both seismograph and barometer in regard to changes in the psyche of Jewish man. Psychology here should always observe the formation of the new Jewish type to determine what has already been achieved by it, and what may yet be achieved.

What a pity that such an attitude of appreciation towards psychology, on the part of the general public here, is still a long way away. What is more, the psychologists themselves use only foreign theories; in their work, which is being done in and for this land, their eyes are still turned towards the ‘Made in Germany’ stamp, as though it is not yet time for the psychological work being done in this land to have its own stamp and to be marked ‘Made in Palestine’.

There is indeed an urgent need for research work to be done in partnership between mental physicians and educationalists in Palestine, work to be done systematically, according to a definite plan, carefully considered, with the aim of shedding light on the psycho-biological specificity which must form Jewish man in Palestine by virtue of the unique conditions here. For we have so many phenomena and factors in our life in this land that are unique and without parallel in any other land, and for that reason, the experience of others must not be used [in conducting psychological work]. I shall mention some such phenomena and factors, without wasting time with explanations and causes for them: Mass proletarianization, originating partly not through economic necessity, but through an ideological act of will. A transition to a new spoken language, which even here, at the final destination of immigrant, has not been striking roots for very long – and the very transition to this language means the revival and birth of a language. The first birth pangs of feeling for one’s homeland by a nation with a past of constant wandering – what influence does a territorial identity exert on a nation whose historical experience been characterized by the most widespread geographical presence across the world? What is the influence of the transition in Palestine itself, from urban life abroad to rural life in Palestine?

As for the psychological-educational influence of the ingathering of the exiles, it is not only detailed and well-founded studies that we lack; often, we lack even basic initial observations.

In connection with a [previous] lecture on this issue, I asked teachers to tell of their observations and experience over years in mixed schools, to describe the specificity of the Yemenite child, and the Georgian child, etc. But apart from a few general remarks that were immaterial, they had nothing to say. We have only a very few teachers who are capable of saying anything useful about this specificity. Here one might make mention of Y. Khurgin who publishes occasional short psychological articles about types of children from all communities; except that with these “sketches”, the husk of belles lettres is sometimes the essence and the psychological kernel is secondary in relation to it.

Does not this situation demand to be rectified?

If this has not been done so far, then it needs to be done from now on in a systematic manner. A detailed plan needs to be worked out concerning the ways to investigate the psycho-biological specificity in the development of our children in Palestine generally, and that specificity which is a direct consequence of the ingathering of the exiles, in particular.

This work needs to be done, as stated above, by physicians and teachers working together.

Dr Y. Rubin


4. Select bibliography ⇧ top

Barkan, Elazar. The Retreat of Scientific Racism.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Efron, Noah. Judaism and Science: A Historical Introduction. Westport and London: Greenwood Press, 2007.

Hirsch, Dafna. "Zionist Eugenics, Mixed Marriage, and the Creation of a 'New Jewish Type'." Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 15 (2009).

Morris-Reich, Amos. The Quest for Assimilation in Modern Social Science. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Rubin, Yisrael. Kibbutz Galuyot mi-Bechinah E'ugenit (Dvar la-Rofim ve-la-Morim) in Moznayim 1:4 (1934): 89-93.

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