For 2,000 years, haters have dreamed up creatively nefarious ways to explain the success of Jews. They were doing the devil's work. They pulled strings behind the scenes. They wreaked havoc and instigated conflict. They had some sort of unnatural power over money. These aren't, by the way, just accusations from the Dark Ages or Nazi Germany. Jews are still being blamed today.
I've written previously about how a good measure of Jewish success simply comes from being educated. But I've been thinking a lot about another reason. Long before average joes began connecting and networking on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn, Jews had their own built-in community connections. Up until the last century, nearly everyone, anywhere in the world, lived and died within a few miles from where he was born. His network was his parents, his brothers and sisters and cousins, his village. But Jews were different. They weren't native to Poland or France or Egypt. They were very much wanderers, often merchants, a people without a land. And even when they settled in a particular city or country, they maintained -- usually through their religious connections -- contact with fellow Jews elsewhere.
This contact, these connections, allowed Jews to share insight and information, to take advantage of -- and yes, profit from -- the knowledge they traded. If I was a French Jew with a cousin in Istanbul, I could use my Jewish social network to learn what products were available at the Grand Bazaar and what might sell in the Marais or Saint-Honoré. I could learn about unrest in one part of the world and how it might affect imports in another part. I could hear about ideas and inventions and introduce them to new markets.
The fact is, there's never been any big secret as to why Jews are extraordinarily more successful than their size would suggest. Education had clearly been important. But being the world's first social network has too.