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Jews Compared with Non-Jews.

Natural height of man. The stature of the Jews is a racial characteristic which has been thoroughly investigated in various countries. Besides numerous anthropological works, many of the recruiting-offices in eastern Europe have contributed considerable material on the subject. Topinard considers the average stature of man to be 165 cm. Judged by this standard, the Jews are below the mean height. As may be seen from the appended table (No. 1) of measurements of about 14,000 Jews, the average height is found to be 161 to 163 cm. In some places it is considerably higher, reaching 167 cm. in Odessa, and even 171.4 cm. among the richer class of Jews in the West End of London (Jacobs). As will be noticed from the figures in Table 2, showing the average height of Jews as compared with that of the non-Jewish inhabitants in eastern Europe, the stature of the former corresponds to a great extent with that of their Gentile neighbors. Wherever the latter are tall, the Jews also are tall, and vice versa. Thus in Galicia and Poland, where the indigenous Polish population is short of stature, measuring 162 to 163 cm. on the average, the shortest Jews are found. In Little Russia and South Russia, where the Gentiles are characterized by their superior height, measuring 165 to 167 cm. on the average, the Jews also are comparatively tall, averaging 163 to 167 cm. The same is true of the Jews in Rumania, Bukowina, etc.

It is a significant fact that while the stature of the Jews is in a measure correlative to the stature of the Gentile races among which they live, still they rarely reach the same height. With but two exceptions (Rumania and Hungary), the Jews are everywhere from 1 to 3 cm. shorter than the Gentiles. Thisshortness of stature has been cited by certain writers to prove that the Jews are an inferior race, which of course can not be seriously considered, because it is not known that superior stature necessarily goes hand in hand with superior physical and mental powers. The Japanese, for instance, are among the shortest of races—much shorter on the average than the Jews—yet, as is indicated by their recent and rapid progress, they are by no means an inferior or degenerate race. Particularly in Poland, where the natives are of inferior stature, many Gentile publicists, while discussing the degeneracy of their people, have attempted to show that this deficiency is due to the presence of a large number of Jews in that country whose low stature reduces the average. Measurements of conscripts were used in support of this view. On the other hand, it has been shown that the ages of conscripts are usually twenty and twenty-one, and Jews at these ages have not yet reached their full growth (see Growth of the Body), and that even then the Jews measure 161.3 cm., not much less than the Poles, who average 162.7 cm. Measurements taken by Olechnowicz in the provincial government of Radom show that the Polish peasants are only 161.7 cm. in height on the average; and in Lomza, according to Talko-Hryncewicz's measurements, they are no taller.

It is characteristic of the stature of the Jews that the proportion of short individuals among them is larger than among the surrounding races and peoples, as may be seen from the appended table (No. 1) taken from Fishberg's work (see bibliography):

Inferior Stature of Jews. Table I.—Stature Of Jews Compared With That Of Non-Jews In Various Countries.
Number Observed.Average Stature (in mm.).Observer.People or Race.Average Stature (in mm.).Observer.
Galicia9541,623Majer and Kopernicki.Poles1,622Majer and Kopernicki.
(emigrants to United3051,622Fishberg.
LittleRussia4381,625Talko-Hryncewicz.Little Russians1,667Talko-Hryncewicz.
South Russia2391,648Weissenberg."""1,661Pantukhof.
Odessa (recruits)5001,669Pantukhof.
Little Russia (emigrants to United States).2191,657Fishberg.
Poland (recruits)4,4701,613Snigireff.Poles(recruits)1,624Snigireff.
"(emigrants to United3151,634Fishberg.
Lithuania (recruits)2,1221,612Snigireff.Lithuanians (recruits)1,639Snigireff.
White Russia1391,617Yakowenko.White Russians1,636""
Lithuania (emigrants to United States).2751,642Fishberg.
London (East End)3631,641Jacobs.English1,720Anthropometric Committee.
"(West End)1,714"
Hungary (recruits)....1,633Scheiber.Magyars1,619Scheiber.
"(emigrants to United1401,657Fishberg.Germans1,646"
Bukowina (soldiers)1001,654Himmel.Ruthenians1,670Himmel.
Rumania (emigrants to United States).1501,660Fishberg.Rumanians1,650Pittard.
United States1241,679Fishberg.

It appears from this table that the proportion of persons less than 160 cm. in height is everywhere larger among the Jews than among the non-Jews of the same country, with but one exception, that of Rumania, which may possibly be explained by the fact that the figures for these Jews are obtained by measuring immigrants to the United States, who are always taller than the people from whom they spring. The percentage of these short individuals seems to run in almost direct ratio to the percentage found among the Gentiles in the same locality. In Galicia and in Russian Poland, where the proportion of Gentiles under 160 cm. in height exceeds 20 per cent, the Jews have 25 per cent of short men. On the other hand, in Little Russia, where such persons are found to the extent of only 14 per cent, and in Rumania, where it is only 12 per cent among the Gentiles, the Jews also show a lower percentage, namely, 24 and 18 respectively. Persons of tall stature, 170 cm. and over, are met with less frequently among the Jews than among others in the same country. Such persons are found to the extent of 10 per cent among the Galician Jews, but the percentage increases as it increases among the non-Jewish races in a given country, and is found to be 17 per cent among the Little-Russian Jews,and even 30 per cent among the Rumanian Jews. From the observations of Talko-Hryncewicz, Otto Ammon, and Majer and Kopernicki, it appears also that this condition obtains in other countries.

Measurements of only 946 Jewesses are available, of which 435 are of immigrant Jewesses in New York city, obtained by Fishberg. The following figures give the average height in centimeters according to nativity:

Stature of Jewesses.
Country of Nativity.Number Measured.Average Stature.Observer.
"(emigrants to
the United States)56152.0Fishberg.
Little Russia206151.5Talko-Hryncewicz.
to the United
South Russia70153.6Weissenberg.
to the United States)100153.7Fishberg.
Galicia (emigrants to the United States)122152.4"
Rumania (emigrants to the United States)44154.5"
Hungary (emigrants to the United States)39154.4"
Height of Jewesses.

It appears from the figures in this table that the average stature of Jewesses differs according to their nativity. Like the Jews, the Jewesses are tall in countries where the women of the indigenous races are tall, and vice versa. In Poland they measure only 150.6 cm. on the average, while in South Russia they reach 153.6 cm. As a general rule, they are shorter by 1 to 3 cm. than their non-Jewish sisters.

The difference in the stature of the Jews and Jewesses is about 12 cm. in favor of the Jews, which is about the same as has been observed among other races, the height of the Jewesses being about 92 per cent of that of the Jews. Short women measuring 140 cm. and less in height are very often encountered among the Jewesses, but only rarely among Gentile women in the countries in which Jews live, while the proportion of tall women, measuring 158 cm. and over, is much smaller among Jewesses than among others. Here again is to be noted the phenomenon observed with regard to the men: the proportion of tall individuals is in direct ratio to the proportion of such persons among the Gentile women. Among the Polish women there is only 17.45 per cent exceeding 157 cm. in height (Elkind); among the Jewesses in that country, 12.15 per cent (Fishberg). In Lithuania and White Russia, where the natives include more than 20 per cent of tall women, the Jewesess have 16.5 per cent of tall women among them; and among the Little Russians, the tallest of the Slavonians, the Jewesses include 20 per cent over 158 cm. in height, compared with 37.45 per cent of tall women among the Gentiles in that country.

Table II.—Stature Of Jews Compared With That Of Non-Jews In Various Countries In Eastern Europe.
Country.Less Than 160 cm.160 to 164.9 cm.165 to 169.9 cm.170 cm. and Over.Less Than 165 cm.165 cm. and Over.Number Observed.Average Stature (in mm.)Observer.
Jews35.9533.2220.2410.6169.1530.851,1411,623Fishberg, Kopernicki.
Jews35.5329.7124.4710.2965.2434.475151,625Fishberg, Elkind.
Lithuania and White Russia:
Jews27.0534.0625.8513.0461.1138.894141,635Fishberg, Yakowenko.
White Russians23.9328.6232.1515.1452.5547.299611,636Talko-Hryncewicz.
Little Russia:
Jews24.3530.3028.3117.0454.6545.356571,639Fishberg, Talko-Hryncewicz.
Little Russians14.5232.8826.8625.7447.4052.601,6941,670Ivanovski.

The short stature of the Jews has been attributed to race influence. All the available evidence tends to show that the ancient Hebrews were short of stature, compared with the other races in Palestine, particularly the Amorites (See Giants). This characteristic is said to have been hereditarily transmitted to the modern Jews. On the other hand, social factors must not be overlooked. The deplorable hygienic, material, and social conditions of the eastern European ghettos may be considered a factor in reducing the average stature of the Jews. Also as town-dwellers Jews are said to be at a disadvantage as regards their height; and it appears that the population of modern cities is inferior in stature to the rural population. The occupations in which Jews mostly engage are of the indoor or domestic variety; and this also has a great influence in reducing their average stature. From Fishberg's investigations of the Jews in the United States it appears that those working indoors are 4.4 cm. shorter than those working at outdoor occupations, as may be seen from the following figures:

Average Stature.
Indoor occupations:
Professional men169.6"
Outdoor occupations:

It appears from these figures that the factor of occupation is not a negligible quantity in considering the average stature of the Jews. While the effect of race can hardly be underestimated in such problems, still adverse social and sanitary conditions have also a great influence in reducing the stature. The foregoing figures are confirmed by the observations of Weissenberg on the Jews in South Russia. He found that those who were in higher material and social circumstances were taller than their poorer coreligionists. Jacobs, as mentioned above, records the same to be the case with the Jews in London, where those of the East End average only 164.1 cm. in height, while their richer brethren in the West End of that city average 171.4 cm. In Poland, Zakrzewski has shown that in Warsaw the stature of the Jews is less in the poorer districts, and considerably greater in the richer ones. The maps of that city prepared by that statistician (reproduced by Ripley in his work "The Races of Europe") show in a striking manner how poverty goes hand in hand with shortness of stature.

Social Conditions.

Others are inclined to attribute the differences in the stature of the Jews in various countries to inter-mixture with the native races. It is argued that while the influence of environment calls for serious consideration, still it has not been proved that the superior or inferior stature produced by favorable or unfavorable social conditions is perpetuated by hereditary transmission. This view is sustained by the fact that, although the social and economic conditions in Little and South Russia are not by any means better than those in Poland, still the Jews of the former countries are taller than their Polish brethren. In Bukowina, likewise, the average height of the Jews is superior to that of their Galician brethren, although the social and economic environment is in both cases about the same. All this is used as an argument by some anthropologists in support of their advocacy of the intermixture of Jews with Gentiles.

Jewish immigrants to the United States are on the average taller than the coreligionists they have left behind them, as may be seen from the table giving the stature of the Jews. The average stature of 1,528 immigrant Jews in New York city was 164.5 cm. (Fishberg) as against an average of 162.0 cm. for 1,681 Jews in Russia and Galicia. A subdivision into four classes presented the following results:

New York. Per Cent.Eastern Europe. Per Cent.
Short (less than 160 cm.)23.3035.46
Below the average (160 to 164.9 cm.)30.1032.48
Above the average (165 to 169.9 cm.)27.4921.41
Tall (170 cm. and above)19.1110.65
Stature of Immigrants.

It appears from these figures that Jews of short stature were found in Europe to reach 35.46 per cent, as compared with 23.3 per cent among those who emigrated to the United States. The percentage of tall individuals (170 cm. and over) in eastern Europe is only 10.65, whereas in New York, city it is 19.11, or nearly double. Persons of intermediate stature are found in about equal proportions in both groups.

This phenomenon is attributed to a process of selection by emigration. Those who venture on a long journey to a distant land are usually superior physically to the average of the population from which they spring. It is not confined to the Jews. Gould has shown that the German, Irish, French, English, and other immigrants to the United States are as a rule taller than their fellow countrymen at home. Other countries to which immigration is extensive show the same phenomenon.

  • Otto Ammon, Zur Anthropologie der Badener, Jena, 1899;
  • B. Blechmann, Ein Beitrag zur Anthropologie der Juden, Dorpat, 1882;
  • N. D. Elkind, Evrei, in Publ. Society of Friends of Natural Science, Anthropology, and Ethnography (in Russian), vol. xxi.;
  • M. Fishberg, Materials for the Physical Anthropology of the Jews, in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1905;
  • L. Glück, Beiträge zur Physischen Anthropologie der Spaniolen, in Wissenschaftliche, Mittheilungen aus Bosnien und der Herzegovina, 1896, iv.;
  • Himmel, Körpermessungen in der Bukowina, in Mittheilungen der Anthropologischen Gesellschaft, Vienna, xviii. 83;
  • A. A. Ivanovsky, Ob Antropologitcheskom Sostave Naselenia Rossii, in Publ. Society of Friends of Natural Science, etc. (in Russian), xxii.;
  • Joseph Jacobs, On the Racial Characteristics of Modern Jews, in Jour. Anthropological Institute, xv.;
  • idem, On the Comparative Anthropometry of English Jews, ib. xix.;
  • C. Lombroso, L'Antisecmitismo e le Scienze Moderne, Turin, 1892;
  • J. Majer and J. Kopernicki. Characteristyka Fiziezna Ludnoszi Galicyjskiej, in Zbior Wiadom. do Antropologii Kraj. i., ix., Cracow, 1877-85;
  • I. Pantioukhov, The Races of the Caucasus (in Russian), Tiflis, 1900;
  • J. Ranke and N. Rudinger, Zur Statistik und Physiologie der Körpergrösse der Bayerischen Militärpflichtigen, in Beiträge zur Anthropologie Bayerns, iv. 1-35;
  • Snigireff, Materiali dlia Medizinskoi Statistiki i Geografii Rossii, in Voenno Medizinski Zhurnal, 1878-79;
  • J. Talko-Hryncewicz, Characteristyka Fiziczna Ludnoszi Zydowskiej Litwi i Rusi, in Zbior Wiadom. do Antropologii Kraj. xiv., Cracow, 1892;
  • S. Weissenberg, Die Südrussischen Juden, in Archiv für, Anthropologie, xxiii. 347-423m, 531-579;
  • M. G. Yakowenko, Materiali k Antropologii Evreev, St. Petersburg, 1898;
  • Adam Zakrzewski, Ludnose Miasta Warszawy, in Mater. Antropol.-Archeolog. Akadem. Umiej. i., Cracow, 1895.
J. M. Fi.
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