Abi Gezunt: Health and the American Jewish Dream

Abi Gezunt: Health and the American Jewish Dream


Jacob Jay Lindenthal

includes The Lindex Study: An Ethnic Database
by Jacob Jay Lindenthal & Moishe Berl Singer

Series: Jewish Identities in Post-Modern Society
ISBN: 9781618115362 (hardcover)
Pages: 218 pp. / includes supplemental paperback 354 pp. (572 pp. total)
Publication Date: May 2017

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This book consists of a series of investigations into the cultural and behavioral patterns of east European immigrant Jews known to promote health and prevent disease beginning in the late 19th and into the 20th centuries. Drawing on data pointing to health as an economic commodity, leading to economic strength and social development, the author suggests that the high value accorded to health played a role in the relative economic prosperity of American Jews. The book explores the implications of good health as a source of human capital worthy of investment and its significance for recent immigrants.

Jacob Jay Lindenthal, Professor, Department of Psychiatry at Rutgers – New Jersey Medical School and creator of its MiniMed program, has long been interested in the relationship between life events and social and mental outcomes as well as ethnicity and health. He was awarded the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award in 1994 and named Faculty Member of the Year in 2005.


Jacob Jay Lindenthal’s exploration of the historic linkage of Jews, health, and the American experience is boldly provocative. Having created a rich database to chart the disease experience of American Jews from 1874 to 1904, the author uses his data and a rich array of other sources to argue that Jews unique concern with health and healthy behaviors yielded their marked economic success following migration. His intriguing thesis should attract general readers even as it fuels rich scholarly debate among historians of American medicine, immigrant assimilation, and American Jewish life.
— Alan M. Kraut, American University, Professor of History, author of Silent Travelers: Germs, Genes, and the “Immigrant Menace”

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Halacha—The Foundation of Jewish Law and Life
Chapter 2. Education and Literacy: the Path to Good Health

Social Support
Chapter 3. Charity—Das Jüdische Herz
Chapter 4. Family First

Health-Related Behaviors
Chapter 5. Childrearing Practices and Attitudes
Chapter 6. Alcoholism Among the Jews

Human Capital
Chapter 7. Housing and Jobs in the New World—Health Against All Odds

Chapter 8. Socioeconomic Status and Health
Chapter 9. Health, Culture, and Wealth

Appendix I
Infant Mortality
Maternal Mortality
Maternal Age
Birth Intervals
Breastfeeding and Infant Mortality
Housing Congestion
Maternal Employment During Pregnancy

Appendix II
Sources Corroborating Comparatively Low Rates of Tuberculosis Among Jews in Eastern Europe
Sources Corroborating Comparatively Low Rates of Infection Among Jews
Sources Corroborating Comparatively Low Rates of Influenza Among Jews
Sources Corroborating Comparatively Low Rates of Typhoid Fever Among Jews
Sources Corroborating Comparatively Low Rates of Mortality Associated with Whooping Cough, Scarlet Fever, and Measles Among Jews
Sources Corroborating Comparatively Low Rates of Syphilis Among Jews
Sources Corroborating Alcohol Consumption Among Jews

Appendix III
Additional Reading