Why Jews drink very little alcohol

Some Jews get wasted pretty easy.

Some Jews get wasted pretty easy.

Ever wonder why some people can hold their liquor extremely well as where others get drunk from a few glasses? Well, we already explained why some Asians get drunk very fast and why alcoholism is such a big problem among American Indians. Now it’s time to tackle another question: why do Jews hardly drink? It’s a bit of a tough one since we are dealing with both a race and a religion. In practice however both of them  in many cases go hand in hand. The holy writings of the Jewish religion (or Judaism) the Torah allows alcohol as long as it’s kosher but demands moderation. Besides that many Jews – like East Asians – genetically have a lower tolerance for alcohol, which makes it impossible to drink like for example Caucasians. The question is now if these two facts are related.

The fact that Jewish people don’t drink is an absolute myth. Just think of the words l’chaim (to life), which is the traditional cheers when Jews raise their glasses together. However they are not really known for their outstanding drinking skills or having major problems with alcohol, depends on how you look at it. Even though wine is also known as ‘the King of Beverages’ and in the Torah is said to “bring joy to God and man”. Wine also plays a part in many traditional Jewish rituals. So why this moderation? The answer possibly lies in both the religion and genes of the Jews.

Let’s start with the Jewish religion. First of all the drinks must be kosher, no matter if it’s wine, whisky or any other drink. The rules on what’s kosher and not are quite difficult, so people are adviced to consult their local rabbi before drinking. Getting drunk on a regular basis is considered absolutely not done here and praying drunk is strictly forbidden. A well known Jewish saying states “a shicker is a goy” which means a drunkard is a non-Jew. The traditional thought behind this saying is that heavy drinking is for uneducated people and that the ones who drink hard and often are not improving themselves. The Torah also speaks of Noah who ‘disgraced himself by excessive wine consumption’. The two sons of Aaron named Nadab and Abihu were consumed by a fire from heaven when they entered a tabernacle drunk to pray. With all this in mind it’s easy to understand how their faith or social pressure keeps many Jews from drinking. In many communities just the reputation of being addicted to alcohol can make one outcast.

And then there is the case of the genes. Always a sensitive topic, especially when speaking of the Jews. However the first one to draw this conclusion based on research was the Israelian epidemiologist Yehuda Neumark from the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem in 1999. With his team of Israelian and American scientists he examined the DNA of 145 men in Jerusalem and concluded that one third of them had a genetic mutation. “One that makes them more sensitive to alcohol. In other words: they get drunk very quickly. In the Jewish Jerusalemites whom we studied, we found that those carrying this expression of the gene were very light drinkers.”

So this raises the old question of the chicken and the egg. Do Jewish people nowadays stand alcohol not as well because they have practiced sobriety for many centuries and is this a case of evolution of the human body? Or is the call for moderation in their religion a direct effect from the fact that a lot of Jews couldn’t handle heavy drinking? We don’t have an answer but both seem plausible. Sorry to leave you with an open ending but at least it leaves the door wide open for discussion. In the end we want to share one promising development with you. For ages the Hebrew language had no word for ‘hangover’ since there was no real use for it. But that changed a few years ago when the Academy of Hebrew Language in Tel Aviv came up with hamarmoret. A clear sign things are changing for the better.

Micky Bumbar

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Related articles on Lords of the Drinks:

Why Indians are alcoholics and Asians can’t drink

Muslims can drink just like Muhammad

Taking it up with the super religious freaks (versus Christians who claim it’s a sin to drink)

Euromonitor: Koreans biggest consumers hard liquor

Articles on scientific research on alcohol

Famous drunks in world history

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12 thoughts on “Why Jews drink very little alcohol

  1. Fascinating. I’d like to do some more research on the evolution of the human body, as you mention here. And, since it’s been said that the “Koreans are the Jews of the East,” I’m especially piqued by your recent musings.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Well, my Caucasian mom told me that. So I’m not sure. I was going to google it, so I could give you an intelligent answer, but I didn’t. (google it, or give you an intelligent answer). I’ll ask my white momma.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes please do so… I think it has more to do with the fact that Koreans for centuries were a people who sailed the seas making a living with trading. As where for example Chinese were in general more into agriculture. Or they relied on people like Koreans and Arabs to bring rare products to them. But I’m curious what your mom has to say.

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  2. Pingback: Why Indians are alcoholics and Asians can’t drink | Lords of the Drinks

  3. Pingback: Muslims can drink, just like Muhammad | Lords of the Drinks

  4. Jews are a Mediterranean people, like the rest of the Levantines, the Greeks, and the Italians – all of whom are known to have lower alcohol tolerance and a moderate drinking culture, if at all.

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    • An unfortunate fact. I’ve been to Greece and Italy and love both countries but I’m not too impressed by their drinking. Both are more food cultures.
      Cheers,
      Micky

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  5. Pingback: 5 reasons why lowering the drinking age could make Americans better people | Lords of the Drinks

  6. When an antisemite writes about Jews he calls the Jewish Bible – Tora for his ambitions and demonstration of the differences.Solomon`s songs show clear the relation of the Jews and the wine.About some indefinite mutations of the all Jews, including blacks ones,the generalization is unlawful.

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    • Who is antisemitic? When talking about the Jewish religion why not call the Old Testament Tora? Please stop seeking bad intentions where there are none.
      Cheers,
      Micky

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  7. I don’t see in scripture where Aarons sons died because they entered into the tabernacle drunk but they disobeyed God by burning the wrong kind of fire. Leviticus 10

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