It’s interesting to compare Jews with the Parsis (Parsees) of India. In fact I’m quite familiar with both groups, although with the latter it’s mainly, but not exclusively, by way of my dealings with other Indians.
§ They’re both cognitive elites in their host countries, demonstrating vastly disproportionate success in business, politics and academia. Jews we all know about, but Parsis, especially in India, have been stunningly successful and prominent especially given their relatively tiny numbers
§ Generally speaking they both came to their high status gradually and without the use of force
§ Both have been ‘exiled’ from their ancient traditional homelands (Iran for Parsis, Israel for Jews) and have been living in their host countries for many hundreds of years
§ They are two of the oldest continuing religions
§ Both demonstrate strong in-group mentality especially in terms of endogamy (marrying within the group). This is strong enough to engender various diseases unique to their groups
§ They have little or no interest in gaining converts to their religion
A lot of similarities, aren’t there? So are there differences in how they’re perceived by their host populations?Here’s a personal anecdote about the Parsis. Several years ago I met a number of Indians on business. I was surprised that they seemed to defer to one guy even though he wasn’t the ‘boss’ and was certainly younger than the others. I raised this later and by way of explanation was simply told ‘he’s a Parsi’. Inquiring further I learned that Indians generally hold the Parsis in the highest possible levels of esteem and indeed affection. The others in his team agreed when asked individually later.
My own subsequent inquiries revealed that this affection stems from their astonishing levels of philanthropy, honest dealings and a respect for the common good. There is an Indian saying "Parsi thy name is Charity". In many respects they’re like the Quakers. “Parsis are incredibly charitable, preferring to spread around their wealth Moreover, no one sees them as doing so without any real care for others -- i.e., just being charitable to gain approval or to keep the would-be rioters content. All observers seem to agree that it's out of a sense of duty and empathy.”At the time of the Raj the British held similar views, seeing them as uniquely honest, trustworthy, honourable generous with their time and money . I remember when working on a project with the Inland Revenue in England being told by a guy that a Parsi family he knew agonised over claiming some form of social welfare because they felt they had not as yet ‘paid enough into society’. Scandals in Parsi-owned commercial enterprises are as rare as hens’ teeth and, in India’s multi-ethnic and constantly feuding society the only ethnic conflict they were ever involved in was with the Religion Of Peace. And if the Muslims aren’t fighting you, you must be doing something wrong.
I love and derive great amusement from euphemisms. Take for instance ‘mixed reaction’, as in ‘there was a mixed reaction within the black community to the Rodney King verdict’. Another great one is ‘blip’, as in ‘there was a blip in Anglo-German relations during the early 1940s’. And it’s fair to say there have been quite a few mixed reactions to Jews and blips in their relationships with their host countries over the centuries in marked contrast to the Parsis.Strange, isn’t it? And they’re like one another in so many ways…..