Mark Twain speech quotation

Mark Twain speech quotation from

I’m about to share with you one of my speechwriters tricks that I keep up my sleeve.  It is one of my favorite quotations, and it is great to use in Bar or Bat Mitzvah speeches.

Just a few words of introduction: The author of this quotation is Mark Twain (born Samuel Langhorne Clemens).  You could say that he is America’s greatest author and humorist.  In 1898, he wrote an article called Concerning the Jews which was published in Harpers Magazine. This is a quotation from that article:




“If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way.

Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers.

He has made a marvellous fight in the world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.

The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished.

The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”

What a powerful quotation to share with a Bar Mitzvah Boy, or Bat Mitzvah girl, at the moment that they are receiving their entrance ticket to the community of Jewish adults.

I particularly love that this quote ends with a question: “What is the secret of Jewish immortality?”  This means that at the end of the quotation, the reader/listener is left with the thought “what do I think is the secret to Jewish longevity?”  The person giving the speech can propose an answer, or s/he can prompt the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child (and the audience) to find their own answer.  Food for thought – as they say!

So, some food for thought for my readers – do you think this quote is still relevant today?  How would you answer Twain’s question: “What is the secret of Jewish immortality?”  And how would you use this quotation in a Bar or Bat Mitzvah speech?

Arch of Titus

Arch of Titus marking Jewish exile to Rome