Israelis may have developed a reputation for their machismo, their brawn, but Frank Luger wants it known they have plenty of brainpower, too.
The semi-retired physician from Budapest by way of Montreal, who made aliyah six months ago, is trying to establish an Israeli chapter of Mensa, the international high IQ society. After arriving in Israel, Luger was baffled to find Mensa missing there.
"This is a paradoxical state of affairs considering the statistical fact that average Israeli intelligence tends to be higher than elsewhere" because of the traditional Jewish emphasis on education, he wrote in a report last month to Mensa headquarters in London. "By and large, Mensa is an unknown entity in Israel."
Indeed, a spokesman for the Ministry of Education and Culture, solicited for a comment on this topic, asked, "What’s Mensa?"
So Luger, 56, is spreading the word.
He’s posted flyers in Hebrew and English around schools and educational organizations. Nearly 40 Israelis (mostly secular, Ashkenazic men) have come to a civic center in downtown Jerusalem (sites in the country’s other major cities are being arranged) and paid the 50 shekels (about $12) for the three-hour "culture-free … psychometric" eligibility exam. Only one person failed, Luger said.
When 50 qualify, Mensa International will confer "Emerging Mensa" status. The potential, Luger said, is "many thousand" members. Proportionately, that "would rank among the highest in the world," Luger said.
Mensa Canada, in a land with some 31 million residents, has about a thousand members, he noted.
Mensa, formed in England in 1946, admits people in the top 2 percent of tested IQs. With 100,000 members in 100 countries, it is active in every continent except Antarctica.
A Mensa chapter in Israel, Luger said, would recognize the country’s intellectual prowess.
Mensa Israel would be inaugurated at a gala, black-tie event at a Jerusalem hotel in the spring, he said.
And the Mensa lapel pins, which identify the wearer as a certified high IQ bearer? They will be distributed, Luger said, "as soon as we reach the 50-member mark."