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September 18, 1959 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1959-09-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

— Friday, Sept. 18,

ure y C'ommentary

Herman Wouk, the Orthodox Jewish novelist, author of two
best sellers, one of which was the cause for deep resentment
in Jewish ranks, has deviated from the role of novelist and has
written his religious 'credo under the
title "This Is my God."
In this Doubleday-published book,
which may . become one of the series
of religious works .thai make the
best seller list, Wouk really is
answering _ a question. A friend, of
his, a man far removed from Judaism,
asked him for a good book about
Hanukah so that his children might
become better acquainted with their .
people—"purely for culture, not for
Wouk thereupon begins to supply
the material in which he describes
his religious experiences and offers
an answer to his friend and to all
those who - are - uninformed about
JewiSh rites, traditions and practices.

As every Jew who has even the
minutest information about his
people knows, many scores of books
heve been written about Jewish religious observances, about
Jewish laws and traditions. They are available at low cost.
They were written by distinguished rabbis, by great scholars.
Yet, the available books may rot on the shelves of book stores
which have chosen not to discard them long ago. But the name
Herman Wouk may prove the salesman's bait necessary for
the spread of literature about Jewish religious principles and

H erman
Wouk's Credo


By Philip

but I believe these lay in the folkway as it exists, not in the
imagination of the writer."
Our criticism was not of Wouk's imagination but of his

actual misrepresentation of facts- in "Marjorie," and we cannot
accept his .explanation at this late hour as valid. Let us turn to
his own bar-mitzvah. He reports: "My bar-mitzvah had been a
major spectacle, and I turned in a star performance." He ex-
plains: "I could read and translate fairly well the narrative
sketches of the Hebrew Bible. My prayers were fluent . . ." That
was not the bar-mitzvah in "Marjorie." There he burlesqued. If
"This Is My God", is an atonement for "Marjorie," perhaps we
should forgive him. But we can't forget what he had done in that
best seller. Luckily the disgraceful description of the Passover
and the bar-mitzvah as they were depicted in the novel were
eliminated from the movie, else many more tens of thousands
of people would have been presented with a mockery of Jewish
Now the traditions emerge elevated and exalted in Wouk's
new book. He has accomplished his task very well, and we
commend him for it. He chose as the motto for his book, out of
which he picked his title, these lines from the Song of Moses"
in Exodus XV:2: "This is my God, and I will praise Him; the
God of my father, and I will exalt Him."' He has succeeded in
his praise and in his exaltation.

Reject Stamps
on Jewish Theme
in. East Berlin

Direct JTA Teletype Wire
to The Jewish News

JERUSALEM—Officials of a
stamp exhibition in East Ber-
lin. refused to permit the
showing of collections of Israel
stamps and of stamps on Jew-
ish subjects, it was reported
here Tuesday.
According to West German
non-Jewish stamp collectors,
they were refused permission
to exhibit collections of Israel
stamps. One Israel collector,
who won an international prize
for his exhibit on stamps on
Jewish subjects, was reportedly
told by 'organizers of the East
Berlin exhibit that showing of
his Jewish collection would be

Serious Israel Foreign Ministry Attention
Given Archbishop's Arab Refugee Plan

Direct JTA Teletype Wire
to The Jewish News

"must examine the refugee in the past dispatched for mili-

JERUSALEM — Israel For- problem in a fundamental tary training to the


eign Ministry experts were way." He said "the United Union and unspecified East
It is a fact to be welcomed with deep appreciation. If the reported Tuesday to be putting States would be interested in all European countries, is con-
existing books cannot find a reading public, and if a popular finishing touches to a new Arab ideas which may be put for- tamed in an interview by Zulfi-
novelist who adheres to the strictest Jewish codes is able to refugee settlement plan which ward at the Assembly. While qar Sabri, Deputy For e i g n
produce a book that catches the imagination of Jewish readers, may be presented to the current we regard favorably certain Minister of the UAR, with the
all to the good.
elements of Mr. Hammarskjold's editor of Die Tat, the Swiss
UN General Assembly.
Wouk's "This Is My God" deserves the attention we
plan, we are concerned that it daily. Sabri claimed in this
anticipate for it. It is a very positive book. It does not pull any corporate proposals made by seems not to go far enough interview that the dispatch of
punches. While it is written from the viewpoint of an Orthodox Haifa's Greek Orthodox Arab in providing the means by which troops for military training to
practitioner, it respects the viewpoints of all others and, in fact, Archbishop George Hakim who adequate progress toward an the Soviet Union and East
explains them.
recently again toured several ultimate solution could be made. European countries had now
"The United States considers ceased and that the army of the
Wouk's philosophy is that of Torah Judaism. In his Arab countries and spoke to
analyses he exposes, with good grace, the arguments of those leaders of the Palestinian Arab that all of the states in the UAR had meanwhile built up
area must face this vexatious a sufficient number of cadre
who claim to be moderns and who, under that guise, seek to refugees.
problem with realism and with units to conduct military train-
belittle Jewish traditions, while, at the same time, holding
The plan, it was reported, compassion for the lot of the
fast to other and often similar practices. His personal affirma-
ing in Egypt.
would offer each Arab refugee
tion is contained in the assertion: "If a Jew concludes to individual compensation for refugees themselves. Our keen
Deputy Foreign Minister
interest in the future of these
enter upon his heritage and make it part of his life, he does
abandoned property in Israel if refugees is a continuing one." Sabri discounted the view that
an obviously reasonable thing . . . What matters is living with the refugee would formally give
the United Arab Republic Army
dignity, with decency and without fear, in the way that best up financial claims on Israel.
was dependent on Soviet arms
United Arab Republic
honors one's intelligence and one's birth."
supplies at short intervals by
Other financial aid in cooper- Admits Troop Training
remarking that "we purchased
It is when he writes on subjects like the Sabbath that he ation with international finan- in USSR, East Europe
supplies and spare parts in
emerges especially effective. Himself a strict Sabbath observer, cial assistance programs sug-
ZURICH, (WJA) — An indi- such a quantity as to keep our
Wouk states that the Sabbath is "the point at which many Jews gested previously would be of-
rejoin Judaism. Probably it is the natural and the best point." fered by Israel for permanent reel admission that troops from weapons combat-ready as long
The Sabbath is described as "a dramatic gesture of the resettlement of the refugees the United Arab Republic were as they are useable."
community, the immemorial collective gesture of stopping work in Arab countries. Such addi-
and celebrating . . . The Sabbath marks the founding of the tional help from Israel would
Jewish nation in the exodus from Egypt. Jews worship not be necessitated by the fact dis-
only the God of creation, but the God who cares about human covered by research conducted
Continued from Page 1
history." - - -
by the Israel Foreign Ministry
"No. Religion and the state are separate, as they have
To go _into great details about the contents of Wouk's "This that most of the abandoned
been since 1918."
Is My God" would require as many columns as there are sub- Arab property belonged to a
Is there any way for young Jews to learn about Judaism?
titles to his book. Suffice it to say that Wouk covers the entire small group of wealthy Arab
"Some learn at home from their parents."
panorama of Jewish- religious history, that he describes all the owners and that a large major-
Do young Jews know anything about religion?
holidays and their significance, that he accounts for all Jewish ity of the Arab refugees owned
"I don't know. I doubt it." -
practices and ceremonials.
little or nothing of the prop-
Do young people care about Judaism?
His chapters in which he explains the Jewish, view of erty and would benefit little
"Young people do not care all over the world. Do they
the hereafter is especially intriguing. As he does throughout by individual compensation.
care in America? How many young Jews are religious in
the book, in which he constantly refers to his grandfather
The plan, which for the first
America? How many keep the Sabbath? How many are
who was his Talmud 'teacher and had an abiding influence
time offers full compensation
over him, he draws - upon the view of Mendel Leib Levine, not conditional on final politi-
Did the rabbi feel the problems of American Jews could
his grandfather and teacher, who waited for his portion
cal settlement between Israel
of the leviathan in the hereafter, who said: "Of course, and the Arab countries, would
be considered in the same light as the problems of Soviet -JeWs?
we can never be sure of the hereafter. But perhaps . . .
"Yes, in many ways. Young American Jews are assimi-
be aimed at proving again
remember, perhaps . . ." And Wouk's own conclusion is: "Is
Israel's willingness to partic- lated. Our young Jews are assimilated, too. They speak. Russian
my grandfather eating leviathan and drinking wine in the ipate in a solution to the Arab
at home,• not Yiddish. They are Russians. That is our language.
world beyond? For all anybody can tell me, he is. I think
refugee problem.
Our young people want to be like other Russians. And your
that that is more likely than that his spirit is dead to God."
young people — don't they want to be like other Americans?"
Hammarskjold Refugee
Some will question Wouk's extreme views. For instance, on Plan Does Not Go Far
Did that mean Jewish life would become less Jewish
the question of mikvah he writes: "The number of women who Enough, Official Holds
and more Russian and die out?
go to them is so far small compared to those who do not. But
"There will always be Jews. But tell me about America.
the day is past when the mikvah was for a fading trickle of
Do you think Jewish life in America will die out? Do Ameri-
foreign ladies. The women who go are mostly young Americans."
cans speak Yiddish or the language of their neighbors? How
How does he defend these views, while outlining also the Hammarskjold's plan for inte-
many American Jews know how to pray? How many keep
opposite viewpoints of Reform and Conservative Judaism? Wouk grating the Arab refugees into
Nom Kippur?"
states frankly about his personal . orthodoxy;, "my general a large-scale economic develop-
Did he know any young religious Soviet Jews?
sympathy is with the main tradition, and so I view these move-
"Yes, there are some."
ments (Reform and Conservatism) more or less as an outsider." East "seems not to go far
Are any studying to be rabbis?
History, he said, will decide whether the Orthodox are "out of enough," Francis 0. Wilcox, As-
"Nineteen are studying here . at our yeshiva. It is the only
step with history." "My object here," he adds, "had not been sistant United States Secretary
yeshiva in the Soviet Union."
to criticize any party in Jewry, but to tell the truth as I of State, declared.
"Unfortunately," said Wilcox,
understand it."
Where do they come from?
There follows a strong endorsement for Jewish unity in "political factors in the refugee
"All over the USSR."
behalf of the causes that appeal to us and he declares that he
Are there enough rabbis?
does not share the views of those who despair of American
"In Moscow there are four 'official' rabbis - and another, 15
Jewry: "I for one am proud to be part of the community, and
who never completed all the requirements and are considered
an issue which constitutes a
I think its great days lie ahead."
`unofficial' rabbis: All are Orthodoi."
Is "This Is My God" - an atonement- for what he did in
What is being done to encourage • More Jews to become
of instability in the Near East.
"Marjorie Morningstar" in which he burlesqued the Passover The 'United States," continued

seder and the Bar Mitzvah ceremony? In his new book, which
"Tell - me what is - being done 'in America. Are there
Wilcox, "believes both Israel
represents his Jewish credo, Wouk writes: "Bar-mitzvah means and the Arab host states have
enough rabbis?"
`son of the covenant.' The ceremony is the next milestone in a serious responsibility to
Are there areas of the Soviet Union without rabbis?
a Jewish child's days; his entrance into a responsible religious strive for a resolution of this
life. In my novel, 'Marjorie Morningstar,' I did my best to problem in a spirit of mutual
Is it pOssible some Jewish communities will not have
portray a bar-mitzvah with accuracy and with affection. I accommodation."
rabbis for a long time to come?
thought I succeeded pretty well, but for my pains I
Pointing out that UNRWA's
encountered the most bitter and violent objections from some mandate expires next June, the
What will happen?
fellow Jews. I had, they asserted, made a sacred occasion seem
State Department official de-
"Tell me what will happen in America," the rabbi smiled,
comical. There were comic touches in the picture, of course, clared that this year's Assembly
and I will tell you what will happen here."

Moscow Synagogue Record Taboo

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