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May 24, 1963 - Image 40

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1963-05-24

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS -- Friday, May 24, 1963

Lenora Cohen Rosenfield's 'Portrait of a
Philosopher' — Daughter's Most Impressive
Tribute to Prof. Morris Raphael Cohen

Mrs. Rosenfield truly deserves
highest commendations for the
scrupulousness with which she
had gathered the material about
her father. In her introduction,
referring to the Morris Raphael
Cohen Library established in
his memory at the New York
City College, Mrs. Rosenfield
quotes. a would-be pupil as hav-
ing called Prof. Cohen "a whet-
stone to sharpen brains," and
the late Justice Oliver Wendell
Holmes as having said that in
the philosopher's company he
felt the presence of a holy man.
The daughter does not hesi-
tate to refer to her father's
idiosyncrasies, and she has
gathered many puns . which in-
dicate the remarkable sense of
humor he possessed, the wealth
of stories he told, his love for
Hebrew and Yiddish, his readi-
ness to tell a Jewish story, his
love for books.
His youth in Russia — he was
born on Tisha b'Ab, July 25,
1880; his experiences in this,
country, his devotion to learn-
* *
ing, his search of himself
The volume is a tribute also these are part of a noteworthy
to Mrs. Rosenfield's mother, biography.
* *
Mary Ryshpan Cohen, who died
The life story of the man
in 1942, whose romantic life
with her husband is part of the who rose to be the equal of
interesting material in this the greatest philosophers of our
book, who had a strong influ- time would be incomplete with-
ence upon Prof. Cohen, whose out reference to the love af-
passing left him in great re- fair with Mary Ryshpan, or
without an account of the in-
Mrs. Rosenfield had invited fluence upon him of the Scotch-
her brothers, Dr. Felix S. Co- man, his teacher, Thomas Dav-
hen and Dr. Victor William idson. Mrs. Rosenfield performs
Cohen, to join with her in pre- both tasks well.
In her description of . her
paring biographical material
about their. father after he had father's arrival at Harvard "to
passed away • in 1947. The broth- storm the citadel of learning,"
ers told her the task was hers, and to win his spurs in philo-
and she has performed it with sophy and his doctor's degree
great skill, producing a real there, in 1906, Mrs. Rosenfield
makes interesting background
Her brother, Felix, who was reverences, commenting that in
a recognized scholar and who, the days when Charles W. Eliot
in his student days, was editor was an undergraduate "there
of the Columbia Law Review,' were no Jews at Harvard," and
and who collaborated with his that during Eliot's presidency
father, died in 1953. The sur- at Hafvard, 1869-1909, their
viving son, Dr. Victor William numbers swelled and Eliot
Cohen, is an experimental phy- "even expressed a wish to be
sicist. The author of "Portrait succeeded by Louis D. Brandeis."
of a Philosopher," Lenora She states: "The Hebraic and
Cohen Rosenfield, received de- Puritan traditions seemed to
grees from Smith College, Uni- Cohen to strike a chord of pre-
versity of Grenoble, the Sor- established harmony . . ."
In the course of her biograph-
bonne and Columbia University,
and is a member of the Uni- ical account, Mrs. Rosenfield
versity of Maryland faculty. quotes her father: "I have al-
Author of books on philosophy ways been a Jew, because I was
and French literature, she has born and brought up in a Jew-
also written extensively for ish family." There is repeated
many periodicals. She is mar- evidence in the course of his
ried to the prominent Washing, life's story of his love for Jew-
ton lawyer, Harry N. Rosen- ish folklore and the Jewish
field, and they have one daugh- language, and while he had
estranged himself from Jewish
religious observances he came
Such is the family background close to them later in life when
of the eminent philosopher, and he enjoyed Sabbath Eve candle
his daughter's book contains a lighting in his children's homes
number of letters exchanged and the interest in Jewish things
by her parents, the story of the by his grandchildren.
role of Mary Ryshpan played
Cohen took an interest in re-
in the life of the philosopher ligion and in ethics and he
who became her husband and worked closely with Semitics
many references to the children Professor C. H. Toy, author of
and to distinguished authors, "Judaism and Christianity" and
government leaders, judges, an editor of the 1905 Jewish
philosophers and others who Encyclopedia. Harvard, Mrs.
had befriended Morris Raphael Rosenfield states, "was the
leading university center for
This reviewer met the emi- Semitic culture in the country
nent philosopher through the — five professors 40,000 books
late Fred M. Butzel whom he and a Semitic Museum donated
had befriended. There 'must by Jacob H. Schiff. For his ad-
have been a correspondence be- vanced students Toy originated
tween the noted Detroit leader Harvard's Semitic Conference,
and the philosopher, and it is in which Cohen was vice presi-
regrettable that they have not dent."
• *
been made. available for Mrs. •
Cohen became interested in
Rosenfield's book. The only
Michigan men referred to in the the messianic concept. He be-
book are Profs. William Haber friended the noted anthropolo-
and I. Leo Sharfman, who were gist, Prof. Franz Boas, to whom
befriended by Prof. Cohen dur- he applied for data on "the idea
ing his visits at the University of a messiah or redeemer in
of Michigan. folklore, especially among the

Literally thousands of stu-
dents who have benefited from
the genius of Morris Raphel
Cohen, in the courses they took
under him when he was pro-
fessor of philosophy at the Col-
lege of the City of New York,.
worship him as one of the great
figures of our time and as one
of the outstanding philosophers
of this century.
But it fell to the lot of his
only daughter, Lenora Cohen
Rosenfield, to compile a rec-
ord of Prof. Cohen's activities
that serve as one of the most
impressive tributes that could
possibly be paid to a man.
In "Portrait of a Philosopher:
Morris R. Cohen in Life and
Letters," published by Harcourt,
Brace & World (750 3rd. .N.Y.
17), Mrs. Rosenfield has in-
corporated the wealth of ma-
terial on, by and about her dis-
tinguished father, gathered from
his letters, entries in his diary,
unpublished manuscripts and
material relating to the history
of his time.

American Indian," and he lec-
tured on the messianic idea.
He was believed to have been
cynical in his approach to Zion-
ism, but his daughter denies
that he was an anti-Zionist. Ad-
miting that he was "not a Zion-
ist," that he was condemned for
it by his Zionist friends, she
quotes from his "A Dreamer's
"I could never bring myself
to support efforts to establish
a Jewish State which would not
be in accord with . the demo-
cratic principles of separation
of Church and State and equal-
ity of civil, religious and eco-
nomic rights to all inhabitants
regardless of race and creed."
To prove her contention, Mrs.
Rosenfield proceeds to state:
"But neither was he an anti-
Zionist. He frequently express-
ed admiration for the way in
which Jewish pioneers rescued
the soil of Israel from long
neglect, 'the triumph of mind
and soul over the desert.' Zion-
ism,' he wrote, 'has rendered
the supreme service of increas-
ing man's self-respect, and has
helped men to realize that they
must be ready to give of their
own past experience as well as
to accept.' His hope for the land
of Israel, expressed in 1946 in
his last statement of his posi-
tion, was for a 'framework of
a non-sectarian state that allows
equal rights to all—Jews, Chris-
tians, Mohammedans, and athe-
ists alike'."
There are numerous other
references to Cohen's attitude
on Zionism, and his close friend-
ship for Supreme Court Justice
Felix Frankfurter points to a
closeness to Zionists if not to
.Zionism. But as early as 1904
he had recorded in his diary:
- "The idealistic-revolutionary
being ever secondary to the
emotional-longingI know not
what it is—the Jew within me.
Three peoples live on the East
Side—the Orthodox Jews, the
Russified Jews and the young
American Jews. Of these the
last are the least attractive,
having no high ideals. The
orthodox Jews are the heroes
but they are dying. The Russian
-Jews have formed the mass of
the Socialist movement but it
too is losing its vitality. Zion-
ism is a spark uniting—strange-
ly enough all the three."

* *

Open International Synagogue
at Idletvild Airport on June 23

The International Synagogue to be built at N. Y. Interna-
tional Airport (Idlewild) will break ground for its new structure
June 23, 3:30 p.m., it was announced by its president, Charles
H. Silver, and the president of the New York Board of Rabbis,
Rabbi Israel Mowshowitz. The public is invited to the ceremo-
nies. The International Synagogue, which is sponsored by the
N.Y. Board of Rabbis, will be part of Chapel Plaza located on a
655-foot lagoon in the central area of International Park, ad-
joining the Protestant and Catholic Chapels. Chapel Plaza is the
first tri-faith chapel development at any airport terminal in the

Warsaw Survivor's Recollections

Ghetto Survivor Exposes Nazism,
Defends Irgun, Criticizes Zionists

• Dr. David Wdowinski, now a
practicing New York psycho-
therapist, and a member of the
faculty of the New School of
Social Research, was a witness
at the Eichmann trial in Jeru-
salem and he gave evidence
based on his experiences in the
Warsaw Ghetto.
As one of the survivors from
that inferno, he describes his
experiences in "And We Are
Not Slaves," which has just
been published by Philosophi-
cal Library -(15 E. 40th, NY 16),
in commemoration of the 20th
anniversary of the Warsaw
Ghetto uprising.
A leader in the Revisionist
ranks and a great admirer and
friend of the late Vladimir
Jabotinsky, Dr. Wdowinski util-
izes this volume to condemn
what he calls the appeasement
by Zionists and the soft-pedal-
ing of issues which adversely
affected Jewry.

He speaks as an Irgu-nist
and he poses such questions
as: "Where was American
Jewry when their brothers
were being butchered by the
millions across the sea?" He
is at times even more drastic
and he accuses those he con-
siders indifferent of being
While he is extreme in his
anger against • Jewish leaders
and especially the Zionists, his
book nevertheless exposes some
of the Nazi tactics, such as the
taking of pictures of Jews who
were forced to enter places of

entertainment and were photo-
graphed there so that the Ger-
mans could claim that JewS
were only out for a good time,
when, at that very time, they
were being massacred. He
quotes other instances of bru-
tality and sadism, such as:
"Jewish girls were forced at
the point of a gun to undress
and take shower baths with
bearded men.-.. Such cinematic
proof was invaluable in . their
claim that all Jews were degen-
It is regrettable, however,
that while exposing the Nazi
crimes Dr. Wdowinski is
primarily interested in mak-
ing a case for Irgun Zvai .
Leumi and in criticizing Jew-
ish leadership. He could have
made a case for thL former
without his destructive ap-
proach. He is even critical
of Gideon Hausner for the
manner in which he inter-
rogated him during the Eich-
man trial, after in% iting him
to be a witness.
Dr. 'Wdowinski criticizes
those who defend the Germany
of today, and he contends that
"only a radical change in the
education of the German youth
. . . and the honest attempt on
the part of large segments of
German society" to crush bud-
ding Nazism "can hold out any
hope for the family of nations
that sometime in the future the
barbarism that seems to be in-
herent in the pattern of Ger-
man culure will be eradi-

In the latter years of his life,
especially in view of some of
the problems that had arisen as
a result of the tragedies created
by Hitlerism, Cohen • became
very active in the Conference
on Jewish Relation s, and
through this movement, which
was financially supported by
Detroit Jews as part of a nation-
wide set-up, he had befriended
Fred M. Butzel. •
eel: 'Why should I condemn
He had commented on many ditional lore. Later in his life anything in this world when I
subjects, and of interest even
am no longer in it? But don't
now is his comment on whether an existent power but an ideal you think that the whole thing
Jews should be active in public of holiness, which enables us is rather insane? By the way,
life. He was approached on the to distinguish between the good they say that my ancestors, the
subject by J. H. Berman of and the evil in men."
Wendells, were Dutch Jews.' "
Joplin, Mo., and he replied:
He befriended many great A month after Holmes' death,
"The Jew, as everyone else,
should avoid notoriety or what men. He was very close to Felix Cohen recounted the conversa-
Milton calls tad eminence' but Frankfurter who was his rooin- tion to the City College 'Cam-
it would be disastrous for Jews mate while he was at Harvard. pus.' He used the same words.
There are scores of other
to avoid taking their proper Albert Einstein became his and
part in public life, and if they his family's -friend and many human interest items in the
do their work with an excel- interesting stories are related book, anecdotes, historical data,
lence that makes them promi- about the visits exchanged be- comments by great personali-
nent, so much the better. The tween the Einsteins and the ties, Cohen's views on Jewish
notion that we will be safer by Cohens. Mr. Justice Holmes was' and other subjects.
Mrs. Rosenfield's "Portrait
adopting a position of perman- a friend and an admirer. An
cut inferiority has no support interesting story is related of a Philosopher" is an out-
in history or human experi- about the latter in a note that standing work, an impressive
reads: tribute to a father, a valuable
"In 1934 Cohen called on addendum to the study of 20th
All his life an agnostic,
Cohen disapproved of atheism. Holmes at the request of the century developments. It is a
He did not attend religious serv- American Jewish Congress to w o r k eminently worthwhile
ices, but he loved to refer . to ask him for a statement on reading and possessing.
—P. S.
the Talmud and to Jewish tra- Hitler. The Justice, 93, answer-

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