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May 29, 1964 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1964-05-29

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Purely Commentary

Cultural-Spiritual 'Separatism' as a Natural Right
An eminent sociologist who was previously in the employ of
national Jewish organizations was in the limelight again two weeks
ago when he addressed the anti-Zionist and anti-Israel Council for
Judaism in New York.
Dr. Robert Maclver, whose "Report on the Jewish Community
Relations Agencies" (1953 AmeriCan Jewish Year Book) was the
subject of prolonged debate, in his Judaism Council speech accused
American Jews of a "continuing alienation" from the rest of the
community. Affirming an adherence to Judaeo-Christian ideologies,
he again became the advice-giver to American Jewry. He deplored
"minority living." He opposed the bans on intermarriage. He ridi-
culed food taboos (kashrut) and expressed concern over the Saturday
Sabbath.
He also objected to "separate organizations," such as Jewish
war veterans, Jewish dentists, Jewish chiropractors, Jewish social
workers, etc.
His speech was quoted in the New York Times and he apparently
didn't like the report. He writes to the Times setting forth his
ideas in his own direct way. But neither did Dr. John Slawson
like his complaint to the Times and he wrote a reply. The two letters
are worth reading before passing judgment about the views of both
gentlemen. The Maclver and Slawson statements as they appeared
in the New York Times are:

Prof. Maclver's Letter:

Move to End Prejudice

Negro Seen as Focus of Struggle;
Anti-Jewish Bias Analyzed

I regret that the excerpts from
my panel talk quoted in your
May 9 issue give a one-sided ac-
count of what I said. May I
state the gist of it briefly, as fol-
lows:

There is an unprecedented
movement in this country to
abolish the discrimination and
prejudice that have marred our
claim to democracy. It is the
Negro group, the worst sufferers,
that is the focus of the struggle,
and the Jewish people are giv-
ing the Negroes valiant aid.

As far as anti-Jewish prejudice
is concerned, it is very different
from any other form. It is the
one instance in which it is not a
matter of assumptions of supe-
riority and inferiority. Even the
most bigoted racist does not
claim that the Jewish people are
less advanced, less cultured' or
less competent than the majority.

The ground of prejudice here
is a sense of alienation, a sense
that the Jews are a separate en-
clave. This persists in spite of
the fact that many Jews have
taken a notable part in the af-
fairs of the whole community
and not least in this city.

Distinctive Culture

Both sides can do something
to remove this prejudice, which
is at least partly based on the
fact that the Jews have a distinc-
tive culture, one of the oldest
and greatest of cultures. But
since it expresses itself in cus-
toms and usages different from
those of the rest of the commu-
nity, such as, at least for the
more orthodox, Saturday as Sab-
bath, food taboos and a reluctance
to intermarry, the Jewish people
could help to remove it, particu-
larly in two ways.

On is to assure that the train-
ing of Jewish children in the
great values of that culture
should not be so exclusive as to
convey the impression of apart-
ness. After all, much of that
culture belongs to the more in-
clusive Judaeo-Christian tradi-
tion.

The other is that the Jewish
genius for organization should
not express itself in separate or-
ganizations for interests that are
common alike to others than
Jews. The difference of religion
r of certain cultural values
ou]d be no barrier to this full
tegration into the life of the
m.munity.

-

R. M. MacIVER.
Palisades, N. Y., May 9, 1964.

Dr. Slawson's Reply

Jews' Alienation' Denied
Maclver Charged With Ignoring
American Society's Pluralism
In your news column of May 8,
and in his letter published May
14, Dr. Robert Maclver, a sociol-
ogist of no small stature and
achievement, has given voice to
many misconceptions about the
causes of what he calls the con-
tinuing alienation of Jews from
the rest of American society. He
has located one of the sources of
"alienation" in "the distinctive-
ness of Jewish culture" which
supposedly hampers the integra-
tion of Jews into society as a
whole.
Dr. Maclver assumes a condi-
tion of "alienation" not justified
by the facts. Quite to the con-
trary, American Jewish Commit-
tee studies show that American
Jews have today the greatest
opportunity in their history to
participate fully in all facets of
American life and are taking full
advantage of this opportunity.
Receptivity to Diversity
His other unwarranted assump-
tion is that American society
exists as an undifferentiated,
monolithic bloc, a "prevailing
culture" in his words, which
excludes groups and individuals
because of their differences. By
now the pluralistic nature of
American society is fully estab-
lished; the receptivity to diversity
is a prevalent characteristic
of American society today. The
myth that an Anglo-Saxon, Prot-
estant culture represents the
true nature of America has cer-
tainly been exploded by the
election of an Irish Catholic as
President.
Whatever exclusions do exist,
they are not the product of "cul-
tural distinctiveness," but rather
of the prejudices which exist in
the heart and mind of the prej-
udiced person. To the prejudiced
individual, difference of any kind
is seen as dangerous, and safety
is supposed to be found in uni-
formity. By now social scientists
agree than any differences, cul-
tural, religious or otherwise, are
seized by the insecure and un-
stable as rationalizations for prej-
udice and exclusion. Dr. Mac-
Iver seems to have accepted the
rationalization for the cause.
There is ample evidente, with
which Dr. Maclver must be fa-
miliar, that the retention of group
identity, especially in a pluralis-
tic society such as ours, far from
alienating an individual from
his society, actually imparts to
the individual a sense of sure-
footedness and personal security.
It is indeed dangerous for
Americans to harbor the view
that difference in itself should
produce prejudice. That such a
position is untenable is mani-
fest when we consider the race
problem.
JOHN SLAWSON.
Executive Vice - President, The
American Jewish Committee.
New York, May .14, 1964.

Sociologically, Dr. Slawson is superb. But what he said is hardly
icient. Prof. Maclver dealt with specific Jewish practices, and
e generalizations will not undo the damage that can be done by
the Council for Judaism and Dr. Maclver. The Council's position

A Debate Over "Separatism':

Maclver vs. Slawson and the
Basics in Jewish Traditions

By Philip
alomovitz

is well known. It is because it would abandon Jewish identity and
assimilate thoroughly that it also seeks to harm Israel and would pin
the label "Zionist" upon everything that is evil. It sought to distort
the intentions of the State Department by publishing portions of a
letter from Assistant Secretary of State Phillips Talbot out of context.
Then it resorted to the Maclverisms in its effort to belittle Jewish
traditions.
What is involved here is the question of cultural-spiritual
separatism. Let it be admitted in all frankness that there is a
separatism. We do oppose mixed marriages. (We are not alone in
taking such a stand: many other faiths object to their followers
marrying out of the faith). We have Biblical injunctions for the
observance of the dietary laws and there is hardly need for apologies
for kashrut. And we have the Sabbath!
With all of that, we are a part of the American community and
we are a faith apart. We are not a part of the Judaeo-Christian
tradition: it is Christianity that is a part of it, acknowledging the
Judaic heritage by adhering to the over-all title of its tradition.
If we were to submit to the advice of a Maclver and were to
yield to the bitterness with which his opinions smack, we would
have to abandon our own faith, we would indeed have to turn Judaea-
Christians—which we are not—and we would have to plead guilty
to an accusation that just because we cherish a heritage that has a
distinctive character we are strangers in Dr. Maclver's society!
A collection study of various cultures made under the auspices of
the United Nations several years ago included an analysis of the
Jewish position, and the author of that portion of the study showed
that the survival of the Jewish people is due primarily to the adherence
to dietary laws (kashrut), to the observance of the Sabbath and to the
love of Zion.
We know how the world has been elevated to highest standards by
the great contribution our people has made of the Sabbath as a day
of rest. Without it, we would have had a continuing enslavement in the
world. Have we lowered the standards of mankind by our dietary laws
which have been accredited by many as having served as the founda-
tion for our pure food laws? Is anyone harmed by a type of separatism
which permits Jews to adhere to Biblical dietary injunctions? We
won't speak now of the love of Zion: how much more rational (and
how much happier!) the Judlaisms whom Dr. Maclver addressed would
have been if they recognized the realism of such a love!
Another point must be made relative to our cultural position in
the society of nations: at no time had our share in the general
community ever been interrupted. While cherishing our traditional
treasures, we continued to make contributions to the cultures of our
neighbors, wherever any of us may have been. To speak divisively
on the subject therefore means treating it destructively, and our
approach always is intended to be positive, not negative.
Dr. Maclver bargained for our disappearance in the rather pre-
tentious and unwarranted speech he delivered two weeks ago. Even
on the score of separate Jewish organizations (and how he did blunder
when he decried also the existence of separate Jewish social workers'
organizations which have a definite place in our communities because
of the special appeals to them from the distinct Jewish group!) Dr.
Maclver could be wrong. Hasn't there been set up a five o'clock dead-
line for social relations, thus forcing Jews to meet, socialize and
organize as Jews?
We return to the simple formula: that there are cultural-spiritual
separatisms, and that the Jewish separatism is especially unique. But
it is not a harmful one. It is an enriching part of American culturalism,
and to debase it is to debase also basic American principles.

Vegetarianism and Kashrut

As a sort of a postscript, Robert Maclver could well be asked

whether it is proper to condone vegetarianism



or would he call

that, too, a food taboo — while condemning kashrut. .
The Christian Science Monitor carries a very interesting daily
feature by its editor, Erwin D. Canham, under the title "Dialogue

With Youth." The Canham column recently carried an inquiry from

Claremont School in England that asked:
"I should like to know if you think it is right for us to eat meat,
as in the Bible, Genesis: 1:29 we are told that God gave us every

herb bearing seed and every tree yielding seed, for our meat. Also,

the sixth commandment states definitely, Thou shalt not kill. I under-
stand there is great cruelty in the rearing and killing of animals and
birds for food. I do not think this is right. Although I enjoy eating
meat, I could not kill an animal myself."
To this, Canham replied:
"The overwhelming majority of Christians and Jews have not
interpreted the Bible as requiring vegetarianism. The enlightened
student of today strives to understand the Bible spiritually, not just
literally. To take one passage from the Bible and pin one's faith on it
sometimes overlooks the significance of the whole. So, as to vegetar-
ianism, people must follow their own interpretations and convictions.
Many ardent followers of other religions, such as Hindus, are firm
vegetarians. I greatly admire those who hold such convictions. But
in India the sacred bullocks do not constitute a symbolism that is
particularly attractive to nonbelievers. I feel that the humanitarian
arguments for vegetarianism are stronger than the theological ones.
It's pretty complex: if we all became vegetarians what would happen
to the animals, the fowls, the fishes? The wild .ones might get along
all right, or they might starve—as sometimes happens now—because
of the "poplation explosion." The presently domesticated animals, now
raised for food, probably would die out, or drastically dimish. In short.,
there are more urgent problems and nobler opportunities for spiritual
living than this particular riddle."
There isn't too much of a relationship here to kashrut, except for
the reference by the CSM editor to both humanitarianism and theology.
Kashrut is theological. It also is related to pure food principles and
to caution not to abuse our use and choice of food. Even if it were

only theological, there would at once be a defense for kashrut. But it

hardly needs defense. Many Jews are abusing it, but there are many
who insist upon it — and they shall have it. And there is no doubt
that even in its reduced observance it is destined to remain an im-
perishable part of Jewish traitions.
Accepting the Juxtaposition—'with equal pride'
In "Assimilation in American Life," published by Oxford Uni-
versity Press, Prof. Milton M. Gordon discusses this issue involving
"separatism" with considerable skill.
This important book will be discussed in a later issue. For the
present purpose, let it suffice to quote Prof. Gordon's concluding
assertion: "What is gravely required is a society in which one may say
with equal pride and without internal disquietude at the juxtaposition:
'I am a Jew, or a Catholic, or a Protestant, or a Negro, or an Indian,
or an Oriental, or a Puerto Rican'; 'I am an American'; and am a,
man.' "

UAW's $250,000
Check for Bonds
Shown to Senator

Emil Mazey (right), UAW
secretary-treasurer, is shown pre-

senting a check for the $250,000
Israel Bond purchase by the
UAW International to Senator
Philip A. Hart, guest of honor at
the testimonial dinner Sunday at
Cobo Hall, where a total of
$370,000 in Israel Bonds was sub-
scribed. Hart was honored by the
State of Israel for his champion.
ship of human rights and his

friendship for Israel.

Sen. Hart Asks
End to German
Help to Nasser

In an appeal for action against
the arming of the United Arab
Republic to the detriment of Israel,
Senator Philip A. Hart, in a speech
on the floor of the U. S. Senate,
on May 19, warned of the impend-
ing dangers and urged that the
Bonn Government adopt legislation
to end "without delay" the activi-
ties of German scientists wha are

aiding Nasser's destructive activi-
ties.

In his speech "about Nasser's
policy of war in the Middle East,"
Senator Hart said:
"Many of us are challenging the
State Department's estimate of
President Nasser and its seem-
ing unwillingness to face the
facts and to asssess him for what
he is—a dictator who has define-
ed a farflung hegemony, who
creates havoc in the countries
around him and who has mark-
ed Israel for destruction. Such
an assesment, it seems to me, is
unavoidable. Nasser is not keep-
ing his goals a secret. If his arms
stockpile were not so formidable,
there might be some basis for
the evaluation we sometimes
hear that all these threats are

nothing but bluster. But
material is not bluster.

war

"In addition to the modern
and sophisticated weapons he
gets from Moscow, Nasser has
the willing hands of highly
skilled German scientists who
have been working in Cairo to
put deadly missiles — some, it
is reported, designed to carry
nuclear waste — into the hands
of this self-acknowledged war-
maker. It is inconceivable that

these scientists are still in Cairo,
despite the protests that have
been made. If the Bonn govern-

ment has no law which can be
haIt the services
these men are rendering to cata-
strophe, then let us hope it will
pass such a law—and without
delay."
To substantiate his argument,
Senator Hart quoted and inserted
in the Congressional Record as part
of his speech an article from the
London Economist indicating the
slowness of the Bundestag in
adopting legislation to stop the a¢

invoked to

tivities of the German scientists ill

the UAR; a statement on the sub-
ject by Israel's Foreign Minister
Golda Meir and the text of the
resolution on the subject adopted
by Israel's Knesset on May 4.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
Friday, May 29, 1964

2

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