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January 13, 1967 - Image 40

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1967-01-13

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Sholem Asch's Bible Stories
Voluntary Character of Future Jewish
Community Portrayed by Robert Gordis Offered in New Schocken Book

laboring for themselves alone.
Dr. Robert Gordis, in another of
They will help build the world
his highly scholarly works—"Juda-
of tomorrow, which will be dedi-
ism in a Christian World," pub-
cated to the enhancement of life
lished by McGraw Hill Book Co.—
for each human being. This re-
provides a most im-
quires freedom for every man as
pressive guide for
an individual and for the group
those seeking a tho-
from which he derives his cul-
rough understanding
tural and spiritual values. Thus,
of their position as
American Jews will demonstrate
Jews amidst non-
the truth of Bernard Lazare's
Jews. It is a power-
great affirmation, 'Being a Jew
ful text for all who Dr. Gordis
is the least difficult way of be-
are responsible, as rabbis, as
ing truly human."'
teachers in Israel, as leaders in
These inspired ideas evolve from
Jewish communal causes; and it
is valuable for the laymen who the analyses of the issues in this
are at times bewildered but for impressive work. Dr. Gordis takes
whom there is much value avail- into account the dangers that face
an assimilating Jewry as well as
able in Jewish experiences.
Primarily, Dr. Gordis concerns the elements of acceptance and
himself "with the values that may creativity. He concedes that the
be found in the Jewish heritage most threatening occurrence in
and with the hope that modern Jewish life is the growing rate of
Jews can be won for meaningful intermarriage, and its dangers,
Jewish commitment." The explana- but he warns that "far more per-
tory details, the evaluating mater- vasive than intermarriage and out-
ial, the pragmatic fashion in which right conversion has been the wide-
most of the issues that may be spread alienation from Jewish
troubling Jewry are covered here, values characteristic of many
make the new Gordis work one of creative and intellectual Jews."
his most effective in dealing with
Thus he shows how Juedisches
the basic needs for Jewish appre- selbsthass —Jewish self - hate — has
ciation of a rich legacy.
played a role in undermining Jew-
Analyzing the historical and ish loyalties. He pleads for the
psychological reasons "which "conscious commitment to Juda-
prevented the disappearance of ism" and places emphasis on the
Jews and Judaism." Dr. Gordis educational needs in Jewish life.
deals with the historical back-
To deal with the threat of in-
ground of Jewry's status, with
termarriage he proposes several
the people's religious move- constructive steps: Formation of
ments, with the Science of Juda-
Family Counseling Centers staff-
ism (Juedische Wissenschaft),
ed by men and women "who are
with Zionism and Israel, with
not indifferent to Jewish life
Jewish traditions and religious
but believe in it and want it to
liberty, with Judeo - Christian
survive"; "the Jewish community
concepts, with the basic prob-
must make an effort to bring the
lems such as intermarriage and
non-Jewish partner into the com-
with American Jewry's role:
munity through conversion to
Dr. Gordis- sees the future Jew-
Judaism"; exploration of all
ish community as being "voluntary
facets of the problem by form-
in character," not dependent "on
ing institutes on intermarraige
persecution or coercion to hold the
and family problems with a view
loyalties of its members but on its
to considering "the various
innate resources of the spirit."
methods available for meeting
He declares, "In a voluntary com-
this crucial problem of life and
munity dedicated to organic Juda-
death for the Jewish people."
isin the Jewish tradition, content-
With reference to "the wide-
ful and multiform, will enrich the spread alienation," Dr. Gordis il-
lives of its devotees and enable lustrates with these two examples:
contemporary Jews to make their
"A striking case in point is af-
most significant contributions to
forded by one of the most gifted
of contemporary dramatists, Arthur
the free society of today and the
Miller, who, as far as I know, is
world community of tomorrow."
a Jew. Nevertheless, the values and
of his powerful play 'After
Outlining the various historical
the Fall' derive from Christian theol-
ogy, but without the saving grace
backgrounds and offering his en-
of its affirmations. The title of the
lightening explanations of the nu-
play itself reflects the central role
which the Adam and Eve narrative
merous problems that beset Jewish
in Genesis occupies in the Christian
life, Dr. Gordis speaks of the vol-
drama of salvation, where it serves
as the prelude to the advent of the -
untary community which "will un-
derscore the body of ethical and
"The evidence for Miller's aliena-
universal ideals which its religious
tion from Judaism, however, goes far
beyond the title. In several of his
teachings and national conscious-
plays, Miller reveals a growing con-
ness have sought to perpetuate and
ception of sex as inherently evil.
Maggie in 'After the Fall' becomes
intensify. It will therefore em-
the symbol of sex as infinitely al-
luring and infinitely sinful. This is
phasize the duty and destiny of the
far removed from the normative Jew-
State of Israel, and of world Jew-
ish teaching on sex and marriage.
Even more central is the obsession
ry, to advance the Messianic ideals
of the hero, Quentin, with the search
of the One God and of the one hu-
for 'purity' and 'innocence.' Since
by their very nature these virtues
manity, embodied in a world order
do not exist in men, Quentin comes
of social justice, individual and
to the conclusion that all men are
involved in guilt, and hence the crim-
group freedom, and universal
- inal and his victim are both equally
peace. It will need to evolve an
sinful. Thus when Quentin, who is
himself Jewish, sees the barbed wire
approach to the dominant religious
of the Nazi concentration camp, he
culture of the Western world,
says, 'My brothers died here . .
but my brothers built this place.' He
which is basically Christian or post-
has learned that 'We are dangerous
Christian, that will make it possi-
. . . the wish to kill is never killed.'
All we can do is 'forgive it; again
ble for Judaism to engage in fruit-
and again. . forever?' Not being
ful cooperation, while safeguard-
a formal Christian, Miller does not
go so far as to offer the answer of
ing its own individuality."
Christian theology that the grace of
"To achieve these goals," Rabbi
Christ forgives and atones.
"Like so many Jewish intellectuals,
Gordis declares, "the volun-
Miller has ceased being a Jew with-
tary Jewish community of the
out becoming a Christian. And how
much has been lost in the process
future will give, in deed and not
of alienation! The voice of the
merely in word, the highest
Hebrew prophets, their faith in the
right and their moral passion, the
priority to Jewish education for
painstaking endeavor of rabbinic law
and practice to build a just society,
children, adolescents and adults,
all this has been silenced in the com-
conceived in the broadest terms
fortable profundities that lie 'beyond
good and evil.' Quentin muses over
and based on the three pillars
his past: 'I look back to when there
of faith, culture and peoplehood.
seemed to be a kind of plan, some
duty in the sky . . . the world so
"From the 3,000-year-old ex-
wonderfully threatened by injustices
perience of his people, the mod-
I was born to correct. How fine!
Remember? When there were good
ern Jew has inherited a rich ' and
bad people? . . . Like some kind
tradition which has been shat-
of paradise compared to this.' He
thus validates the abdication of moral
tered into fragments. His trag-
decision and the surrender of moral
edy is that he does not know
judgment, and in effect justifies the
refusal to undertake any action
what to do with it; his glory is
against evil.
that he is unwilling to do with-
"The attractions of this position are
manifold, but its perils are self-evi-
out it. By striving to restore its
dent. Were Arthur Miller spiritually
wholeness of spirit and making
and intellectually Jewish, he would
have recognized that the legitimate
It relevant to the world, con-
goal of human striving is the con-
temporary Jews will not be
cern not for 'innocence' but for


40 Friday, January 13, 1967


'righteousness' and that discrimina-
tion and judgement in the ethical
sphere are essential and indispensable
aspects of the human condition.
"It is the same blurring of ethical
judgement which is the crucial de-
fect of Hannah Arendt's controversial
treatment of the Eichmann trial in her
‘Eichmann in Jerusalem.' As one
wades through her meticulous analysis
of the various bureaus, divisions, and
offices of the Nazi apparatus, the
whole hideous enterprise becomes
vastly impersonal and the living vic-
tims disappear from sight in the proc-
ess. She finally arrives at the con-
clusion that the Jews are at least
as guilty of their destruction as the
Nazis—if not more so!"

An interesting point made by Dr.
Gordis is that Jews, collectively,
"created a powerful refutation of
the argument that total assimila-
tion was the answer for most mod-
ern Jews. "He points to "a deeply
rooted desire to perpetuate the
Jewish identity, an attachment to
cherished observances and prac-
tices, and a streak of stubborn de-
termination not to surrender Ju-
daism merely because it was the
butt of prejudice and ill will. Many
Jews could not in good conscience
assent to the dogmas of Christian-
ity, which generations of their an-
cestors had found totally unaccept-
able. As a result of these external
and internal factors, the majority
of Jews living in Western Europe,
of which America was a cultural
dependency, espoused two goals.
The first was the retention of poli-
tical citizenship with its concomi-
tants of civic equality, economic
opportunity and cultural accept-
ance; and the second, the retention
of some form of Jewish identity."
"From the days of the French
Revolution to the present, the
ideal which most modern Jews
have sought, and not always
found, is integration without as-
similation and acculturation
wthout absorption," Dr. Gordis
indicates in summing up his
comments on Jewish traditions
in the modern world.
His total summary points to the
possibility of integrating such an
existence. In the course of his
evaluations, he comments on the
status of Yiddish and Hebrew—
and there is evident his love and
appreciation of Yiddish; the im-
mense values of the Zionist contri-

Hebrew Corner

Union of Hapoel

There are 62 religious settlements
in all parts of the country organized
in the "Union of Hapoel Hamizrachi
Settlements." The union also organizes
(army recruits who volunteer to serve
in border settlements), from among
whose members come additional set-
tlers for the existing Moshavim or who
themselves found new settlements.
The settlements have a population
of 25,000 persons. The cultivated area
is 2,000,000 dunams in groves, field
crops, vegetables, etc. There are more
than 10,000 head of cattle, 20,000 sheep,
and about 2,500,000 chickens.
Not less (than this) is the spiritual
property. These settlements have excel-
lent religious schools, post elementary
religious educational institutions, Yes-
hiva High Schools, Ulpanim for girls,
and religious Youth Aliya institutions.
Some of the settlements have become
spiritual centers for the entire country,
and people come to their institutions
from all parts of the country to study
Economic institutions are affiliated
with the Union to assist the settle-
ments. These institutions are the
"Hapoel" Hamizrachi Settlement Fund
and the "NIV" Company, which serve
as financial instruments for granting
loans to the settlements and to individ-
uals within them. Another economic
body which serves the settlements is
the "Purchasing Organization of Ha-
poel Hamizrachi," which deals with the
regular supply of all the human and
livestock requirements of the settle-
ments and organizes the marketing- of
their products. The Organization also
centralizes the purchase of agricultural
and transport vehicles, work tools, etc.
The "Mivtach" Company is affiliated
with the Union and deals with all in-
surance matters in the settlements,
such as life insurance, fire insurance,
accident insurance, etc.
Representatives of the Union partici-
pate in all Government agricultural
institutions in the country and in the
Jewish Agency which deals with all
the different problems of settlement in
Thus the "Union of Hapoel Hamizra-
chi Settlements" comprises a small
republic of religious settlements exist-
ing on agriculture in the spirit of
"Tora and Work."
Published by Brit Ivrit Olamit with
the assistance of the Memorial Foun-
dation for Jewish Culture.
Material in vowelized, easy Hebrew
can be obtained through your local
Hebrew organization, or by writing to
Brit Ivrit Olmit, P.O. Box 7111,
Jerusalem, Israel.

Sholem Asch's name is indel-
ibly written in the history of Yid-
dish literature and in the great
novels that have appeared in trans-
lation in many languages. It is not
generally known that Asch had
enriched the Jewish children's li-
brary with his remarkable biblical
A collection of Bible stories by
Asch has just been made available
by Schocken Book. "In the Begin-
ning," presented in a translation
by Caroline Cunningham, with im-
pressive drawings by Eleanor
Klemm, is a work of unusual merit.
In 126 pages, the publishers
have incorporated 36 brief stories,
commencing with "Adam" and
continuing with the Bible tales
through "Jacob's Burial."
The clarity with which the tales

butions to Jewish life, the differ-
ences in religious adherence by the
various groupings.
He goes into considerable detail
in discussing the Science of Juda-
ism, as well as the assimilatory
tendencies in some quarters. There
is special merit to his approach to
Christian-Jewish relations and to
the difficulties in achieving a gen-
uine understanding of Judaism in
Christian quarters, He pleads:
"Jews and Judaism must be rec-
ognized as living. elements of the
modern world and not as a "fossil-
ized relic of Syriac society,' to cite
Toynbee's famous and unfortunate
The troubled Jew will find guid-
ance towards a more peaceful Jew-
ish existence in Dr. Gordis'.-- out-
lines of the values and meaning-
fulness of Jewish commitment. His
"Judaism in a Christian World" is
a timely tonic in eliminating much
of the confusion that has afflicted
Jewish thinking in the modern

are told, their retention of the
scriptural spirit, the fascinating
skill with which the stories are
told for young readers, retain for
them the charm that is inherent
in biblical lore.
There are the stories about
Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel,
Noah and His Ark, the Patri,
archs starting with Abraham.
Joseph and his brethren, t'
experiences in Egypt, Jacob's
rival in Egypt, his death and buri—.—
—and the many other tales be-


tween these numerous episodes—
all combine to offer the young
reader a thorough view of Bible
Asch's powers as storyteller, as
weaver of fiction with facts, as
the author who was able to cap-
ture the spirit of old so that it
should be understood and appre-
ciated by the present generation,
make "In the Beginning" an out-
standing collection of stories for
our youth.

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