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June 13, 1969 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1969-06-13

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Purely Commentary

An Interesting Chapter in American Jewish History
Involving Assimilatory Attitude of an Eminent Member
of Warburg Family ... Exchange of Letters With Editor

Warburg is a name steeped in respect, with admiration earned My mother confirmed that such
for the generosity of a family that has played enviable roles in bank- I was indeed the case. She s a i d that
because of this, a Jewish boy
ing, finance, education, politics as well as philanthropy.
One of the eminent members of that family passed away last week, should always be very careful not
and his death served to recall the background of an eminent group to push himself forward. This
that, like other prominent American families, is vanishing from our puzzled me. It seemed like accept-
midst. In their case, it is probably true that they are the vanishing Jews. Mg some sort of second-class
We are reconstructing an important chapter in current history status."
In spite of their assimilatory
relating to James P. Warburg, Presidential adviser under Franklin D.
Roosevelt, able economist, distinguished author, who perhaps more attitudes. his parents impressed it
definitely typified the wealthy assimilated Jew who acknowledged his upon him that "to be a Jew was
Jewish background but had abandoned his loyalties to his Jewish something of which to be proud."
heritage. . But, referring on this score to his
James P. Warburg had written a great deal about world affairs. parents: "Neither of them could or
Vietnam. the Middle East. The volume in which he analyzed his status would explain just what remained
as a Jew is, undoubtedly, of greatest interest to us. It is with that of this heritage if the Jewish
aspect that we concern ourselves now in order to present the experi- religion were shucked off. It
ence of a prominent Jewish personality that so well typifies many seemed to me that nothing more
others. We deal now with James P. Warburg's "The Long Road Home: remained than a disbelief in the
The Autobiography of a Maverick" which was reviewed at length in divinity of Jesus Christ."
this column in which it was indicated that this Warburg "remains a
This is a frank evaluation by a
maverick," that he wrote in excellent style, and special emphasis was man who was "bar mitzva in the
placed on the chapter in his book entitled "What Is a Jew? Why Is traditional manner," who at 10,
He 'Different'?" The review (Jewish News May 15, 1964) called atten- to the surprise of his parents,
tion to Warburg's recollection of "the experience of his having wanted to be "a real Jew" like
stopped contributing to the United Jewish Appeal because of his Grandfather Warburg and who
objections in 1959 (prior to the hearings that were subsequently dreamt of becoming a rabbi; who
instituted by Senator Fulbright) to the allocation of subsidies to Zionist was influenced by Judah L.
political parties." Our review gave the full details of Warburg's Magnes, "the rabbi to whom I was
actions, in his own words, in the autobiography that aroused our isent for training," but who later
deep interest. It is on that score that we now share with our readers had another influence under the
an interesting correspondence on the subject.
headmaster of the Middlesex School


in Concord, Mass. — the Unitarian

It is necessary to understand the ures in Jewish life. There have Robert Winsor. It was under the
background of that interesting ex- been musicians in their ranks . Influence of that school that "the
change of views by first quoting James' name will go down in atmosphere of friendliness seemed
from the review. In the May 15, American history as a noble par- to say: 'We don't care who you
ticipant in the developing foreign are! it's what you are that
1964, review I wrote in part:
matters'."
James P. Warburg's father, policies.
For those who desire to assure
In his discussion of being a Jew
Paul, was one of the founders of
the Federal Reserve System. Im- the survival of the Jewish people. and being "different" he informs
migrants—James also was born there arises the inevitable ques- us: "Out of this experience grew a
in Germany—they soon integrated tion: where are the children of feeling of skepticism with regard
marvelously into American life this and many other families (the to Christian fundamentalism very
and became the leaders in many Schiffs, the Marshalls, and many similar to my rejection of Mosaic
others)? Is it inevitable that the mythology and Jewish orthodoxy.
spheres.
From his famous father, James third generation should vanish and On the other hand, I liked the
had heard this story and resorted that there won't even be a fourth hymns (at compulsory Sunday
generation of Jews who will retain chapel) much as I enjoyed the
to it as his guide all his life:

"A little frog fell into a glass
of milk and swam about frantically
trying in vain to get a foothold on
the slippery sides of the glass.
More and more exhausted, he was
about to give up and let himself
drown but decided to give one last
big kick. As he did so, the milk
turned into butter and the little
frog stood on dry land."

their identity as Jews?

Since James P. Warburg has
seen fit to raise the question of
"What is a Jew?" and to discuss
the difference, he must face the
challenge in reviews. He may not
view it as a challenge. Yet, he
must recognize the validity of an
American multi-faceted culture
which does not deny the Jew the
right to remain one, just as ad-
herents of other faiths may insist
upon the retention of a heritage
that is sacred to them.
James Warburg's children may
or not be brought up as Christians.
His second wife (non-Jewish like
his first), to whom he is so hap-
pily married, certainly is not send-
ing their children to a Hebrew
school. But the maverickian auto-
biographer comes by his attitudes
honestly and naturally. He refers
to his parents as having been
"twice-a-year Jews." His mother
read Psalms and biblical stories
to him, he liked the music of the
Psalms. "but was interested in
the Bible chiefly because I hoped
to learn something about the care-
fully guarded mysteries of sex and
procreation."
How else does an offspring whose
"father seemed to have rejected
the traditional Warburg orthodoxy"
react? Writes James P.:
"I felt warmly about Grandfa-
ther Warburg's Friday evenings
and loved the sound of Hebrew.
On the other hand, I was repelled
by the proselytizing religiosity of
my New York uncle, Jacob Schiff."
One could make much of the
"repelling" element in this atti-

The life story of this eminent
American tells about his career in
the theater, as author of "Can This
Be Love?", "Fine and Dandy,"
"Can't We Be Friends?". It is an
account of his role as a double
piano player with George Gersh-
win as well as his participation
in the New Deal brain trust.
James P. Warburg was 36 when
he was assigned by Franklin D.
Roosevelt to membership on the
U.S. delegation to the London
World Economic Conference in
1933. Later, differing with FDR on
monetary policies, Warburg as-
sailed the President in his "Hell
Bent for Election." During the last
war he again offered his services
to Roosevelt and became asso-
ciated with the Office of War In-
formation. More recently he was
an adviser to President Kennedy.
He is an intimate friend of Adlai
Stevenson and still boosts him as
one of America's great hopefuls.
A reviewer could go on, unceas-
ingly, drawing upon the Warburg
experiences for an evaluation of
the history of American politics
and our relationship with other
• nations—as well as the domestic
developments—from the Warburg
account. For the Jewish leader
there is special significance in the tude, but there really were many
numerous Jewish references in occasions when James P. spoke up
"The Long Road Home."
and acted with great dignity on the
The family history is that of a score of his heritage. But there
Jewish dynasty. That's what it were other aspects to his thinking.
was in the lives of most of the For instance, here is how he got
Warburgs. (James' father Paul to his middle initial P.
had three well-known brothers:
"At school in New York, I soon
the eminent Felix, the great discovered and was hurt by the
philanthropist whose son Edward fact that to be a Jew evidently
follows in his father's footsteps meant being considered 'different'
and is chairman of the Jewish and an outsider. A slightly older
Joint Distribution Committee; Max boy whom I rather liked used to

and Aby).
What is happening to this
dynasty? Where are all the sons
and daughters of this great family
whose fathers had been so active
in philanthropy and in education?
There are Warburgs in eminent
roles. Edward M. M. Warburg is
to this day one of the great fig-

chanting of the Hebrew cantor."
There isn't much here to guide
us towards an understanding of
"What Is a Jew," but for those
who seek a way to avoid disinte-
gration in Jewish ranks there is
a challenge in the concluding senti-
ments in this chapter in the JPW
book:
-From a theological point of
view, I might at this point have
chosen Unitarianism as easily as
Judaism, if I bad felt the need for
any church affiliation. From a
secular standpoint., however, I had
strong pro-Jewish feelings. If the
Jewish people had constituted the
majority group in the American
society, I would have seen little
reason to stand up and be counted
as a Jew. But so long as the Jews
constituted an underdog minority,
it seemed to me that to desert
them would be contemptible. If, in
the existing circumstances, I were
to reject my heritage I would be
nothing more than a renegade
seeking social advantage, unless
my renunciation of Judaism were
motivated—as it would not be—
by sincere conversion to an af-
firmative belief in Christianity.
"As I look back, I am astonished
that, as a boy, I apparently thought
of Jews as being united only by
a religion and by minority status,
so that, if the religion were re-
jected, only the minority status
would remain as a bond. Had I
understood that the Jewish cul-
tural heritage is perhaps more of
a bond than Judaism, I would have
better understood my half-con-
scious, quasitribal feelings of
loyalty."

He didn't lack in pride. When

he was elected to a club while at
Cambridge he informed the upper-
classmen at Harvard that he would
be delighted to join "if my election
signified that the club had aban-
doned its religious discrimination,
but that I would be unwilling to
be singled out as an exception to
a continuing anti-Semitic policy."
He was told that he wasn't "like
other Jews," and it developed that
insert an E between the letters "they had known scarcely any,"
J W. with which I initialed my and JPW declined the invitation to
school paper until I put a stop to join.
it by signing myself JPW. Appar-
A bit later he received a tele-
ently, the word 'Jew' could be a graph from his uncle Jacob Schiff
word of opprobrium; and appar- who expressed concern that he
ently there were some, or perhaps should have married "out of the
even many people who disliked faith in view of its probable effect
Jews and looked down upon them. upon my own progeny,"

"Now," writes the maverick in
reviewing his life's experiences,
"I can chuckle over this message.
At the time, it infuriated me."
How grateful we should be to
JPW for such frankness: in study-
ing the problem relating to sur-

vival, Jews who are concerned
over our people's future certainly
have basic reasons for study of
the attitude of one who comes from
an important Jewish background
but who chuckles over objections
to disappearance through mixed
marriages and for other reasons
provided by him so truthfully !
• • •
So much for the major portion
of the review itself (with the per-
sonal account by Warburg of the
reasons for his having stopped
contributing to the UJA being
omitted. He had made that state-
ment in a speech to the Mishkan
Israel Congregation in New
Haven).
Prior to the publication of the
review, I wrote to Warburg, April

16, 1964, as follows:
Dear Mr. Warburg:

I am intrigued by your inter-
esting "Long Road Home" and I
am about to review it.
Because I was among those who
differed with you after you de-
livered your speech in New Haven
in 1959 contra UJA, I am doubly
involved in the comments I am
to make, and I hope you can en-
lighten me on the aftermath to
this issue.
Since you have "at last found
peace . " and are calling your
book "The Long Road Home," I
wonder whether you also are re-
suming an interest in UJA? UJA
having altered its policy of as-
sistance to political parties, has
that, too, led you towards the
long .road home?
I sincerely hope that you will
lead me towards a path of fuller
understanding of your attitude on
"What Is a Jew?" by giving me
this vital information.

• ••
He was prompt in replying and
on April 23, 1964, he wrote:
Dear Mr. Slomovitz:
In reply to your letter of April
16, I think I have explained as
well as I can my attitude on "What
is a Jew."
As for UJA I am encouraged
by the fact that it has apparently
stopped contributing to political
parties in Israel, but I am not con-
vinced that all funds are used for
charitable purposes. My remain-
ing doubts arise from the recent
Fulbright investigation which
seems to indicate that consider-
able money is devoted to lobbying
in Washington on behalf of Israel.
This, as I see it, is a perfectly
legitimate activity but one which
should not be financed by charita-
ble contributions.



So—even before the appearance
of my review I wrote to him on
May 4. 1964:
Dear Mr. Warburg:
I am very grateful to you for
your prompt and courteous reply
to my inquiry regarding your pre-
sent views on and your response
to UJA. I found your letter upon
my return from a State Depart-
ment Editors' Foreign Policy Con-
ference and a convention of pub-
lishers in New York, and am pur-
suing the discussion in the hope
that you won't mind my probing
further into this issue which is
really so very vital!
We may not agree in interpret-
ing WHAT IS A JEW, but that is
entirely a personal matter. No one
has a right to dictate to his neigh-
bor how he is to treat what I may
call my heritage, or what faith

By Philip
Slomovitz

secutions that come from cousins
who are Moslems, from fellow
men who still call themselves
Christians in lands that are barbed
by Iron Curtains.
Believe me, I am not preaching
to you. But I do often wonder

whether men like you—and I con-
sider you among the geniuses in
the Warburg family, some of whom
I had known and worked with, all
of whom I have admired — are
aware of the speed with which
the awareness about the Nazi Holo-

caust has vanished, the consisten-
cy with which men of the Hitler
era are reconstructing their for-
mer credal paganism of terror, the
hopelessness of the position of
many Jews who wish to remain
Jews.
It was necessary to redeem

Israel and to assure political se-
curity for the new nation. Nov I
speak as a Zionist who was deeply
involved in lobbying. I was a close

friend of Vandenberg. Mine was
the only tribute to him in the mem-
orial volume to the great Senator
that was published by the Senate.
In it I indicated my appreciation
of the late Senator's high regard
for my approach to him in behalf
of the Jewish National Home.
He never asked me how I voted:
we conferred on the Zionist issue
strictly on the basis of. an urgent

humanitarian need. I have dealt
with others, distinguished Ameri-
cans on a similar basis.
I mention this only because I
wish to express an opinion regard-
ing political activities. There was
a time when all Jewish efforts had
to be exerted in defense of the
great cause which was so major
in rescuing oppressed Jews and
survivors from Nazism. That was
when we may have blundered and
used, for some purposes, mainly
innocently, a very small portion of
UJA funds that went to political
Zionist parties. It was an error,
and it was corrected. Regrettably,
it becomes a matter for investiga-
tion by Senator Fulbright's Sena-
torial Committee. But by the time
the issue reached the Fulbright in-

vestigators, that practice had end-
ed. The American Zionist Council
now has been reduced to a skele-

ton, and there isn't a single Zionist
party that gets a dime from UJA
funds.
It was good of you to write as
you did; to admit to the legit-
imacy of lobbying in behalf of Is-
rael. But since this now is done
with funds that are no longer tax
deductible, why aren't you back in
the fold of supporters of the great

UJA humanitarian obligations? The
needs still are so great and so

pressing! And Israel still is in
such great danger!
I am not soliciting for UJA: I
am pleading for mutual under-
standing. When you first withdrew
from the ranks of UJA, you were
accused of being an associate of
the Council for Judaism. That group

has been so destructive, it has so
shamefully misrepresented Jewish
loyalties, it has so arrogantly ac-

cused the most loyal Americans—
one like myself, for example—of
having a double allegiance, that I
would hate to think of a noble
Warburg being a part of that

clique.
If I came to you for a contribu-
tion to UJA, on the basis of what
I have just told you, what would
you say?
I hope you'll reply. Meanwhile,

I am planning, within a few days,
to write the review of your most
interesting autobiography.
a • •
By return mail, in a letter dated
May 6, 1964, Warburg replied:
you or any one else is to pursue. Dear Mr. Slomovitz:
The questions you raise in your
I have no right to tell you how to
raise your children, and you will letter of the 4th cannot be ade-
quately
answered in a short letter.
grant me that right in the manner
in which I may influence my They involve a whole philosophy
of
life.
Let me say this vets
grandson.
But ILIA is an entirely different briefly:
My interest is in the establish-
problem. It involves our reactions
to historical experiences, to peo- ment of a durable world peace.
ple who need to be guided towards
(Continued on Page 22)
the new lives they must build for
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
themselves, to tasks of actual res-
cue of human beings from the per- 2 — Friday, Jew 13, ..1964

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