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December 07, 1973 - Image 42

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1973-12-07

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



THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
42—Friday, Det. 7, 1973

Israeli Leaders
to Meet Detroiters

Participants in the Detroit
Zionist Federation study mis-
sions to Israel will meet with
Israeli Finance Minister
Pinhas Sapir; Chief Rabbi
Shlomo Goren; and military
commentator Chaim Herzog,
the DZF has been informed
by the World Zionist Organ-
ization.
Meetings with political
leaders concerned with the
forthcoming Israeli elections
also are scheduled for the
10-day missions, which will
leave Dec. 16, Jan. 13 and
Feb. 3. For reservations and
information, call the DZF
office, 559-6755 or 557-2171.

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Dr. Gross' Notably Defined Literary Anthology

Prof. Theodore L. Gross,
dean of humanities at City
College of New York, treats
his compilation of Jewish
literary achievements with
so much respect and admir-
ation that his impressive
work, "The Literature of
American Jews" (Free Press
—Macmillan), earns a dis-
tinct place in major literary
studies.

In his preface, he makes
this significant comment:
"Like all great human ex-
periences transfigured into
literature, the gift of being
Jewish in the 20th century
has been returned as a gift
for all people, a token passed
on in the form of a perman-
ent literary heritage."

This treatment of his an-
thological task becomes ap-
parent in the selections he
had made from the works of
the literary giants of our
time. More important are the
author's introductory essays
to each of the three major
parts of his work. His defi-
nition of a Jewish writer, his
delving into the role played
by Jews in drama, stage and
poetry, and the analyses of
reactions to Jews, the anti-
Semitic trends and the emer-
gence of a Jewish personal-

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ity in the literary world—
these are results of com-
mendable studies that pro-
vide the reader with this very
noteworthy book.
Dr. Gross' definition of a
Jewish writer is that he is a
Jew who, in the final analy-
sis, "has chosen the art of
writing to extol or to con-

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PROF. T. L. GROSS

demn a certain way of living,
believing„ fighting, or in one
word: being."
Perhaps Dr. Gross can be,
and should be, described as
a traditionalist when he says
about the Jewish writer: "He
remains a Jew even if he
writes against Jews. Except
that in this case, he will be
an apologetic Jew and an
inauthentic writer . . .. What
is most ironic is that even
his rejection of his Jewish-
ness identifies him." (It is
like the observant Jew saying
"Yisrael of al pi sheaata ..."
. . . a Jew even if he has
sinned remains a Jew).
The reasons for Dr. Gross'
selections become apparent
in his assertion:
"Jews have been particu-
larly prominent in all the
arts. The development of
the ate r, film, television,
printing and music in Amer-
ica is marked by brilliant
Jewish actors, directors and
performers; indeed, the first
real success in the arts was
achieved by popular enter-
tainers like Charlie Chaplin,
Eddie Cantor and the Marx
Brothers. Of all the arts,
however, literature has been
the most faithful reflection
of the Jewish experience in
America . . ."

It was natural for the
compiler to begin with Isaac
Mayer Wise, to devote the
first section of his book to
the immigrants, to select for
his anthology Abraham
Cahan as well as Emma
Lazarus, Mary Antin, Penina
Moise and the sensational
dramatist Adah Isaacs Menc-
ken who also wrote poetry
and was a friend of Walt
Whitman.

Therefore, for continuity,
the second section of this
work deals with and includes
selections from the works of
Clifford Odets, Ludwig Lewi-
sohn, Michael Gold, Waldo
Frank Ben Hecht, Henry
Roth and Daniel Fuchs.
On the latter score, Dr.
Gross comments in his intro-
ductory statement:
"In the 1930s those intel-
lectual Jews who had aban-
doned the formal religion of
their fathers channeled their
moral sensitivity into social-
ist causes. Their writing
tends to be journalistic and
politically rooted, not yet
artistically distant from the
materials that affected them
so much. They had not ex-
plored the full impact of
Western Christianity on their
Jewish experiences: that
connection, as well as the
fate of Jews in World War
II and the migration to Is-
rael, affected the conscious-
ness of American Jews of
the next generation so pro-

foundly that they produced
what must be considered the
most significant body of lit-
erature in America since
1940. Between the wars
talented Jewish writers re-
called their indigent youth
or recorded the struggles of
their families during the de-
pression of the 1930s."
It is to the third section
and the much lengthier
essay defining the writers
and their works included in
it that one must turn for a
fuller evaluation of the most
current literary develop-
ments.
Here we have an impres-
sive representation — Ber-
nard Malamud, Isaac Bashe-
vis Singer, Elie Wiesel, who
also wrote a brief foreword;
Philip Roth, Herbert Gold,
Norman Mailer, Delmore
Schwartz, Arthur Miller,
Saul Bellow; the poets in
addition to Schwartz, Karl
Shapiro, Muriel Rukeyser,
Allen Ginsberg; critics, Les-
lie Fiedler, Nathan Glazer,
Alfred Kazin, Lionel Tril-
ling, and several others.
This is the section in which
the compiler describes the
influence of Israel upon
writers' thinking, the anti-
Semitism in certain Ameri-
can writers' ranks, the deep
concern by Jewish authors in
the issue involving the blacks
and the race equality prob-
lems.
This is also the section that
evidences the 'book's major
shortcoming: the elimination
of Maurice Samuel. Mere
reference to him is insuffi-
cient. Among Jewish authors
he was the most positive, and
a discussion of Jews in
American literature is incom-
plete without him.
It is here that Dr. Gross
makes the observation, re-
garding "this quarter cen-
tury, in historical terms,"
and asserts:
"The energy of • creativity
has faded, its outer limits
reached, its essence await-
ing definition, codification
and description. J e wish-
American writing deserves
this study, for it has been the
most important literary ex-
pression of our time, Ameri-
can in its broadest contours,
but Jewish in its silent, in-
timate furrows, in its buried
places and hidden, half-for-
gotten echoes of immigration,
childhood, family and relig-
ion. American, certainly, but
somewhere in its tangled
root s, Jewish. Stubbornly
Jewish."
Is it conceivable that there
is a fading, that it is ending?
All too often, anti-Semitism
creates new expressions,
arouses new devotions, in-
spires additional creativity.
Dr. Gross has produced a
valuable work. His analyses
are impressive in all re-
spects. It is a near-total pre-
sentation, but not all-com-
plete. In the main, he has
produced a great work. Per-
haps new printings—the book
deserves it—may find a place
for Maurice Samuel. There
are others, whose roles may
be debatable. And there is
a future that can not be
ruled out. What Dr. Gross
produced may, indeed, be a
auguries of continuity.

Riches and Labor
The riches of a country are
to be valued by the quantity
of labor its inhabitants are
able to purchase, and not
by the quantity of silver and
gold they possess. -- Ben-
jamin Franklin.

People Make News

District Court Judge S.
JAMES CLARKSON, attend-
ing the 13th annual confer-
ence of the American Judges
Association in Boston, was
awarded a certificate of ap-
preciation in recognition of
distinguished service render-
ed by him on the resolutions
committee.
* * *
MEYER BASS, a Jewish
communal worker of long
standing, has been appointed
director of the national de-
partment of culture, educa-
tion and community activi-
ties of the Labor Zionist
Alliance, it was announced
by Dr. Judah J. Shapiro,

president, and Jacob Katz-
man, executive vice presi-
dent, of the national fraternal
organization with headquar-
ters in New York.

Sympathy
Whoever walks a furlong
without sympathy walks to
his own funeral drest in his
shroud. — Walt Whitman.

Candids by

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