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March 26, 1976 - Image 20

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1976-03-26

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20 Fru( Ay, March 26, 1976

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Exciting, Con,troversial Factors in Howe's 'World'

Irving Howe's ency-
clopedic work, "World of
Our Fathers" (Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich) is much
more than "-the journey of
the East European Jews to
America and the life they
found and made." It is alSo a
personal chronicle in which
the author retraces his own
childhood and teen-age ex-
periences, with emphasis on
his love for Yiddish and his
lifelong devotion to the
Socialist ideals.
With a family legacy of
association with the Jewish
Bund, with the SOcialist
movement, with the labor
elements in the growing
East Side of New York, the
Howe story emphasizes all
these factors.
His father was a Jewish
Daily Forward compositor.
s How natural that so much
imbided from this inherit-
ance should be reflected in
this immense book!
In a sense, the Howe
story is not complete. It is
not thorough to make the
Forward the chief factor in
Jewish journalism. To dis-
miss Die Tsayt (Zeit) with
a mere few paragraphs is
not sufficient. This applies
to other factors in the
story. Stephen S. Wise had
a more effective role on the
East Side than the limita-
tion assigned to him by
Howe.
Even if the cast of charac-
ters parading through the
pages of the Howe book is
not accompanied by. fully
merited assignations, the
very fact that the list is so

long, that non-Jews who
were enamored` bythe East
Side Jews and the Jews who
were parties to the develop-
ment of the saga are ac-
counted for gives the volume
status as a basis for even

more extensive studies of
the East Side history.
While the resume of the
Jewish press is not tho-
rough, Howe does cover in
teresting ground, including
reference to the Yiddish
paper established by Wil-
liam Randolph Hearst to
serve his political purposes,
an organ that lasted but a

few Weeks.
The educational processes
and the improvised pedag-
ogy, the Kehilla of New
York and other factors re-
ceive good coverage.
Much in the Howe book _
may be cause for disputes,
such as his view of Jewish
humor and -humorists. For
example, he has this--to say
about Sam Levenson:
"Sam Levenson = ami-
able, unthreatening, a soft
suburban sage — was
highly successful as a
Jewish storyteller and, in
keeping with the con-
strained spirit of the mo-
ment, refused to tell sto-
ries about "the little Jew"
(apparently favoring large
ones). He piously added
that he kept his, work
within the "great Hebrew-
Christian tradition" —
though at its sharpest Yid-
dish humor had dealt
blows to both, 'Hebrew'
and 'Christian.' Under-
standable as such bland-
ness may have been in
those dreadful years, the
result was a kind of self-
censorship, replete with
`good will' aid–poor hu-
mor."
Levenson disputes this
view and he refers to his
own statement in "Meet the
Folks" in which he asserts:
"It is mogt unfortunate
that too often the 'Jewish'
joke is neither Jewish, nor is
it a joke. Too much of
`Jewish' humor starts out in
a formula which is funda-
mentally anti-Semitic: 'Did

a

you hear the one about the
Little Jew . . .?'
The eternal 'little' Jew.
Not a YID, but a yiddle; not
a JEW, but a jew. What has
happened to the big Jews,
the writers, the thinkers,
the fighters, the heroes of
the Warsaw Ghetto and
Okinawa?
"The so-called 'Jewish'
joke has typed us almost
invariably as business-
men whose shrewdness
verges upon the corrupt.
And what is a still greater
slander in stories involv-
ing Jew and Gentile, the
former is too often made to
outwit the latter.
"We deny that we.are ei-

ther bigger or smarter than work has another merit: his
any other people. We know collected works which in
the Jew to be kindly and themselves provide a history
charitable, to love his fel- -- of the East Side. The accom-
-low-man, to' be honest, panying reproductions are
hard-working, and peace- evidence of interest-provid-
loving, but no more nor less ing contents which have in-
so than all men of good will spired the endorsements of
of every faith everywhere." and excitements over
HOwe's very impressive "World of Our Fathers."

Hadassah Assoc.
to Hear Chairman
at SZ on April 7

CONTEMPORARY HISTORY: A number of good
books have been written on the life of the Jewish immi-
grants from East European lands to this country. They re-
late the trials, tribulations and achievements of the new-
comers, and their adjustment to the American way of life
while maintaining their own culture and identity.
Some of these books have been authored by competent
historians. None of them is, however, as comprehensive, as
incisive and as absorbingly readable as the "World of Our
Fathers," the 714-page volume by Irving Howe, just pub-
lished by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
This book is not merely a work of social and cultural
history of the East European Jews in the United- States, as
the author asserts. It is more than that. It is a collective
biography — written in depth and against a wide back-
ground — of millions of Jews who came to this country dur-
ing the four decades since 1880, and who, through hard la-
bor, made their way into the American community.
THE GREAT EXODUS: In his "World of Our Fath-
ers," Irving Howe leads the reader through all the transfor-
mations which immigrant
Jews have gone through from
their "shtetl" — where they
live in great pocierty and in
constant fear of pogroms —
till our present time when
Abe Beame, the son of an
immigrant who was a paper
cutter, was elected the first
Jewish mayor of New York,
the largest city in the United
States.

EVELYN SONDHEIM

National chairman of
Hadassah Associates, Eve-
lyn Sondhelm, will appear
at a special evening event.
planned for Hadassah Asso-
ciates, life members and
their escorts, 8 p.m., April 7
at Cong. Shaarey Zedek.
Mrs. Morris - Adler is
chairman of the evening.
Mrs. Peter A. Martin, chap-
ter president, will preside.
A sherry hour will
precede Mrs. Sondhe-im's
address; and a reception will
follow. The movie, "If I For-
get Three" will be shown.
The film re-calls the history
of Hadassah Hospital on
Mt. Scopus, which will be
restored and in operation in
April.
Mrs. Sondheim, of
Kingston, Pa. is a member
of the National Board of
Hadassah and is a former
president of the Eastern
Pennsylvania Region.
Mrs. Norman Rosenfeld
and Mrs. Bert L. Smokler
are co-chairmen of Hadas-
sah Associates. M`rs. G. Ber-
non Leopold is chapter vice
president of membership.
Besides their campaign
for new associate mem-
bers, it is the aim of the
National Hadassah office
to enlist 100,000 life mem-
bers during 1976.
For information, call
Hadassah, BR 3-5441.

Rummage Sale Set

The crowded streets and tenements of New York's Lower East Side were a part
of the family history of most Jews in the United States. Irving Howe's "World of
Our Fathers" discusses many aspects of the new Jewish immigrant's life in the
"streets paved with gold."

The Huntington Woods
JC's Will have a rummage
sale and auction 9 a.m.-3
p.m. Saturday at Burt6n
School. The sale will offer
clothing, household goods,
furniture, tools and miscel-
laneous items. The event
also will include a bake-sale.

Boris Smolar's

'Between You
. .. and Me'

Editor-in-Chief
Emeritus, JTA
(Copyright 1976, JTA, Inc.)

The author describes viv-
idly how the Jews lived under
the Czars in Russia, their res-
idence being restricted to lim-
ited areas in the Ukraine and Byelorussia which be-
came known as the "pale of settlement." He pictures dra-
matically the miserable existence of the Jews in "shtetls" —
the towns where they were permitted to reside. He illus-
trates the conditions of their existence by citing the fact
that under the reign of Nicholas I, more than 600 anti-Jew-
ish decrees were enacted. The situation became even worse
later, thus leading to the great exodus of thousands and
thousands of Jews which started in 1880.
Prof. Howe relates details of this exodus. He describes
how the Jews illegally crossed the Russian borders into
other countries in the hope of reaching America. Abraham
Cahan, who later became editor in New York of the Jewish
Daily Forward•— the largest and most influential Jewish
newspaper in the world — was one of them.
The first years in New York on the Lower East side —
where the immigrants usually remained after landing —
were no bed of roses.
The author brings-out a stirring picture of the priva-
tions under 'Which the.immigrants lived in the first years
after their arrival in this country; it was difficult for Jewish
boys and girls to grow up on the Lower East Side.
He has much- to say about the labor unions which the
immigrants organized to improve their lot and the sacrifi
cial efforts made by them in the fight for better condition.: .
Of work in the sweatshops. His praise goes even higher f-c;
the cultural stamina among the immigrants. There is a nog___-/
talgic warmth in his chapters . on the cultural life of the
newcomers — their lectures and concerts, the literary cafes,
their Yiddish press and theaters, the ideological debates.
Prof. Howe does not have to belabor strongly the.point that
despite their daily worries, cultural interest occupied a spe-
cial place in_their life.
SOMETHING TO LEARN: The present generation of
American-born Jews can learn a lot from Prof. Howe's
book.. When reading it, many of our younger Jews will inev-
itably ponder not. only about the life of their immigrant-
parents and grandparents but. also about what they owe to -
them, as well as -about their own life. -
Jewish mass - immigration is now . practically a closed
chapter. "World of Our Fathers" is, therefore •, a valuable
volume of American-Jewish contemporary history.

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