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November 26, 1976 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1976-11-26

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2 Friday, November 26, 1976


Purely Commentary

Business Fraternizing and Social Gaps Between Jews and
Gentiles and the Anti-Semitic Bias Dating Back to
Amalek . . . Bellow's Star on Jewish Horizon

By Philip

'The Social Gap' and the 5 O'clock Dividing Line

An intriguing headline over an article in the Sunday, Nov. 14 edition of the
Detroit News by a staff writer of that newspaper has caused eyebrows to flutter,
socially-minded to quiver, the argumentative to relish a platform, the sensitive to
consume aspirin.
"Jews and Gentiles: The Social Gap Survives" was the headline causing the
gasps. It aroused enough discussion and concern to merit an award for the writer,
Shelley Eichenhorn.
If an award is contemplated it also is merited for the . dispassionate approach,
the adherence to facts, the authoritative quotes.
Actually, what was there to be excited about? If it is truth, then it also is not
news; if it is distressing, it also is not a new development.
The senstitive are surely distressed because that which afflicted their pa-
rents should also be a cancer in social realms for the children, posing the danger of
being passed on without quiver to grandchildren.
That's where the heartache locates. But if it is inevitable, then why the fears
and worries and distress? What must be, must be, as long as the social gap is
limited to the nights and unaffected by the sunshine of business relations, politi-
cal tolerance, educational respect.
Does the Detroit News analysis of an existing social gap inspire a study of
Jewish experiences in this country? If it does then the story is as old as Amalek.
("Zkhor et Amalek" — Remember Amalek — "zakhor mah asah lekha Amalek" —
Deuteronomy 25:17). It need not be an anti-Semite like Torquemada or Chemiel-
nicki or their ilk. In the social gap it is the high ranking, the polished, the
peace-advocate who plays with bias. He talks amity and practices animosity.
Perhaps this chapter in social action should be entitled "From Amalek to
Brandeis." Why be so concerned about a JeWish lawyer in Detroit or a merchant in
Grand Rapids when the socially biased were also on the bench of the highest court
in the land? Louis Dembitz Brandeis' name has gone down with glory in American
history. He has enriched jurisprudence. Yet, when he mounted that bench there

were two members already serving on the U.S. Supreme Court who not only hated
him as a Jew but constantly harrassed him.
The Brandeis experience can be multiplied a thousand-fold. Jews and Gen-
tiles meet constantly for Lunch to make big business deals. Then the contact
Should Jews be grateful that at least in the spheres of business and education
there is cooperation while the relationships relating to the academies and stock
markets are in process?
Perhaps it should be asked: what happens to the comradeship created by the
Bnai Brith when it honors, perennially, a prominent non-Jew at an annual di- ,
ner? Hundreds of Christians are at these functions, arranged, understandably
a large downtown meeting hall because the response from non-Jews as well aL,
massive Jewish audience is so extensive. They do not meet in a synagogue since
such an event is not synagogue-geared, but they serve kosher meals to the
attendees. That's how they create a measure of understanding and camaraderie.
So, it could be asserted with a measure of satisfaction, that philanthropically
there emerges a cooperativeness. Jews go to philanthropic functions arranged by
Gentiles, Gentiles come to philanthropic events administered by Jews. Should we
shout hallelujah to philanthropy that unites faiths on some occasions?
Indeed, the social gap sensationalized in the Detroit News' Shelley
Eichenhorn article is not new: it is a mere reminder of continuity in social divi-
Heywood Broun (1888-1939), that remarkable writer who was born a Protes-
tant and died a Catholic, who was such a keen observer of human events, wrote a
book on the subject in 1931. He entitled it "Christians Only: A Study in Prejudice."
In that valuable study he coined the phrase: "Five O'Clock Anti-Semitism." More
than 45 years ago that eminent writer exposed the facts: of business as usual
between Jews and Gentiles until 5 p.m. Then the social anti-Semitism began. Isn't
it evident that the sensation in the Nov. 14 Detroit News sensational article was
history repeating itself?

The, Bellow Role in Literature and on the Social Scene: Notable Characteristics

Saul Bellow is a case all his own. He displays characteristics that are admira-
ble. When he lost out for the Nobel Prize last year, while in Israel preparatory to
the publication of his "To Jerusalem and Back: A Personal Account" (Viking
Press), he was not bitter. When he received the Nobel Prize in Literature this year
he was modest, gentlemanly. He commented, when asked about another famous
Jewish writer, that he would not object to Norman Mailer receiving the Nobel
He doesn't object to speaking about himself and he offered a revelation. He
had planned to prepare for an academic career and wanted to teach English
literature. He learned there was, when he had that hope, a bias against Jews in
the departments devoted to literature in the American universities. He turned to
writing and the success he has attained is a matter of record.
This writer recalled his own days at the University of Michigan. Jews
headed the German and French departments, they were on the faculties of
economics and sociology and soon a Jew was to become Dean of the Department of
Economics. But Jews had no chance in the English department where, ironically,
a Jew, Dr. Louis A. Straus, who hailed from the Hart, Schaffner and Marks family,
headed the department.
An interesting counterpart to Saul Bellow's frustrated hopes for a teaching
post in English literature is related by Charles Madison, the eminent author and
authority on the publishers of this country, especially the Jewish publishing field.
Upon his graduation from the University of Michigan, Madison, a former Detroi-
ter, did graduate work at Yale, under a very prominent scholar. He expressed his
interest in teaching, with English literature as his specialty, and the eminent
professor who headed the English department at Yale told him frankly: you have
a speech impediment which is not very serious, but you are a Jew and won't be
placed; why don't you get a job in a publishing house. Madison followed his advice
and adhered to his warning. He went to Henry Holt and Company (later Holt,
Rinehart and Winston). He was employed, came on the assigned Monday morning
to assume his duties as an editorial reader in the college textbooks department
and was greeted with a hearty welcome. Then he was asked whether he had a nice
weekend andwent to church on Sunday. Madison said it was a delightful weekend
and if he was to go anywhere he would have gone to synagogue on Saturday. The
man who gave him the job was horrified. He said if Mr. Holt were to know about it
he would throw both of them out of the highest window. Madison offered to leave
but was asked to stay on and risk the consequences and he remained with the firm
for some 38 years until his retirement. He even authored a book about the Holt
Publishing Co. His most recent book, "Jewish Publishing in America — The
Impact of Jewish Writing on American Culture," was reviewed in The Jewish
News on Sept. 24. (Madison was among the very knowledgeable authors who
addressed the annual Jewish Book Fair here on Nov. 16.)
Back to Saul Bellow: there is something remarkable about the man. He was
not "born anew" in Jerusalem, and his experience in "To Jerusalem and Back" is
not a "return" as such to the Jewish fold. It is primarily a great experience, an
affirmation of a legacy he does not talk about, a dedication to truths he learned
from experience and he now adheres to it.
Viking Press understandably glories in Bellow's triumph on the world scene.
The book on Jerusalem is certain to be a long-running success among best sellers.
Interestingly, in a press release, Viking utilized a few exceptional quotations
from "To Jerusalem . . ." At functions honoring Bellow participants have read
excerpts from his book. Noteworthy, as a recognition of the new achievement, is
the following, with excerpts from the book in the Viking news release:
In the fall of 1975, Bellow and his wife
people in a dining room like any other.
Alexandra .visited Israel for seareral
You know that your hostess has lost a
months, she as a professor of mathema-
son; that her sister lost children in the
tics at the Hebrew University and he as
1973 war; that in this Jerusalem street,
a writer, guest, traveler, reader, lis-
cooly sweet with night flowers and dark
tener, student, Jew, American. Bellow
green under the lamps, many other
visited the other dimensions of Israel's
families have lost children . . But in
mind and its spirit as much as he visited
the domestic ceremony of passed dishes
its hills, borders, and market places.
and filled glasses thoughts of a destruc-
The account he gives of his sojourn is a
tive enemy are hard to grasp. What you
very personal, often disquieting, al-
do know is that there is one fact of Jewish
ways engrossing view of Israeli life to-
unchanged by the creation of a
Jewish state: you cannot take your right
Here you sit at dinner with charming
to live for granted . . .

Life in Israel is far from enviable, yet
there is a clear purpose in it. People are
fighting for the society they have
created, and for life and honor . . .
Sartre and others apparently want the
Jews to be exceptionally exceptional.
Perhaps the Jews have themselves
created such expectations. Israel has
made extraordinary efforts to be democ-
ratic, equitable, reasonable, capable of
change. It has, in fact, transformed its
Jews. In Hitler's Europe, they were led
to the slaughter; in 1948, the survivors
became formidable fighters. Landless in
exile, they turned into farmers. The
Mamelukes had decreed that the Palesti-
nian coastal plain should be a desert;
they made a garden of it. Obviously, the
Jews accepted a historic responsibility
to be exceptional. They have been held to
this; they have held themselves to it. Now
the question is whether more cannot be
demanded from other peoples. On the
others, no such demands are made .. .
"To Jerusalem and Back" is a liter-
ary cornucopia: Bellow's interests and
curiosities are as individual as they are
wide-ranging — food, people, politics,
poetry, more people, guns, weather,
and more people. His account is stud-
ded with conversations and interviews:
the old barber at the King David Hotel;
Mr. D., a proper diplomat of the Foreign
Office; his friend John Auerbach, a
kibutznik seaman; Dr. Z., the
gynecologist; Weisgal, the Zionist
pioneer; an indignant middle-aged
librarian; Michel Tatu, foreign-news
editor of Le Monde; an Armenian ar-

chbishop; Teddy Kollek, Mayor of
For the most part, Bellow listens, but
not always:
I briefly tried to persuade Rabin that
Israel had better give some thought to
the media intelligentsia in the United
States. I say that the country is in a let's-
clean-it-up mood. We've cleaned up Vie-
tnam, cleaned up Watergate, we are now
cleaning up the CIA and the FBI and the
Medicaid frauds. If the media were to lay
the problem of the Palestinians or peace
in the Middle East before Ameircan pub-
lic opinion while the country is in this
impatient state, calling on the govern-
ment to 'clean it up,' it might be disastr-
ous for Israel.
Israel's survival depends inordi-
nately on other peoples and other na-
tions, and Bellow looks to them — the
Arab countries, England, France, and,
above all, America — to try to un-
derstand and explain Israel's behavior,
posture, and fate.
A small state in perpetual crisis, it is
forced to keep pace with the superpow-
ers, to buy the sophisticated arms at
great cost and master them, to live in a
condition of partial mobilization; it has to
do business, to analyze correctly Ameri-
ca's fiscal policies, the mood of the Con-
gress, the powers of the American mass
media. Out of pure need, for the sake of
survival, it must immerse itself in
American problems. Israel must reckon
with the world, and with the madness of
the world, and to a grotesque extent. And
all because the Israelis wish to lead
Jewish lives in a Jewish state.
Bellow was honored by the Bnai Brith Anti-Defamation League on Nov. 14
with the Democratic Legacy Award and the principal speaker at the function was
Israel Ambassador to the UN Chaim Herzog. It was the appropriate time to
expose the injustice of a UN Security Council resolution relating to the status
Jerusalem. Because Bellow's latest and Jewishly most impressive theme w.
Jerusalem it was especially effective that Ambassador Herzog should have
stated, addressing the Nobel Prize winner:
"On Thursday evening, the Security Council by a consensus statement ex-
pressed the opinion that measures and actions taken by Israel in Jerusalem are
invalid and called on Israel 'to rescind all such measures already taken.'
"Translated into reality, Mr. Bellow, the Security Council unanimously called
on Israel to return the building and district in which you lived and wrote 'To
Jerusalem and Back' from its present aesthetic beauty, its peculiar attraction, its
spectacular architecture, its human purpose, back to death haunted mine-fields, a
no-man's land strewn with barbed wire and reeking with the decaying corpses of
straying animals blown up on the mines in which the voice of hatred reigns, in
which the laughter is not that of children but of jackals and in which the voice of
human intercourse is replaced by the stutter of the machine gun.
"The beautiful immortal city which has been so lovingly nurtured by Mayor
Teddy Kollek is to revert, according to the Security Council, to a city torn, divided,
at war again. The freedom for all religions, which had been the pride of the Israeli
administration, is to be replaced by the restrictions, the discrimination, the anti-
Jewish and anti-Christian laws of the Jordanian regime.
"You could not, Mr. Bellow, return to your apartment in Neve Shaananim, a
center of writing, of culture, of beauty, because it would revert to the center of a
no-man's land."


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