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October 27, 1978 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1978-10-27

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Friday, October 21, 1918

i" 7 • 1, q ,

Purely Commentary

Isaac Bashevis Singer: Yiddish
Gains 'Posthumous Recognition'

Isaac Bashevis Singer was surprised by the Nobel Prize
in Literature. So was his publisher, Farrar, Straus and
So were the Yiddishists who now cherish every bit of
recognition given them in their efforts to keep alive the
language for which they cherish great affection.
It is most interesting, therefore, to read the views of Prof.
Robert Alter who, writing his tribute to Nobelist Singer,
spoke of thin award as a "posthumous recognition" of Yid-
Prof. Alter, whose important work on Jewish writers,
"Defenses of the Imagination," recently was published by
the Jewish Publication Society of America, wrote in the
L.A. Times:

... But Isaac Bashevis Singer is not, in fact, an
American writer any more than novelists Men-
dele Mokher Sforim and Sholom Aleichem were
Russian writers, or the poet and playwright Itzik
_Manger a Romanian writer. Singer, like these
other artists, has his roots in a culture which tran-
scends national borders and geographic loca-
By choosing Singer for this year's Nobel Prize,
the Swedish Academy has in effect granted offi-
cial recognition to one of the most extraordinary
— and ignored — cultures in the world, a culture
of the Jewish Diaspora. To be sure, there were
earlier important Jewish subcultures with their
own dialects in the 2,000-year history of the Dias-
pora. But the remarkable characteristic of the
Yiddish-speaking Jews of Eastern Europe was
their entry into modernity without the simultane-
ous assimilation of their unique culture .. .
In addition, Singer, like his Yiddish literary
forebears who worked without benefit of trans-
lators, is completely unselfish and unapologetic
about his Jewishness. For him there is nothing to
explain or exploit in the exotic Jewish lore out of
which he shapes his fiction. These elements are
simply there for him to use as a writer, and for the
reader — whether in Yiddish or in translation —
to make of what he will.
Singer has a gift which is unusual among mod-
ern writers: He is persuasively charming, in part
because he does not consciously strive for that
effect. Some critics have chosen to stress his mod-
ernity and it is true that compared with earlier
generations of Yiddish writers, Singer's vision is
of moral chaos underlying the world with its con-
comitant stress on sexuality, violence and tor-
mented individual consciousness. But Singer also
preserves many of the distinctive virtues of ear-
lier Yiddish fiction: Its sure sense of indigenous
Jewish characters, shrewd humor and un-
abashed expression of emotion.

By Philip

The 1978 Nobel Prize That Signified Distress for
'Posthumous Recognition of Yiddish'... Commentator's
Carcow Experience as It Relates to the New Pope

German, and now it is the Yiddishist Singer who is greatly
honored. Thus the list of Jewish Nobelists in literature
adds glory to the record of their kinsmen's achievements,

The `Shosha' Story

I. B. Singer's "Shosha" ("Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
aroused special interest because of its publication some
weeks before the author was awarded the Nobel Prize.
Since it is a story of many loves, of the chief member of
the novel's cast of characters having numerous affairs,
including one with a married woman and another with the
child-minded young girl "Shosha," the author was impelled
to say that his father would not have approved of it.
Neither would his father approve of many other Singer
mystical and mythical tales. A vital factor in "Shosha" is
the Singer autobiographical element, his account of a visit
with survivors in Israel, the ideological substance that
marks a moving addition to interchange of views with those
who had suffered the agonies imposed by Hitlerism. It
outweighs the sex incidents, important as they are to d
Many of the Singer associates on the Jewish Daily For-
-ward and in the ranks of the Yiddishists hated him. Was it
all because he was not progressive? It was probably all out
of jealousy that a Yiddish writer had reached the pinnacle
of success in the literary world, that he was published, that
he was able himself to collaborate with translators.
I. B. Singer now spells success. That's what matters — to
him, to the Yiddish world, to literature.

Invincibility of the Church:
Recalling 1962 Cracow Visit

Renewed interest in Polish Jewry is an inevitable result
of the elevation to Catholic leadership of Pope John Paul II.
Because he hails from Cracow, and the proximity of his
birthplace to Auschwitz, there is added interest in the
Cracow community and in the history of one of the most
horrid of the world's tragedies' centered in Oswiecim.
When this commentator visited Cracow in 1962 there
were 2,000 Jews left in that historic city, 1,300 of them over
the age of 65. Now, with the reduction of Polish Jewry to
some 8,000, Cracow's Jewish population may also have
dwindled to perhaps half the 1962 number. This is one of
the results of the calamity that cut down the 3,500,000
Polish Jews to less than 10,000, most of them old and
decrepit and the young undoubtedly influenced by the do-
minant Communist party.
This commentator, before moving on to witness the re-
sults of the horrors at Auschwitz, took an early morning
walk with an associate in the visiting party into the main
streets of Cracow. There were outdoor chapels and elderly
people stopped to worship there and to throw in their coins
for the Catholic Church. They were performing it in a
Communist-oriented society and it was quite evident then
that the Church was conducting its business as usual and
was defying Communist pressures.
It was also evident that the Catholics in Poland, number-
ing about 95 percent of the population, were not being
subdued by the ruling party.
It is from such an environment that the new Pope stems
and may be influenced in his leadership of the 700 million
Catholics in the world.

There is a basic fact to be considered in judging the
status of Yiddish. The Yiddishists boast that the language
is taught in many universities. The fact is that what is
taught is Yiddish literature in translation. That is why,
deplorably, the recognition is "posthumous."
It is undeniable that while Singer writes in Yiddish his
works are popularized in English translations. He is often
his own translator with a co-worker, but his writings
nevertheless are read in languages other than Yiddish.
Singer also is read in Hebrew translations and his son,
who is a kibutznick, has done such translating. Here is a four-hour play on the
story from the current Jerusalem Post as proff of the son of crucifixion, produced by an
the Yiddishist being a Hebraist:
emigre Polish film director
for the educational televi-
TEL AVIV — Yisrael Zamir, Isaac Bashevis
sion arm of the Ontario gov-
Singer's 39-year-old son, lives in Israel at Kibutz
ernment, is causing a con-
Beit Alpha. He was plating metals at the kibutz's
troversy. -
metal plating plant when he heard on the three
The play, which cost
o'clock news Oct. 5 that his father, who lives in
$500,000, is called The
New York, had won the Nobel Prize for Litera-
Jesus Trial" and it purports
to examine the 2,000-year-
In an excited voice he told The Jerusalem Post
, old Christian legacy of the
that he couldn't believe it. "In 1967 when S.Y.
deicide. It is based on an ac-
Agnon received the prize, I was sure that father
tual courtroom case that
didn't have a chance anymore, because they
took place in 1974 in the
wouldn't give the prize to another Jewish writer.
French city off' Troyes.
Last year when Saul Bellow received the prize
then I knew that was it, he being both an Ameri-
A French lawyer named
can and Jewish writer."
Jacques Isorni wrote a book,
Zamir also works as a general reporter for Al
"Le Vrai Proces de Jesus"
Hamislunar, and has translated into Hebrew two
(The True Trial ofJesus), in
of his father's stories, "A Crown of Feathers," and
which he argued that his-
"A Friend of Kafka " into one book called "The
torically it was not the Jews
Key," which was publ
ished by Sifriat Hapoalim.
but. the Roman Procurator
He is now planning to print his Hebrew transla-
Pontius Pilate who bears
tion to "Enemies, a Love Story."
the responsibility for Jesus'
Nobel Prizes in Literature had previously gone to execution. He was chal-
Shmuel Agnon, the Hebraist, Nellie Sachs, the survivor lenged by a cleric, Abbe
from Nazism who was a noble Jewess writing poetry in Georges de Nantes. A libel

The new Pope was in a forced labor camp during the Nazi
years of bestialities. He is undoubtedly acquainted with
what happehed at Auschwitz, the murder of the Six Million
Jewish martyrs, the destruction of Polish Jewry whose rich
chapter of notable contributions to Poland is imbedded in
his country's history. With such a background he must
succeed with his platform of fairness and justice towards all
religious faiths. Hence an interest in the cause of justice for
Jewry must be anticipated with hope and confidence.

Communal Recognition
for Pioneer Mediator

David S. Tanzman has such an impressive record of serv-
ice as a mediator as Well as in the community, as a devoted
Jewish activist in traditional ranks and in behalf of Israel,
that the acclaim to be accorded him at a testimonial ban-
quet on Tuesday is a highly merited recognition of a
lifetime of labors In this community.
He retires after 38 years in government service with the
Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. As a citizen he
is active in Jewish War Veterans, United Hebrew Schools, -
Allied Jewish Campaign, Rabbinical Council, Vaad
Hdrabonim, Mizrachi, Zionist Organization, Labor Zionist
Alliance, Jewish Community Council, Bnai Brith, Jewish
National Fund, ORT and the day schools.
Recipient of many awards, he headed the Akiva Day
School and also was active in the ranks of Hillel Day School.
He did not let party politics mar his interest in all move-
ments for Israel.
Therefore he can be called a Kol Bo, an all-inclusive
man, and as such he is being honored with the participation
of all groups with which he is affiliated. More power to such
a devoted public servant.

Detroiters' Major Roles
in Shaare Zedek Hospital

So impressive is the service rendered by Shaare Zedek
Hospital in Jerusalem, its research and rehabilitation proj-
ects have become so vital in rendering services in time of
war as well as in peace, that it has become a leader in
rendering health services for Israelis.
So impressive is the work of this hospital, which now
ranks with the leaders in hospitalization in Israel, that
Jewish communities throughout the world have come to its
aid in the building of the hospital's new $50,000,000 medi-
cal center, which is to be dedicated Nov. 5-12.
The hospital's needs have captured the interest and
gained the support of a large number of Detroiters and
about a dozen of them will be going to Israel this week to
participate in the dedication of the new buildings.
It is notable that Detroiters should be financing research
projects, a rehabilitation workshop, the dialysis unit and
many other projects, in addition to dedicating rooms at
Shaare Zedek Hospital.
Such support increases interest in Israel's needs and
involves Detroiters, and Jews in many American com-
munities, in vital undertakings in Israel.
Shaare Zedek Hospital has begun to approach Hadas-
sah's hospitals in popularity in Israel. Together, both
groups provide for Israel one of the most vital human needs
and it is encouraging to know that Detroiters play whole-
some roles in such undertakings.

Canadian Show on Teicide' Creating Fuss

suit ensued which eventu-
ally was won by the lawye-

The film enacts the
French trial based on its
reported text. It also in-
terweaves shots from a
Mexican passion play
that has been performed
in Ixtapalapa for the past
150 years, a performance
of startling realism since
at times the person play-
ing Jesus has not sur-
vived to reach the cross,
so acute are the actual

Also shown are actual
films of Nazi concentration
and death camps. In addi-
tion, continuing interreli-
gious strife and killing is
shown in scene's from to-
day's Ireland and Lebanon.
There are comments
throughout the production
by a wide variety of theolo-
gians, scholars, writers and
churchmen from Canada,

the U.S., Great Britain and
Israel, including such per-
sons as Canadian Jewish
poet Irving Layton, British
Writer Hugh Schonfield,
Prof. Emil Fackenheim
Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut,
Rev. Franklin Littell,
Father Gregory Baum, Sis-
ter Charlotte Stein and
Prof. Northrop Frye.
Though the program will
not be shown publicly until
early November, pre-
screenings have caused con-
troversy. Roman Catholics
have complained that "The
_Jesus Trial" does not
adequately take into ac-
count the Second Vatican
Council convened by the
late Pope John XXIII and
all that has happened flow-
ing from this council to alter
the church's basic position
on the crucifixion and the
They also point out that
Father de Nantes, pre-

sented in the film as a typ-
ical Roman Catholic
spokesman, is now con-
sidered virtually a here-
tic in church circles and
is diametrically opposed
to current accepted
church policies.
Some ,religious leader.
have expressed concern that
the film displays an-
tagonism to religion per se.
It states at the beginning
that religion is "the bed-
mate" of intolerance and
ideology in producing
hatred; that it may have the
counter-effect of reinforcing
in the minds of some view-
ers the so-called guilt of the
Jews in stressing their suf-
fering and persecution, seen
by some as their "just des-
erts"; that TV Ontario, as
an educational arm of the
government, should not in-
troduce it into the schools
where it could be mishan-
dled by unskilled teachers.

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