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November 02, 1984 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-11-02

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

2

Friday, November 2, 1984 •

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

PURELY COMMENTARY

PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

The naive and realists: Pre-election random thoughts

Only the very naive fail to realize
and admit that -perhaps 95 percent of the
American electorate has already reached
a final decision on who to occupy the
White House in the coming four years.
Therefore, further debating and agoniz-
ing over the debates, whether they are
vitriolic or informative, becomes sense-
less.
The voter must, in the American way
of judging candidates, be given credit
with concerns over social domestic issues
as well as foreign affairs involvements.
Nevertheless, new trends are in evi-
dence. The country, like most of the world
outside the Communist sphere, is becom-
ing ultra-conservative. In some areas it is
approaching reactionary leanings.
There are other concerns. The injec-
tion of fanaticisms into the current cam-
paign has become deplorable. The resort
to religious pressures — they are more
than appeals, they are pressures! — has
not raised the standards of American
fair-play ideologies.
Candidates and their supporters who
have embraced Arafat could not possibly
be considered people to be trusted with
any public duties, and certainly not the
political.
Whatever the results of the election
on Tuesday, nationally and on a
statewide basis, there may be temporary
concerns caused by the results. In the
long run, the people of this country must
retain a sense of confidence that if there is
evil to be confronted it will be shortlived.
This is a thought that must be
entertained in relation to a decline of the
liberalism that is the very core of Ameri-
can life. Indeed, we are in the throes of
ultra-conservatism. That's tolerable, as
long as liberals and radicals are not stig-
matized as evil-doers. This was part of the
1984 method of campaigning in this
country, and that was the most tragic of
all developments. There were appeals to
patriotism and those who resorted to it
failed to admit that they had no monopoly
on the duties of citizenship.
Therefore, with whatever the results
of the current election, new duties appear
on the horizon for the American citizen.
There may be a need to revive a tolerance
for liberalism, a respect even for
radicalism. All citizens are loyalists de-
voted to the best interests of this country.
There is need for the unity that em-
phasizes respect for differing views and a
unity of peoplehood that is emphasized by
it.
Indeed, whatever the results in
Tuesday's voting, this basic ideal re-
mains a chief duty for every citizen.
There cannot be, there must never be,
defection from it!

The most serious issues:
Religion and Jackson

Proof that "minds have been made up"
became more evident with the editorial
endorsements, with New York Times, De-
troit Free Press and others in the Mondale
corner; Chicago Tribune, N.Y. Daily News
and those sharing their views backing
Reagan.
The major human concerns are what
matters. Nuclear warfare, education, aid
to the handicapped are the compelling
matters.
Politicizing religion must never be ig-
nored, just as deifying cheap ward politics
dare not be tolerated.
The voters will surely be the proper
judges.
There is one element in the campaign
that is associated with bitterness. It is the
Jesse Jackson presence which is tooted as
carrying with it a menace to America. No

one can realistically endorse the anti-
Semitic aspects in a campaign that was
marked by so much anger. No rational
American with a sense of fairness gave
comfort to the Jacksonian prejudices. Of
course, no one will endorse the iews of a
man who embraces Arafat, just as voters
must think twice before voting for a judge
who had embraced Arafat. But in the proc-
ess of having confidence in the good judg-
ment of American leadership on all major
matters affecting the-life of the nation, so
also must be the self-esteem in believing
that Arafatism will not influence the gov-
ernment, no matter which party succeeds
on Nov. 6.
Jesse Jackson has made one good con-
tribution to this nation: he has encouraged
participation of the blacks in the ranks of
responsible citizens who respond to the
duty of utilizing their citizenship obliga-
tion as voters. Now it is the total national
duty to enroll them to guide them in exer-
cising that right in the best interests of this
nation and humanity. What is good in
Jacksonism will be good for them; what is
evil for humanity and the nation in
Jacksonism will be most evil for them.
Let's have confidence in the American
people: they will surely know how to judge
the politicians, for the Presidency and
judgeships.
Let's have confidence in the American
voter: he'll know how to split the ballot,
vote properly for the Presidency and judge-
ships, select the well-tried and ablest in the
Congressional races. November 6 is voter's
day to ascertain it.

'

A life for a life?

Jewish extremists, seeking vengeance
for the murder near Hebron of a Hebrew
University student, attacked an Arab bus,
killed one Arab, injured several, laid claim
to the right to exact a life for a life.
It has often been said that this is the only
understanding Arabs have when there is
murder: that vengeance calls for another
life to be sacrificed. Such legends do not
belong in a Jewish lexicon. They are
wrong, they are not Jewish, they do not
justify the extremism that has created a
Jewish terrorism, and it will surely exact
condemnation in Israel as•well as the Dias-
pora.
What has developed in the form of a
Jewish terrorism is not condonable in
civilized ranks. Those are the ranks where
Israel and Jewry choose to be.

Inviting respect, proper
judgment in treatment of
the world's personalities

Business Week is not a literary maga-
zine. As the name implies, it deals with
business. Therefore, personalities in the
business world are the specialized news
magazine's concern. That is why its issue of
Oct. 8 merits special attention. An article
comments on the latest book by Stephen
Birmingham, The Rest of Us: The Rise of
America's Eastern European Jews (Little,
Brown and Co.). Birmingham is known as
the author of best-selling books about
American Jews with origins from Ger-
many and Spanish-Portuguese back-
grounds.
In the new book, the quest for sensa-
tions is the emphasis and Business Week
renders a great service with the following
item:
Stephen Birmingham, a New
England Episcopalian, has
achieved literary fame exploring
the history of American Jews. His
best-seller, Our Crowd, dealt with

German Jews who came here in
the mid-1800s and became rich,
largely as financiers and retailers.
In The Grandees, he wrote about the
equally successful Spanish Jews,
who migrated at least a century
earlier. Now, in The Rest of Us, Bir-
mingham turns his attention to the
Eastern European Jews who ar-
rived from the 1880s until World
War I and whose descendants now
account for the bulk of the nation's
5.7 million Jews.
Despite his good intentions,
Birmingham does a disservice to
American Jews whose Yiddish-
speaking families originated in
Russia, Poland, Hungary,
Romania, Lithuania and other
Eastern European enclaves. He
tells their story by forcusing on the
well-known eccentricities of a
handful of fabulously successful
but often unappealing people —
Samuel Goldwyn. Louis B. Mayer,
David Sarnoff, Helena Rubinstein,
Samuel Bronfman and Meyer
Lansky.
By dwelling on such offbeat
celebrities, Birmingham offers a
highly distorted view of how
Yiddish-speaking immigrants and
their offspring have made it here.
He overlooks the legions of
businessmen, scientists, artists,
politicians, and other public fig-
ures who were just as successful as
Birmingham's heroes but who
were not eccentrics. Granted, Sar-
noff, Bronfman, and the Hol-
lywood tycoons make good copy.
But a more serious treatment of the
Eastern European Jews in
America would have shown that to
succeed one did not have to be a
screwball, a crank, or — as in the
case of Lansky — a criminal.
Those concerned with realities and
with the need to search for the positives
rather than the negatives in the back-
grounds of newcomers to this country,
should be gratified with what was accom-
plished in this review. Contrary to the
usual flattering blurbs in Publishers
Weekly and other periodicals where works
like the current by Birmingham are
acclaimed, Business Week has exposed a
great fault. There is so much in the record
of Americanized East European Jews that

what Birmingham did earned severest
criticism.
It is not Birmingham alone who is at
fault and who must be called to task for
sensationalism. There are many others.
The subject thus called to the atten-
tion of historically-minded people is vaster
in its scope than merely another book.
There are many literary attempts that are
subject to challenge. Recently, a very popu-
lar author, who has gained fame as an
"authority" on Talmud and major Hebraic
scholarly legacies, was called to task for
serious errors and was challenged on his
claims of being a Hebrew and Aramaic
authority.
Such challenges must be encouraged.
Else, truth will be buried by misleading
documents.

ZBT: The fraternity with
a notable background

Tragedy struck the oldest-on-record
Jewish fraternity in this country. One stu-
dent died and several were injured in the
fire at the fraternity house of Zeta Beta
Tau of Indiana University in Bloomington.
Any similar tragedy, regardless of the
Jewish or ethnic positions of the occupants
of a fraternity or other home, is cause for
sorrow. In the instance of ZBT, it provides a
reminder of the origin of the fraternity.
Zeta Beta Tau was founded by Prof.
Richard Gottheil of Columbia University
toward the end of the last century. He used
the phrase from Isaiah 1:27, which reads:

Zion shall be redeemed with
justice, and they that return of her
with righteousness.

The mere phrase Tzion b'Mishpat
Tipode — Zion shall be redeemed with jus-
tice — would imply that the fraternity was
a Zionist organization. On the contrary,
during all the decades of the existence of
ZBT, surely until the rebirth of Israel's
statehood, its leadership was anti-Zionist.
Enigmatically, Founder Gottheil was a
pioneer in American Zionism and was the
first national president of the Federation of
American Zionists, which later became the
Zionist Organization of America.
It is as an historical note that the re-
collection of this fact is utilized as a com-
ment on a regrettable tragedy.

Isaac Bashevis Singer autobiography
emphasizes fiction as life's reality

Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis
Singer keeps stimulating his readers with
so much that stems from Old World experi-
ence that his writings retain the appeal
that earned him world recognition. -
The mere fact that Yiddish literature
won recognition in the awarding of the
Nobel Prize to Singer is in itself an indica-

tion of an acceptance, although it had to be
based on translations.
Indeed, his acclaimed works are the
translations. Interestingly, Singer often
participates in translating his own works
into English.
While demons and the satanic have a
predominance in the I.B. Singer themes, a
more impressive autobiographically-
idealized volume has just been issued
which gives emphasis to family legacies
and a spiritual idealism in the life and
works of the eminent Yiddish literature
Nobel Prize winner. Love and Exile
(Doubleday) is his newest classic.
Under a summarized title, A Memoir,
the new volume contains three of Isaac
Bashevis Singer's books which have rela-
tionship to his childhood and his settle-
ment in this country. They are A Little Boy
in Search of God, A Young Man in Search
of Love and Lost in America.
Together, they form a most interesting
portrayal of a literary activist's experi-
ences.
It should be noted in relation to the

Continued on page 24

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