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December 05, 1986 - Image 70

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-12-05

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

Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mon. Thru Thur s.
Fri. & Sot. 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Closed Sun.

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American Jewish Creativity Explored
At Symposium In New York

ELSA A. SOLENDER

Contributing Editor

N

ew York — Despite
Bellow, despite Roth,
despite Malamud, the
jury is still out on the quali-
ty of American Jewish
culture: we'll know how good
it is — or how bad — once we
decide how well or poorly
American Jews have learned
to mediate between tradi-
tional Jewish values and
American values in creating
literature, art and music.
David Sidorsky, professor
of philosophy at Columbia
University, keynoted a recent
evaluation of American
Jewish creativitiy at The
Jewish Museum in New York,
part of the yearlong centen-
nial celebration of the Jewish
Theological Seminary of
America (the museum is a
JTS affiliate). Responders
were Nessa Rappaport, the
novelist and editor; Joan
Rosenbaum, director of The
Jewish Museum, and David
Roskies, Associate Professor
of Jewish Literature at JTS.
Yiddish and Hebrew lan-
guage cultures which had
thrived in the shtetls of
Europe proved "non-
competitive" in the rich
cultural soil of America,
Sidorsky said, leading to an
English language Jewish
culture best illustrated by the
"rite of passage" or "great
transition" novel.
One theme prevails: the im-
migrant leaves the Old World
— with its particularist "kit-
chen" culture of ghetto,
shtetl, insider, religion,
warmth — in order to enter

CASHEW'S

the New World, with its
culture of realism, achieve-
ment, universalism. The pro-
tagonist may be ambivalent
about his direction, he may
even discover that he need
not entirely reject the Old
World, but his ambition is in-
variably outer-directed.
Abraham Kahn's The Rise of
David Levinsky was the first
American Jewish transition
novel. The Jazz Singer was
Hollywood's rendition of the
theme. Saul Bellow's Seize
The Day ranks as the classic
example.
"American Jewish culture
`arrives,' " Sidorsky believes,
"when the direction is re-
versed." Prime example: Ber-
nard Malamud's The Assis-
tant, in which a grocer's assis-
tant who is non-Jewish em-
braces the role and respon-
sibilities of his Jewish
employer.
A serious evaluation of
American Jewish culture
must include the role of the
American Jewish community
as an importer of Jewish
literature in translation,
Sidorsky observed. Major
Israeli writers now address
themselves as much to the
English as to the Hebrew
language audience; so do
writers on the Holocaust,
such as the Italian, Primo
Levi.
With 140 university-level
departments of Jewish
studies and 1000 people
teaching, "Jewish culture
through the lens of Enlight-
enment" is another signifi-
cant new American Jewish
cultural product. In the non-
literary areas such as art and

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70

Friday, December 5, 1986

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

BROILED FRESH WHITEFISH
With raspberry beurre blanc
GRILLED PROVIMI CALVES LIVER APPLEGATE
With apples and onions
PETITE FROG LEGS, Roadhouse Style
SAUTEED CHICKEN PECAN
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95

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J.

music, Sidorsky identified the
principal issue as "how to
merge the universal formal
values with Jewish ethics and
traditional values."
Challenged as to whether
English language Jewish
cultural manifestations pro-
mote Jewish continuity,
Disorsky agreed to an in-
terest in probing the
"Jewishness" of an American
Jewish culture broken off
from religious tradition, or
even the Jewishness of Israeli
secular culture. But he
warned against wetting up
"criteria for exclusion."
There is "a continuous
remarking of Jewish identity
which is the making of
Jewish continuity," Sidorsky
explained. American Jewish
culture has proven surprising-
ly strong: "It does etch iden-
tity," he said. Given the tra-
jectory of expectations for
American Jewry expressed in
previous decades, he ob-
served, "we are way ahead of
what was projected for this
era" The religious component
of American Jewish culture
has demonstrated survival
value. American Jewish sup-
port for Israel 40 years after
its founding is stronger than
anyone expected.
Nessa Rappaport, defen-
ding her view of the centrali-
ty of religious values in any
authentic Jewish culture,
praised Judaism as "an alter-
native vision to the power of
materialism."

DANNY RASKIN

Continued from preceding page

It left me breathless. That's
the kind of people the Coc-
hrans are. I really will miss
working at Beau Jacks. I
wonder how many bosses
could top this!"
Edythe Swartz
FIFTH ANNUAL - Birming
ham Theatre Holiday Food
Drive, this year co-sponsored
by WJR Radio, to aid the
Capuchin Mission Soup
Kitchen, is this Monday .. •
at the Birmingham Theatre.
All donations of non-
perishable foods will be used
by the Capuchins to assure
hundreds of needy families in
the Detroit metro area a
holiday dinner.
Previous food drives have
collected over eight tons of
food ... For every ten pounds
of canned, boxed or dried
foods (or $10 check to the
Capuchin Mission), the donor
will receive one ticket (limit
two tickets per person) to the
Birmingham Theatre musical
Nunsense Feb. 6 through
Mar. 8 . Nunsense has been
selling out in New York for
two years ... Hours of the
food collection are 3 p.m. to 7
p.m. in the lobby of Birming-
ham Theater.
A total of 400 tickets will
be given away.

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