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August 14, 1987 - Image 30

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-08-14

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PURELY COMMENTARY

Dr. Gordis And Waldheim

Continued from Page 2

and background have always
observed.
However, when Mr.
Waldheim visited the Mosque of
Omar he dutifully-and properly-
removed his shoes at the en-
trance in accordance with
Muslim practice. Can impartiali-
ty and even-handedness go any
further?
Dr. Robert Gordis
Editor of Judaism
Professor of Bible and the
Philosophies of Religion
Jewish Theological Seminaries

This is evidence of two factors. One
is the additional accusation against
Waldheim and the increased proof of his
guilt. The other is a reminder of the
failure of a leading newspaper to give
credence to an accusation against a
bigot who held a leading position on the
international scene. The NYTimes
needs a reminder of it.
What Dr. Gordis had written several
years ago must serve as part of the
documentary condemnations of a man
who holds the presidency of a leading
European nation.

An Additional
Condemnation
Of Waldheim-Pope
Meeting

It should be noted here that the
recognition Pope John Paul II gave to
Kurt Waldheim will not be sanctioned
by reasonable people. In his column in
the NYTimes Sunday, Aug. 2, which he
entitled "On My Mind: The Pope and
Waldheim: Time Enough to Think,"

Few Jews will ever complete-
ly forget what they take as a
deliberate insult at worst or
hard-skinned blunder at best.
But American Jews and
Catholics involved agree that
everybody would benefit if the
Pope allowed himself to recoup,
either before or during his trip
to the U.S. in September. Popes
do not often apologize, but a
word of regret from John Paul
II would soothe millions of
Jewish hearts.
But to the Jews devoting
themselves to trying to repair
the damage the Pope caused,
absolutely nothing is more im-
portant than their third goal —
to prevent the trivialization of
the reality of the slaughter of the
Jews, the Holocaust.
Jews fight the attempts of
modern Nazis to pretend that
the Holocaust never took place
or really was not that bad. But
they fear far more, and never
can accept, what they see as
disturbingly insensitive
minimalization by Christian
men of respect
At the Majdanek concentra-
tion camp, the Pope mentioned
14 nationalities murdered there,
but not Jews, for whom the
ovens were built.
And the Vatican should have
known that the decision to
receive and then actually praise
Mr. Waldheim would be seen by

Irving Howe

Barth, Totie Fields and Joan Rivers
have the chutzpa, the nerve, to be
unkosher comediennes. Rather than be-
ing unchained domestics who are pro-
perly clean, they have transformed
themselves into unkosher `vilde chayes'
(wild beasts) leaping over the boun-
daries of Jewish respectability. Yet they
have not alienated audiences with their
breaches of decency. Rather than offend
sensibility, their big mouths have
created a memorable tumult and their
innovative `shmutz' (filth) has left an in-
delible mark:'
Irving Howe, already widely ac-
claimed for his commentaries on Yid-
dish literary creativity, with frequent
emphasis on Sholem Aleichem, adds
immensely to the subject with his essay
"The Nature of Jewish Laughter." It is
a reminder of the gems in Olsvarger's
Roise Pomerantzen and Sholem
Aleichem. He, too, confronts vulgariza-
tions. He condemns the dialect joke. In
his essay he asserts:

roll your eyes and throw yourself
around and generally be aggressive:
There is another reason for the shortage
of Jewish comediennes. Not only do
they have to be 'kooky' and 'aggressive,
they have to be unkosher, violating the
most sanctioned ritual performed by the
Jewish women. Sophie Tucker, Belle

Though there was a Yiddish
cultural movement of some pro-
portions in America during the
early part of the century, it has
recently been restricted to an in-
creasingly narrow circle. What
has percolated into American
life is a sad substitute — the

Jewish Humor

Continued from Page 2

reality. Though they are often
gasping for air in their under-
water existence, they somehow
manage to survive, for humor is
their life preserver.

While the positive notes abound in
Jewish Wry, the negatives are challeng-
ed and assailed. Prof. Cohen has an
essay, an addendum to her introduction,
entitled "The Unkosher Comediennes."
Like other writers in her edited book,
she calls names. Lenny Brice and
Woody Allen merit interesting analysis
of their works and emerge importantly
in the world of entertainment.
(Wry in a universal sense: Random
House Dictionary explains: Wry —
Devious in course or purpose — Bitter-
ly or disdainfully ironic or amusing.)
In dealing with the comediennes
Prof. Cohen was adamant in her
criticism. She is adamant in her ex-
posure of the "unkosher" elements. Her
comments are on the shortage of Jewish
comediennes. She declares:
"When asked why female comics
are in such short supply, Carol Burnett
replied: 'It's because you have to be
kooky to be funny/kooku. You have to _

30

FRIDAY, AUG. 14, 1987

and by the historic Vatican
Councils and encyclicals, that it
seems long ago, another world.
But it was within the lifetime of
every adult American Jew or
Catholic.

former editor and now columnist A.M.
Rosenthal wrote:
It is more than five weeks since
Pope John Paul II received the
President of Austria; time
enough.
Time enough for Jews to ab-
sorb the sense of utter shock
that the Pope not only received
Kurt Waldheim but praised and
honored him and said not one
word about the past — Mr.
Waldheim's past as an officer in
a man-hunting Nazi army unit,
the lies he told to cover up his
record, his status on Allied lists
as a prosecutable war criminal,
his determined unrepentance.
And, most painful to Jews, not a
word about what the Pope must
have known was in every
Jewish mind that day — the
Holocaust.
Time enough for Roman
Catholics to absorb either their
own shock or their annoyance
at the Jews for making a fuss
again, depending on how they
see life, history and religion.
And time enough for Jews
and Roman Catholics who do
understand the depth of harm to
start repairing what was
damaged that day in Vatican Ci-
ty — bridges built-over decades
between people of both faiths.
The first shared goal is to
make sure that the evil days do
not return — the days when
Jews feared American Catholics
as anti-Semites and when so
many young Catholics were
taught that Jews were Christ-
killers. So much good work has
been done since then, by
American Catholic clergymen

Jews and haters of Jews as a
diminishment of the Holocaust.
Why this desperate Jewish
embracing of the memory of the
day of the Beast? Jews really do
not like to suffer by recalling
horror, but they cannot give up
this one.
Never again — that is an
enormous part of the reason,
but not all of it.
Millions of non-Jews were
murdered, may their names be
remembered. But the Nazis
singled out the Jews for total ex-
termination — the Holocaust. To
forget or minimize that is to
forgive the hideous racial par-
ticularity of the Holocaust.
Forgiveness is not ours to give.
They knew what they did.
So Jews feel there is a moral
need for Christians as well as
Jews to remember. The Rev.
Richard P. McBrien, chairman
of the department of theology at
Notre Dame, wrote that Jews
were • making the moral argu-
ment again in terms Catholics
should understand, symbolism
and memory. Waldheim and the
visit to the Pope as a symbol of
denial and evasion and as an of-
fense against humanity's collec-
tive need to remember.
Catholicism, he went on, is a
religion of symbolism and also
of memory.
"At the Last Summer, Jesus
asked His disciples to 'do this in
memory of Me.' To forget is to
betray the faith:'
The Austrian embassy in the U.S.
will surely show these indictments to
Kurt Waldheim. The Pope must be
made aware of them.

dialect joke, often vicious and
always cheap; the Broadway
clowns who can only vulgarize
Jewish humor; and the super-
cilious dialect writers for
"sophisticated" magazines who
exploit Jewish humor but fancy
it proper to hold their noses
while doing so.
These vulgarizations have
less genuine connection with
Jewish humor than did, say, Will
Rogers, with the American folk
humor of Mark Twain. But in
the pages of Royte Pomerantsen
and the stories of Sholom
Aleichem, one may see the true
and splendid expression of both
a folk and its greatest artist in
humor which mocks pomp and
wealth, which shatters preten-
sion and which upholds the
poor and the suffering.
Therefore Jewish Wry is not only a
most welcome story of the humor of the
Jew by Prof. Cohen and her associates.
It also serves an important purpose. It
assails vulgarization and encourages
adherence to the highly cultural tradi-
tions which make Jewish humor an ac-
ceptable and commendable quality of
those who inspire it and the people who
relish it.

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