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August 30, 2002 - Image 24

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-08-30

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

Jewry's Role in

This Week

Human Affairs

Cover Story

STORY TELLERS OF AND FOR THESE TIMES
The works of two celebrated authors resound with tales of the shied,
narratives of communal European life harboring misfortune and joy, and
stories of Jews' generation& unfolding in America. Both are also literary
historians who resurrect a buoyant, sensual and endangered society, since
extinguished. Singer and Malamud, while sometimes writing from
different moral perspectives, came together in their sympathy for the
human dilemma, for characters struggling to make their lives better in a
world of bad luck. In so doing, they testify to a great truth: courage is the
daily broth nourishing the spirit.

ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER

(1904-91) b. Radzymin, Poland He is accepted as
the greatest contemporary short story writer and
novelist composing in Yiddish, a teller of tales
who movingly wove fantasy, mysticism and
eroticism into much of his fiction. Singer was
born to a family of Hasidic rabbis and attended a
rabbinical seminary, but forsook his education for
a writing career. His older brother, Israel Joshua
Singer (1893-1944), entered the same profesSion and is best known for his
epochal novel, The Brothers Ashkenazi.
Singer published his first novel, Satan in Goray, shortly before
emigrating to New York City in 1935. Once here, he joined his brother--
who came the year before--as a journalist with the Jewish Daily Forward
in which many of his works appeared. His writings were routinely
translated into English under his personal guidance and gained wide
popularity and critical acclaim.
The prolific author also published autobiographical works and
numbers of children's books; Enemies: A Love Story was filmed in 1989.
Perhaps his greatest novelistic triumphs were The Family Moskat (1950),
The Manor (1967) and The Estate (1970), a trilogy tracing the wrenching
changes in Polish-Jewish family life during the late 19th and Early 20th
centuries. In short stories rich in messianic legends, fables and folklore,
with tormented characters wrestling with temptation, he spun magical tales
of the vanished world of Eastern European Jewry and . the newfound world
of America.
Among others of his best works are Gimpel the Fool (1957), The

Magician of Lublin (1960), The Spinoza of Market Street (1961), Lost in
America (1981), The Penitent (1983) and A Crown of Feathers which won
a National Book Award in 1973. Singer was also accorded the 1978 Nobel
Prize for Literature.

BERNARD MALAMUD

(1914-86) b. Brooklyn, NY Other than in his
first novel, The Natural, a baseball fantasy
adapted for a 1984 motion picture starring Robert
Redford, Malamud's themes were informed by the
predicaments of European and American Jewish
men and women. The former factory worker,
store clerk and high school teacher found his
calling as a "Jewish Writer" largely in outrage
against the Holocaust, and gave a modern voice to fables and parables as
vehicles for moral lessons. The respected critic Robert Alter said his
stories will be read "as long as anyone continues to care about American
fiction written in the 20th century."
The Magic Barrel (1958), Malamud's spellbinding first collection,
won a National Book Award--as did The Fixer which earned a 1966
Pulitzer Prize as well. Set in czarist Russia, it relates the tragedy of an
innocent Jewish handyman imprisoned for ritual murder: an allegory
crafted with Malamud's deep compassion for Jewish life. The author's
most acclaimed novel, The Assistant (1957), is about an aged Jewish grocer
terrorized by a young Italian hoodlum; it too is a morality play, but in a
spiritual rather than in a cultural sense.
Love, sacrifice and wisdom gained through affliction--mellowed
by wry wit--season Malamud's novels and short fiction which also include
the highly praised The Tenants (1971), Dubin ;s Lives (1979) and Idiot's

First (1963).

-Saul Stadtmauer

8/30

2002

24

Visit many more notable Jews at our website: www.dorledor.org
COMMISSION FOR THE DISSEMINATION OF JEWISH HISTORY
Walter & Lea Field, Founders/Sponsors
Irwin S. Field, Chairperson
Harriet F. Sider]. Chairperson

648190

TIGHT TIMES

from page 21

funding cycle or two to protect the
viability of the Jewish Fund."
He, as do others, repeats that the
other critical factor in all calculations
is to support Israel in its time of need.
"While the Jewish Fund is always
trying to be prudent by prioritizing
projects in the Jewish community, we
need to ensure we balance our own
largess between our loCal needs and
the needs in Israel," Schlussel says. "I
don't think people recognize the eco-
nomic impact of the intifada
[Palestinian uprising] and the lack of
tourism on the Israeli economy. We
must prepare to provide for their
social service needs."
Along with the money, Schlussel, a
past president of Federation, adds, "It's
important that Israel recognize that
the American Jewish community is as
committed as ever to Israel and her
survival."
Nancy Grand of Bloomfield Hills,
co-chair with Douglas Bloom of
Federation's Annual Campaign for the
past two years, says that the test
Federation faces is to meet their new
challenges — rising anti-Semitism, ter-
ror in Israel and the economic down-
turn — without abandoning those
they've been grappling with until now.
"The Federation supports Jews in 60
Countries, not only in Israel," she says.
The Federation funds go to places •
like the former Soviet Union to feed
260,000 elderly Jewish people there
who are Holocaust survivors, or to
Jews in Argentina who've lost jobs and
homes.
To serve the global Jewish commu-
nity in these challenging times, she
adds, "the Federation hopes to tap into
the generosity the community showed
for the Israel Emergency Fund.
"One new approach in fund-raising
— though we've used this approach
years ago — is involving more people
in the community in setting funding
goals, our community goals," Grand
says.
This year, Federation did not set its
goals alone, but involved leaders of the
Federation, major donors and agency
heads as well as rabbis and congrega-
tional presidents.

Synagogues Cope, Too

Another segment of the community
affected by the economy is the syna-
gogues.
"We see members financially
strapped and that affects everything,
such as their ability to handle their
bills, including their dues and tuition
to the synagogue," says Rabbi Daniel
Nevins of Adat Shalom Synagogue, -

which has 1,200 member families.
He adds that financial pressures have
put a lot of emotional stress on fami-
lies. "We try to be flexible with people
and let them know we're there for
them, but synagogue expenses are only
increasing. It's a tough position."
Sharlene Ungar executive director of
Congregation B'nai Moshe, with 500
family members, says the synagogue
will have to "ride out" the effects of
the economy. One way to cope has
been to combine a part-time supple-
mental school principal and part-time
family programmer into one position.
"And if things need to be done, we
prioritize," Ungar says. "Last year, was
humidification work; this year, we'll
put carpet in the social hall."
Also new this year, instead of a Kol
Nidre appeal, the congregation will
have an annual campaign.
As a small synagogue, B'nai Moshe
qualifies for funds from the Federa-
tion's Alfred L. and Bernice Deutsch
Family Synagogue Scholarship Fund.
"The fund assists small congrega-
tions to help new members affiliate
and send their children to the congre-
gational school," Ungar says. "The
fund subsidizes new members for a
year, then the congregation picks up
the tab."
Larger synagogues also face difficul-
ties. "The new factor for most temples
is budgeting for security," says Dr.
Jerrold Weinberg, president of Temple
Israel, which has more than 3,000
member families. "It's more expensive
now because of the risk."
And, like many synagogues, he says,
"with the economic slowdown, we're
hoping that those in a position to give
more, will ... And people who are able
to do so are stepping forward."
Even in small Orthodox synagogues,
people have come forWard. While
Rabbi Silberberg says that giving is
down at his shul and not everyone is
in a position to pay full membership,
when it comes to supporting Israel,
people dig deep. The synagogue,
which has 130 members, raised •
$18,000 within several months for the
victims of terror in Israel, says the
rabbi.
Put into perspective, Rabbi Nevins
agrees these are difficult times, but the
Jews have been through worse, he says.
"And it will get better."
"We still have the highest standard
of living in the world," says Rabbi
Kolton. And whether the market is
.up or down, you feed the family ,and
then Jews have an obligation to feed
someone else's family if they can't do it
themselves." ❑

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