Page 64 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 1

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Some of these newly emergent stereotypes of Jews are the fol-
lowing: The Decadent Jew who corrupts the arts and letters as
well as the social life of the people among whom he lives; the
Materialistic Jew who, like his progenitor Shylock, gives himself
wholly to money-getting; the Persecuted or Refugee Jew who in
part arouses pity; the Rebel Jew who awakens suspicion because
he questions the justice of the prevailing social order; and,
finally, a few authors of distinction use the Jew as Symbol
through whom they voice their rebellion against the standards
and values of our civilization. Sometimes these stereotypes appear
in intermingled combinations, sometimes they reflect the opin-
ions of the authors, sometimes they embody not so much the
judgments of their authors as what their authors believe are the
prevailing notions of public opinion about Jews.
I
Among the novelists who are regarded as realists, Thomas
Wolfe creates Jewish characters as decadent and corrupting
influences in American society. In his huge novels,
Of T ime and,
the R i ve r , The Web and the Rock ,
and
You Can' t Go Home
Again,
Wolfe has written a vast story of the America of his
times: and in them he recounts his experiences and opinions
of Jews.
Wolfe seemed to waver between profound dislike of and
exuberant admiration for Jews. He disliked the Jewish girls at
the University where he taught for their thrusting sex-awareness;
he ridiculed the mercenary attitude of Jewish book-publishers;
he hotly excoriated the wealthy Jews and Jewesses who exhibit
their vulgar wealth in their Park Avenue homes; he decried
Jewish influences in the theater and the arts. Th rough Esther
Jack he had opportunity to meet all kinds of Jews and he was
repelled by them, “handsome Jewesses most of them as material-
minded in their quest for what was fashionable as were their
husbands for what was profitable in the world of business.”
He berated the publishers Rawng and Wright, especially
Hyman Rawng, who conceived the famous mot, “I don ’t read
books, I publish ’em.” He mocked the desire of Jews to change
their names. “T he re ’s this fellow Burke! Doesn’t it want to make
you laugh? ;Nathaniel Burke my eye! . . . His real name is Na than
Berkovich. . . .״״
At the same time Wolfe reveals an admiration for certain
qualities in Jews. He tells Burke, “Look here, Burke. You’d just
better be glad you
are
a Jew.” And he writes of Burke’s parents,
“His mother and father were such nice old people. T h e old
fellow had a store in Grand Street. He wore a beard and a derby
hat, and washed his hands in a certain way they have before
eating. Th e r e ’s something awfully nice about old Jews like that.
. . . Isn’t it a shame—to throw away that wonderful thing in
order to become imitation Christians?”
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