Page 47 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 10 (1951-1952)

Basic HTML Version

too, somewhere or other hold in solution all those ennobling
ingredients, all those stimuli to self-sacrifice which the world
calls Christian.”
Zangwill clearly deplores the fact that it took a personal tragedy
to enable a child to understand her father.
In other stories, such a final reconciliation fails to materialize.
In the *‘Diary of a Meshumed,” a father is killed by his own
converted son. In “To Die in Jerusalem,” a son, awakened at
last to the fact that he has sinned against the faith of his fathers,
travels to Palestine to receive his father’s forgiveness and blessing.
The father, sensing that his son needs him, rushes to England.
The ships pass each other at sea. The son dies in Jerusalem,
the father in London.
The failure of the fathers to transmit the heritage to the sons
produces rootless and restless souls. In the characters, who suffer
the pangs of this alienation, Zangwill puts his finger on the essential
tragedy of contemporary Judaism. In “Hadgadyah,” the son of a
Venetian family ruminated during the Seder: “He wanted, he
hungered after God, the God of his fathers. The three thousand
years of belief could not be shaken o ff . . . but he could not have
the God of his father — and his own God was distant and dubious,
and nothing that modern science had taught him was yet registered
in his organism.” Nothing is left for the son but to throw himself
into the canal.
Zangwill not only understood and felt the problem of the divided
generations. He sensed the direction which Jewish religion would
have to take if a reconciliation were to be effected. He anticipated
some of the “reconstruction” which our generation has undertaken,
by recognizing the need for an evolving religious faith, responsive
to basic human needs and expressed in terms of contemporary
experience. In “A Modern Scribe in Jerusalem” he says:
“Absolute religious truth? How could there be such a thing?
As well say German was truer than French, or that Greek
was more final than Arabic. Its religion, like its speech, was
the way that the deepest instincts of the race found expression,
and like a language, a religion was dead when it ceased to
change. Each religion gave the human soul something great
to love, to live by and die for, and whoever lived in joyous
surrender to some greatness outside himself had religion, even
though the world called him atheist. The finest souls too
easily abandoned the best words to the stupidest people.
The time had come for a new religious expression, a new
language for the old, everlasting emotions in terms of the