Page 18 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 12

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
12
successful integration into American life. I t followed the first
stage of idealization and the second stage of disillusionment. I t
denoted recovery. The peddlers became storekeepers, the sweat-
shop workers became manufacturers.
The first half of the twentieth century witnessed a general as-
cent of the Jewish masses in the social and economic scale. The
former proletarians became members of the middle class and the
middle class took on the traits of the nouveau riche. Integration
was generally accompanied by a shedding of the characteristics
th a t the Greenhorn had brought with him from the Old Country,
the good along with the bad. The ideal of the children of the
immigrants was to be like unto their neighbors, indistinguishable
in every respect. Often, in the two decades before Pearl Harbor,
it reached among intellectuals the pathological s tate of Jewish
self-hatred, as is evident from an examination of such popular
novels of the period as Michael Gold’s
Jews Without Money
(1930),
Ben Hech t’s
A Jew in Love
(1931), and Budd Schulberg’s
What
Makes Sammy Run
(1941). But, perhaps, the grimmest panorama
of the morass into which American Jewry then seemed to be head-
ing was unfolded by the Yiddish novelist David Pinski in his
novel,
The House of Noah Eden
(1929), a genealogical novel com-
parable to Thomas Mann’s
Buddenbrooks
or John Galsworthy’s
Forsyte Saga.
I t portrayed three generations of a Jewish family
which emigrated to America in the 1880’s from a little town in
Lithuania.
In the old country, Noah Eden lived as a member of a Jewish
enclave in non-Jewish territory. When he arrived in America, he
tried — as far as possible — to continue his traditional cultural
life. He was a Jew whose Jewishness was enriched by his Amer-
ican environment and experiences. His children, on the other
hand, were raised in the New World. They were Americans of
Jewish background. They fell under the spell of the brighter,
freer, gayer life which opened up before them, full of golden oppor-
tunities bu t also full of perilous allurements. They prospered and
rose in the social scale. One became a wealthy businessman, an-
other a corporation lawyer, a third a prominent physician. W ith
each year they became more estranged from the Yiddish idiom
which they spoke when they first set foot on American soil. They
learned to live without God. They did not normally attend syn-
agogue or temple on the Sabbath. Nor did they differentiate in
their homes between a Friday evening and any other evening.
But they did send their children to the finest schools and colleges,
where these third-generation Americans could be trained to be
perfectly-mannered ladies and gentlemen.
When the aging Noah Eden in his sixties came together with