Page 20 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 12

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
14
it was based. Its author held up a mirror to the generation of 1929.
He presented a horrible object-lesson. He called for a stemming
of the tide of assimilation. He begged: don’t let a generation grow
up th a t is emptied of Jewish content. He pleaded with American
Jews th a t their survival not merely as human beings, not merely
as Americans, bu t also as Jews, as a distinct ethnic and cultural
entity on the world scene, was desirable, was necessary, was worth
fighting for.
Throughout the quarter-of-a-century since the appearance of
Pinski’s novel, the problems he raised have been at the forefront
of discussion. In 1954, the tercentenary year, we still face the
question: can we enrich coming generations with sufficiently strong
Jewish experiences so as to insure Jewish cultural survival in
America? Can we make alive for them religious rituals, historic
memories, and family habits which are our traditional treasures,
our distinct heritage? Can we prevent their succumbing to the
dominant trend towards cultural monism on this continent, a
trend to which almost all non-Anglo-Saxon groups have already
succumbed or are rapidly succumbing? Can we influence them to
prefer the heroic life of biculturalism — the living in Jewish time
and American space — to the more comfortable life of the mono-
cultural majority about them? Can we substitute the slogan of
cultural crossfertilization for the slogan of the melting pot?
The Jewish Book Council of America believes th a t it can make a
contribution towards possible answers, or, a t least, th a t it can
bring greater clarity to the basic issues now under discussion. I t
can do so by bringing to bear upon current debates the wisdom of
the past which is encased in the Jewish classics and the insight
of contemporary sages now published in English, in Hebrew and
in Yiddish.
The Jewish Book Council seeks to serve the entire Jewish com-
munity. I t recognizes th a t we are no longer an immigrant group
with common minority characteristics th a t are easily definable.
I t sees us in our present complex configuration as five million
individuals of Jewish origin on American soil, individuals whose
identification with Jewishness ranges from zero a t one extreme
to 100% at the other extreme. I t recognizes th a t a t one end of
the scale there are men and women who are dreaming of inter-
marriage, religious dissociation, release from bondage to ancestral
values which to them are no longer meaningful. I t recognizes
th a t at the other end of the scale there are individuals who are
dreaming of exchanging the most glamorous land of the Diaspora
for the humblest fireside which Mother Zion offers to her children.
But, it also recognizes th a t between the two extremes, between
minimal and total identification with Jewishness, there exists a