Page 100 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 16

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and then to assist in the establishment of a “kingdom of heaven"
here on earth. What came into being as the unique contribution
of the Jewish mind and heart and soul, was fashioned into a
broad window through which the whole of humankind could
catch a glimpse of eternity. Here is, indeed, the spiritual, moral
and intellectual pulsebeat of man. Scarcely a theme is lacking in
its seemingly inexhaustible index, it includes poetry and drama,
fiction and philosophy, biography and law, ethics and astronomy,
history and sociology. All categories of culture and of human
experience are compressed within its pages.
If, then, we seek an answer to the question implicit in the
topic, “Themes for Jewish Writing,” we may commence with the
Bible as a worthy model. This immense library of the spirit
suggests enough topics to last a dozen lifetimes. As the Bible
abundantly demonstrates, life and literature interact, are indeed
interdependent. It is, therefore, patent that any theme concerned
with man’s life and destiny, with the universe and man’s rela-
tionship to it, with his social, psychological, political and eco-
nomic problems, with his endeavors to realize his ego potentials,
and, in concert with the larger group, with his hopes to mitigate
human loneliness and to reconstruct society into a more felicitous
pattern—these and like themes come within the scope of Jewish
writing. Whether his vehicle be the novel or history, criticism
or poetry, satire or the drama, art or music, the Jewish writer
should feel at home with any theme woven out of the warp of
human experience.
But having disburdened myself of this generalization, I must
confess there is a need to treat this subject more definitively.
Emerson defines literature as an affirmation of many minds and
many ages, as a reprinting of the wisdom of the world. This
definition needs to be amplified for the Jewish writer. The Jew
must not efface his Jewish self while contributing his share to
the reprinting of the wisdom of the world. The wisdom accumu-
lated by virtue of his Jewish heritage must not be alien to his
quill. There are Jews who are recognized among the elite in
American literary life, but have removed themselves from the
eddying currents of Jewish life. They underplay the Jewish
content of their thinking, consequently their works reflect an
occasional cultural schizophrenia. There may be no overt attempt
to alienate themselves from their Jewish identity, but neither is
there any enthusiasm to establish a rapprochement between their
writing and their Jewish heritage. Whatever Jewish role they
play is tentative and amorphous; there is no real dialogue be-
tween their Jewishness and their literary productivity. They stray
from their spiritual moorings, compelling their truncated ego to
speak in a weak, piping voice. What they write may indeed be
included in the category of “the wisdom of the world,” but since
it is not steeped in the history and struggle and spiritual evolu-
tion of their people, it represents only a part of themselves. Such