Page 97 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 16

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L
ev in
— T
h e
J
ew i sh
W
r iter
that population, during a period of decades, perhaps up to the
Second World War, held aloof from its own writers. Jewish
writers found that when they treated of American Jewish ma-
terial, publishers were hesitant if not hostile, pointing out that
there was no audience for such material.
The direct relationship that had existed in the Yiddish culture
between author and reader, was cut off when the great leap be-
tween the old and the new culture had to be made. It is only
being knitted together again in the past decade as a better ad-
justed and more widely educated Jewish population finds its
answers in a positive identification with its sources, and welcomes
a literature that is unashamedly, consciously oriented in the
Jewish tradition.
While this does not mean that all the work of every “con-
scious” Jewish writer shall be entirely Jewish in theme and in
content, it means that he feels free to write of his own people
when stimulated by the material closest to his heart. He need
not worry so much whether publishers will try to induce him to
take out the Jewishness, and whether they will try to convince
him that there is no audience for such writing.
The Special Task of the Writer
The Jewish writer has a special task, iri promulgating an honest
image of the Jew not only to the non-Jewish world, but also to
his own people. We, as a people, have suffered more than any
other through the world-wide acceptance of the mythological
image of the Jew, the Shylock and the Fagin image. It has been
shown that Jews themselves to a large extent harbor this same
mythological image.
Only a vivid, vit?l and persistent literature which adds new
images, the images of the American Jew in all the varieties of
life, the images of the Israeli Jew—only such a literature can
help to blur and eventually blot out the anti-Semitic image so
deeply engraved in the world psyche. This task is fortunately
consistent with creative truth; the more deeply and the more
truly we write, the more effectively will we diminish the myth.
Some writers take this as a mission, others, perhaps feeling more
purely related to their art, believe the mission will take care of
itself. Yet it cannot be denied that we are burdened with a
stereotype, a devil-image rather unique in its evil proportions,
and no Jew who strives to be a whole personality can ignore,
if he is a writer, the relationship of his work to that mythological
image.
Perhaps this special task contributes a certain unifying ele-
ment to the work of Jewish writers today, and to the way in
which their work is viewed by the Jewish public. Some will always
assert that from a purely artistic point of view such considera-
tions are extraneous. This reopens an old debate. For my part,