Page 12 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 21

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phrase, it only covers half of what I hope to be able to include
in my own volume; since this w ill appear, if all goes well,
as a collection of short stories
all wi th Jewish content
by Jewish
authors. And this is a very significant difference indeed since,
of the English, French, German and other sections of
Yisroel,
not more than one-half, sometimes less, contained stories con-
cerned with specific Jewish experience. T h e reasons for this
are I think obvious. Had there been enough stories with Jewish
content, Mr. Leftwich would have found them. They d idn ’t
exist in anything like quantity then. But they do today. In
other words, our present day creative Jewish writers in the
Diaspora are not only deeply concerned with Jewish experience.
They want to write about it; they are exam ining it; they are
using it in the creation of imaginative fiction. Jewish feeling
in Western Europe, in America and the Commonwealth is no
longer a matter of religion, philosophy, sociology or politics.
It has become the stuff of
art.
Th is is a heartening fact. It confirms in a concrete way our
sometimes not very clearly defined feeling that Jewish conscious-
ness is as strong if not stronger than it has ever been. It indicates
—and this again is what I mean by history—that our enemies
both w ithin and without, despite the most strenuous efforts
to root out Jewishness, have only succeeded in strengthening
it. It is another proof—if we want one—that we are indestructible.
Movement from East to West
What
has
happened, however, is that a balance has been
changed and the centre of gravity has moved on several different
levels. It has moved from one thing geographically; from East
to West. Leaving Israel out of it for the moment, the bright
centre of Jewish culture is now to be seen at its most fervent
and shining in America; though it has still one foot—to use
a rather shaky metaphor—in Britain. And, as I have already
indicated, it has moved in another way too: from the philo-
sophical plane (where we have always traditionally excelled)
to the artistic. Creative literature, the graphic arts, the compos-
ing of music . . . all this is now, so to speak, our “lin e” in a
way and to an extent it has never reached before. There have,
of course, always been Jewish story tellers, Jewish artists, Jewish
musicians. But until quite recently they have also always been
peripheral, a little on the outside of the main streams of Jewish
life and thought. In the Western world most if not all of them
have found their artistic material outside rather than inside
Jewish life. Today, I do believe, the Jewish artist is being
brought not from the outside into the centre but outwards
from
the centre. In other words they are, in more senses than one,
working from the heart.