Page 48 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

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T H E N E W G E N E R A T I O N O F
A N G L O - J EW I SH P L A Y W R I G H T S
IR Isaiah Berlin once related the parable of a European Jew
who came to a tribe of Hottentots. He was treated kindly
and allowed to assimilate. Fascinated by the strange rituals,
he kept careful note of the natives’ behaviour and established
himself as the historian and recorder of the tribe. After many
years he detected a discrepancy in an important religious festival.
Greatly concerned, he pointed out the mistake and was im­
mediately beheaded.
This story underlines the role of the Jew as the permanent
A second characteristic is illustrated in a remark by the dis­
tinguished sculptor Archipenko (not a Jew). A common trait
of the expatriate is the wish to be accepted. Thus Jews general­
ly object to the label “Jewish” artist; they want to be French
or English or American. So with Archipenko who came from
the Ukraine. Most of his life he resisted any national label and
insisted that he was part of the mainstream of 20th century
European art—which indeed he was. Yet toward the end of his
life he said, “Every nation has psychological traits and as art
is the image of the spirit, nationality in art might to that extent
be said to exist.”
This quality of national or racial temperament is of funda­
mental importance, and to some extent is more relevant to Jews
in England than in America. The English are not merely a
more conservative, less reflective people, not given to experiment;
they are also a more cohesive people. To be a foreigner, and
especially to be a Jew, which almost always combines recent
foreign origin with elements of a non-Christian culture, marks
one out as different and virtually forces one to be different.
By this I in no way indicate illiberality or persecution.
The United States, in comparison with England, is a stratified
society where to have a foreign-sounding surname, physical
characteristics which denote racial origin or a European social
prototype, is both more common and more acceptable. This,
B
y
C
h a r l e s
S. S
p e n c e r
“outsider.”
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