Page 9 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

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3
S
te in b a ch
— I
ntroduct ion
and the seminal origin of their “vision”; the occasional transcendent
idealism and the moral vigor of their developed themes, all derive
from a mystique that is irrefragably Jewish. They burgeon into
values that are intrinsic to and inseparable from Judaism. When
these writers depict truth, they may be unaware that they are
implementing a rabbinic doctrine promulgated some 2,000 years
ago: “The seal of the Holy One blessed be He is truth” (Talmud,
Sabbath 55 a ) .
Some of our intellectuals, untutored in these ineluctable verities
that undergird Judaism, develop a blind spot in their confronta-
tion with Judaism. Finding it imperative to come to terms with
their Jewishness, they take flight from, instead of drawing nearer
to Judaism. They turn their backs on the Source that nurtured
their genius. Can the flower be stripped of its natural color and
remain genuine? Isaiah must have had such as these in mind
when he importuned, “Look to the rock whence you were hewn”
(Isaiah 51.1).
One is tempted to wonder whether Professor Fiedler put his
finger on the overriding rationale for the alienation of at least
some of the intellectuals when he wrote—“The Jew as Mythic
American,”
Ramparts,
1963—“We live at a moment when every-
where in the realm of prose Jewish writers have discovered their
Jewishness to be an eminently
marketable commodity,
their much
vaunted alienation to be
their passport into the heart of Gentile
American culture”
(italics added).
No religious parallel is intended or even remotely hinted here,
but semantically, Fiedler’s observation claiming “their (the Jew-
ish writers) much vaunted alienation to be their passport into
the hearts of Gentile American culture,” bears a disturbing simi-
larity to Heinrich Heine’s sentiment voiced a century ago, “The
baptismal certificate is the admission ticket to European civiliza-
tion”
{Thoughts and Fancies,
1869).
Is Fiedler imputing motivations of mercenary gain or of aspir-
ations for Gentile acceptance to some of our intellectuals? I sin-
cerely hope not. But if he is, this writer must associate himself
with the question propounded by a Mr. Elliott Marmon at the
Second Dialogue in Israel: “How can we educate Jewish intel-
lectuals so that they will make contributions to Jewish life and
identify themselves principally as Jews?”
II
Happily, the Jewish Book Council of America has for the past
twenty-eight years succeeded in enlisting the talents, the erudition
and scholarship of many writers profoundly committed to Jewish