Page 104 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

Basic HTML Version

also maps and calendars. Very few books o f war pho tog raph s
view the action from a civilian’s point-of-view.
T h e achievement o f Jo h n Phillips’^4
Will to Survive
(New York,
1977) is to focus not on the details o f Israeli history but, as the title
implies, on its psychological energies. T h e book is a study o f
du r ing and after the ’48 war. We see first the “rebels” — an
assortment o f youths in pitched battle, shooting down dusty al­
leys, then lying prostra te and bleeding on fly-covered pallets in
makeshift hospitals. A generation later, the same people are
viewed again, having grown into portly civil servants, decorous
housewives, and dignified professionals. Phillips avoids all the
knots and traps o f politics and ideology, and his book, with its
focus on the hum an drive towards life, is perhaps, fo r this reason,
the most hopefu l o f all pic ture books about Jewish experience.
Until the creation o f the State o f Israel, America was the g rea t
hope fo r Jewish survival, and a number o f pho tog raphe rs have
implicitly celebrated this fact by examining the American Jewish
experience. But in m ode rn America, Jewishness only shows
among the devout, and most pictorial trea tm en ts o f Jews p resen t
the O rthodox . Mai Warshaw in
Tradition: Orthodox Jewish Life in
(New York, 1976) sets about to avoid the commonplaces
o f his subject, and suggests some o f its inwardness and subtlety:
his young man kissing the T o rah wears his modernity — and his
religion — with ease, for on his head is no t a “shtreimel” o r a
“kipa” bu t a cocky bere t which might deck the head o f any
drugsto re cowboy. T he antiseptic cooks, in a pristine stainless-
steel kitchen, are in no way distracted by the ritua l distinctions
between the “meat” and the “milk” sides o f the ir establishment.
We see too one of New York’s finest praying with a “lulav,” and a
close-up o f a “kosher-for-Passover” lipstick. Warshaw’s book is
finally no t only abou t Jews bu t also abou t America, where
technology, so often ou r undo ing , accommodates at once ou r
most p ro found , and ou r most frivilous, longings.
The books o f Jewish pho tog raphs which appeared between
1968 and 1978, for all the ir diversity, favor Jews o f European
descent, and make Europe, America and Israel the geographical
pivots o f Jewish experience. This focus has its social, historical,
and political justness: bu t it calls fo r broadening . A few years ago
the publication
Present Tense
declared as one o f its editorial goals
the coverage o f Jews in unusua l places: and it has made good its
promise by repo rting on Jews in post-war Western Europe, Jews