Page 150 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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STANLEY F. CHYET
Lewisohn: The Choice Is the Man
On the 25th Anniversary of His Death
T
w e n t y
-
f iv e
y ea r s
a g o
the
Jerusalem Post
eulogized Ludwig
Lewisohn as “the first great American literary spokesman for the
Zionist movement.” That he could be characterized in these terms
caps a spiritual odyssey second to none in Lewisohn’s generation.
Some three decades earlier, in a novel entitled
Roman Summer,
Lewisohn had a character speak ruefully of “our eternal longing
for the Gentile world.” In his autobiographical
Up Stream
(1922)
Lewisohn records that his parents had felt themselves “Germans
first and Jews afterwards” and “had assimilated, in a deep sense,
Aryan ways of thought and feeling.” He further relates that as an
immigrant youngster in South Carolina he had himself hungered
for the identity of “an American, a Southerner, and a Christian.”
His struggle to be free of what was alien could never be looked
upon as won. But during the early 1920s, when he was already
past forty, Lewisohn had found a way to make his struggle some­
what less desperate.
In 1923, he spoke in Boston at a Harvard University Menorah
Society banquet and “besought the young men who filled the hall
. . . to follow their inner law as human beings and as Jews, to
consider profoundly what each was meant to be and to be that —
that and nothing else . . . ” Shortly thereafter, through the Ger­
man Zionist leader Kurt Blumenfeld, who had attended the ban­
quet, Lewisohn met Chaim Weizmann. When Weizmann
suggested that Lewisohn undertake a journey abroad and write a
series of articles for
The Nation
“on the Palestinian experiment of
colonizingJews upon their ancestral soil,” Lewisohn embarked on
the enterprise which would enable him to “seek . . . the facts of
our Jewish fate” and to write his first unequivocally Jewish book,
Israel,
the fervent and empyrean Zionist report he published in
1925.
Lewisohn’s newfound Zionist faith passionately insisted on
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