Page 153 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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CHYET / LEWISOHN: THE CHOICE IS THE MAN
145
Jewish rights in Palestine could be expected only to intensify, that
now even more than before, it was needful to Zionize Jewry,
above all American Jewry. During the winter and early spring of
1945, he summed up for
The New Palestine
his understanding of
Zionism in a series of four “Letters to a New Member” of the
Zionist Organization. What was “the center and the core of the
liberating tru th” Zionism embodied if not “the recognition of the
uniqueness o f Jewish history and destiny?” Only a Zionist
analysis, he wrote, could explain the lamentable vulnerability of
European Jewry during World War II. The Jews had been “help­
less . . . in the alien streets of alien places,” and “what did we die of
but our homelessness . . . ?” The false blandishments of the
Emancipation had blinded Jews to the truth that “modern anti-
Semitism . . . arose with and during the emancipation and must
consequently be very deeply connected with it.” It had taken the
terror of the twentieth century to confirm the mid-nineteenth-
century preachments of Moses Hess and to establish beyond
doubt what the rebuilding of Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael meant:
“For once in history a political act will be a moral act and security
and redemption will be one.”
ZIONISM AND JEWISHNESS
Lewisohn’s Zionist standpoint appears to have changed rela­
tively little after 1945. To be sure, he no longer argued for a total
negation of th
egalut;
it was its “transformation . . . into something
other and better” that he hoped for now, and he made increas­
ingly explicit what had long been at least implicit in his conception
of Jewish life — the virtual identity of Zionism and a markedly
traditionalist Judaism. In
The AmericanJew: Character and Destiny
,
published in 1950 and his last important Jewish book, he asserted
that even the winning of Jewish sovereignty had not solved the
problem of “‘emancipated’Jews with blurred Jewish memories,”
who now, with the struggle for a Jewish state won, “were thrown
back upon their original Jewish emptiness”— that meant, “upon
a human emptiness,” as he construed it. The “problem of the
contemporary Jew” was “
one
problem, the problem of his total
and affirmative re-Judaization.” And here Lewisohn envisaged a
purely religious solution: “The necessary survival of the Jewish
people, which has already survived so many peoples and so many
empires and the survival of that people as the manifest expression