Page 156 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
though “secretary of [his] local Zionist District,” seems to have no
thought of quitting the Diaspora.
To some degree, these ambiguities reflect the circumstance
that Lewisohn’s Zionism was essentially reactive — to what he
called the “harsh music of reality,” the deceptions and broken
promises of the nineteenth-century Emancipation, the corrup­
tions, distortions, and “d re ad fu l . . . diseases” of th
ega lu t,
and not
least, of course, the atrocities of Hitlerism and Stalinism. Rabbi
Charles A. Rubenstein, of Baltimore, who in 1936 intimated that
Lewisohn had “landed in the lap of Zionism on the rebound,” may
have come within sight of the truth. “Rebound”— from Christian
America’s rejection of him — may very well have figured in his
turning to and subsequent immersion in Zionism. But the conver­
sion, if that term is proper here, was powerless to annul this
reality.
so embedded in his sensibilities was the life of the
galut,
and so
resistant to erosion were his connections with the cosmopolitan
society of the West, that the life of the Yishuv could be fiercely,
passionately admired, but never embraced — and thus never
rendered in his fiction with any sort of amplitude. In a non-
fictional, autobiographical book like
Israel,
Lewisohn was able to
communicate a quite exhilirating sense of the Land and the
Jewish possibilities of the Land, but
Israel,
for all its indisputable
charm and exaltation, was ultimately a work of superior jo u r ­
nalism; it was not a work of the imagination.
Lewisohn could never be entirely certain of victory in the
struggle to liberate himself from “the deep human dishonor of
alienation from faith and folk,” which he had known in his earlier
years. When he said, as he so often did, that all roads led to Zion,
he did not say it regretfully or invidiously; he said it with a
decisiveness, a surety, which was as close as he could ever come to
triumph. But for him, to be quite accurate,
no
road led to Zion,
though all roads led to Zionism.
Perhaps it was true, as he believed, that his re tu rn to Jewish
loyalties and his espousal of Zionism had “isolated him as an
American man of letters,” so that he had “risked and probably lost
the illusory satisfaction . . . there is in posthumous fame.” Had he
at least “gained the Jewish people? . . . their support and their
memory?” In any case, if his choice “had to be made over again,”
he “would make the same choi.ce.” He could make no other
choice. You remember the old saying of Buffon: The style is the
man. I add an even deeper and truer one: The choice is the man.