Page 47 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

Basic HTML Version

Jacob Gord in, the greatest Jewish socialist “ en lightener” on
American soil, was also the most ardent and consistent Heaven
stormer. In the mouth o f his celebrated hero, Elisha ben Abuya,
he puts the fo llow ing words: “ Do you think that my heart does not
ache when I ridicule all that is holy to them? Th rou gh this, I want
to awaken their slumbering powers o f reason.” 9
T h e Jewish way o f life was also vitiated by the American atmo­
sphere o f permissiveness. In Sholem Asch ’s drama, “ T h e Lands­
man,” the Am erican Jew exclaims: “ Y ou le ft everything on the
other side o f the Atlantic, all has been washed away by the sea;
here we are newly born.” 10 One o f Shomer’s characters con­
cludes: “ T h e re is no God in America, His name is used only fo r
the sake o f making money.” 11
For the first time in his life, one o f G or in ’s characters exp e r i­
enced the meaning o f freedom . H e had money in his pockets and
no over lord to whom to account; he fe lt as i f “ he had thrown o f f
his shoulders a heavy, crushing mountain.” Here he did “ what­
ever his heart desired and fo rgo t what is permissible and not
In I.S. Zevin ’s stories some o f the recently arrived men hide
their Jewish identity behind an assumed Irish or British name.
Others marry Gentile girls, and their only connection with Jew­
ishness is Jewish delicatessen, which they consume behind their
wives’ backs.13
Peop le who do everything that fashion demands, “ according to
the latest jou rna l,” take pride in their children ’s general educa­
tion, but neglect their Jewish education altogether. Eliakum
Zunser wrote in the 1890’s that parents become wise and say:
“What’s the use o f annoying the child with a dead language? What
good will H ebrew and the whole Bible do him?” Consequently, a
generation grows up which is comp letely estranged from the
Jewish community, its strivings and hopes. “ Th ey do not under­
stand even one word o f the prayerbook — all according to the
latest jou rna l.” 14
Elisha ben Avuya,
N .Y . 1910, p. 35.
Der landsman,
Warsaw, 1911, p. 34.
Der sterenzeher,
p. 217.
Der ben yohid,
13 Zevin’s collected writings, vol. 1, p. 69.
14 “Nokh dem nyesten journal,”
Ale werk,
vol. 1, N .Y . 1920.