Page 47 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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SOVIV / AMERICAN YIDDISH LITERATURE
37
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
permissible.12
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
9
Elisha ben Avuya,
N .Y . 1910, p. 35.
10
Der landsman,
Warsaw, 1911, p. 34.
11
Der sterenzeher,
p. 217.
12
Der ben yohid,
1898.
13 Zevin’s collected writings, vol. 1, p. 69.
14 “Nokh dem nyesten journal,”
Ale werk,
vol. 1, N .Y . 1920.