Page 130 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
repeat his statement, is
“the
valid, vital force in human communi­
cation and in human creation.” Rather, we need to recognize that
Kallen set out on his odyssey of faith from Jewishness and with
Jewishness. The Jewishness which he reclaimed after the shortest
of commonest of breaks, was organic, conservationist, libertarian,
orchestrationist both in intra-Jewish relations and in the interac­
tions between Jews and non-Jews.
JEW ISH ROOTS
It is true that in 1900, the 18-year-old Harvard freshman broke
with the Orthodox Judaism of his father, Rabbi Jacob David
Kallen (originally Kalonymous), whom he remembered as “a
proud, demanding, domineering father and husband,” who
taught him at home and wanted him to follow in the paternal
footsteps. But the break was of short duration. In his sophomore
year, Horace came under the influence of Professor Barrett
Wendell who in a course in American literary history dealt with
the Hebraic elements in America political and literary thought
and institutions. As a result, the young Kallen began reasserting
his Jewish identity and his active interest in Jewish culture and
Jewish community affairs. To the end he maintained his rejection
of “Judaism” or Jewish religion. But into his evolving faith he
built the conviction of the Jewish people’s entitlement to life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, to the cultivation o f its
heritage, to Zionism, to its way of life.15 Distinguishing between
“Judaists” and “Jews,” he identified himself with the latter, that is,
with the all-embracive configuration of the Jewish people rather
than the exclusivity of Jewish religion.16
Kallen himself testified to the fact that for the general outlook
or “faith” on which he “bet his life,” Judaism provided the foun­
dation:
I was born in Germany to Jewish parents. The doctrine and
discipline of my earliest years were the Jewish doctrine and
discipline — the Hebrew Bible with itsJudaist commentaries
15 Milton R. Konvitz, “Horace Meyer Kallen (1882-1974): Philosopher of the
Hebraic-American Idea,”
American Jewish Year Book
75 (1974), pp. 56-58.
16 Kallen,
Judaism at Bay
(New York, 1972 [1932]), pp. 239 f.