Page 132 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
guilt. He knows that he is helpless in his suffering and that
no way of escape from it is really open. The alternative to
clinging to his integrity is death . . . Many seek death by
conversion, by assimilation, . . . but more seek the middle
way, such as the reformation o f Judaism as a religion. But
the mass o f Jewry cling to their integrity. They are domi­
nated by the ineluctable feeling that not in the abolition of
their being as Jews, not in the obliteration of their Jewish­
ness, but in the vindication o f their Jewishness lies their
hope of salvation.24
Kallen is clearly autobiographical. He himself sought “salva­
tion” in the vindication of his Jewishness. But how to vindicate?
How to forestall the Holocaust? “Inevitable reflections” in the
course o f the
seder
to which the Rabbi o f Warsaw’s Great
Synagogue had invited him, almost brought Kallen to the point of
predicting the Great Catastrophe of European Jewry. As the song
has it about “the one kid Father bought,” “the stronger keeps
slaughtering the weaker until the Angel of Death has destroyed
all the powers of life and the Holy One, Blessed be He, destroys
the Angel of Death and is left the only survivor in a universe freed
by final murder from murder at last . . .”25
To the question of how to prevent this from happening, Kal-
len’s book replies by pointing to the two foci of “Jewish normaliza­
tion”which its author perceived at the time: Russia and Palestine.
In these “to save the individual Jew, and by saving the individual
Jew to hold fast, to validate the integrity of Israel is the task of the
fortunate Jewry of America, whose nationality is already a ghost
that passes.”26 A double mistake dogs Kallen’s judgment here:
The
Yevsektsiyas
“Promised Land” around Kherson in the south­
ern Ukraine did not become a focus of Jewish normalization. Nor
did American Jewry lose its sense o f nationality or what is now
called its ethnic identity. But the statement certainly bespeaks
Kallen’s devotion to the work of saving “the integrity of Israel,”
i.e., the work of ensuring the survival of the Jewish people as both
equal and different. It also expresses his particular brand of
24
Ibid.,
p. 449.
25
Ibid.,
pp. 172 f.
26
Ibid.,
p. 452.