Page 134 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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“the American Idea is the idea o f liberty . . . . Democracy is the
organization of liberty.”33 I, therefore, feel justified in interpolat­
ing that had I asked him whether “the American Idea” was
another name for “Hebraism” or “the Jewish Idea,” Kallen would
have replied that the idea of liberty as faith and as attainable fact
harmoniously orchestrates with the Jewish idea about experience
as flux which can be steered toward righteousness, i.e., liberty,
equality, and peace.
Kallen’s views on the synagogue and the Jewish school were
shaped as well by his secularist “religion of religions,” by his
conviction that “ignorant faith” must give way to “intelligent
works . . . for the sake of securing decency on earth,” instead of
happiness in heaven.34
Kallen held that “Judaism is an organic constituent of the life of
the Jewish group, and if it is to survive it can do so only as one
aspect of the total expression of the inwardness of the national
genius of the Jewish people.”35 Reform is merely “a way of talk­
ing,” while Orthodoxy is “a way of living.” Orthodoxy requires a
specific kind of conduct in daily life. His militant secularism did
not blind Kallen to realize that since “Orthodoxy is a
, it
possesses a dynamic principle which may carry it on and perhaps
save it in the face of the widening circles of secularization.” But
Orthodoxy errs when it assumes that supernatural sanction and
supernatural menace are needed to justify Jewish group life and
social customs.36 These are actually “human and relative.”37 As
such, Kallen conceded that they do not suffice to resist assimila-
tory attrition. To keep them potent as survival values, a commu­
nity ideal must attach to them. Such an “animating ideal” can only
be “the historic personality of the Jewish people,” i.e., Jewish
nationality. Of this the integrating force is Zionism which “alone
33 This particular program was part of a public service series, sponsored by the
School of Education, the Dropsie University. The series, entitled “Themes in
Educational Philosophy,” was seen on Sunday mornings on WCAU-TV, the
CBS station in Philadelphia. A total of sixteen programs was aired, and I served
as host each week. Prof. Kallen, then eighty years of age, graciously responded
to my invitation and travelled to Philadelphia from New York for the taping.
34 Kallen,
Judaism at Bay,
pp. 67 f.
p. 68.
p. 75.
p. 76.