Page 33 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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FISCH/JEWISH FAMILY CRISIS
27
nario is enacted between Reb Shmuel and his daugh ter H annah
in Israel Zangwill’s
Children of the Ghetto
(1892). He ruins h e r life
by enforcing the religious law prohibiting the marriage o f a
Kohen (priest) and a divorced woman. T he emphasis in both
examples is on the seemingly unbearable au thority o f the fa ther
and the need to free oneself from it. T h e re are also many
instances which emphasize the hypocrisy o f paren ts and teachers.
It is quite clear that, as a result o f the pressure exerted by an alien
cu lture at the time o f the Emancipation and the great desire to be
free o f the narrow life o f the ghetto in both Western and Eastern
Europe , a culture-gap developed between paren ts and children,
who often lived as it were in two separate worlds. This was also
true o f language: the parents spoke a Jewish dialect while the chil­
d ren generally adop ted the language o f the environment (cf.
Albert Memmi
,Pillar ofSalt,
1975). While this situation did create
tensions within the Jewish family, it is a far cry from accusations o f
paren tal despotism and hypocrisy. It would seem that portrayals
such as those o f Zangwill and An-Ski contain a measure o f fan­
tasy. They are to a great extent imported from without ra the r
than derived from Jewish historical experience. Nor are they
wholly to be explained by the actual tensions within the family
which undoubtedly arose as a result o f the problems o f Jewish
emancipation and em igration. T he re is clearly some distortion
oth o f the image o f the fa ther and o f the child’s rebellion against
him.
T he reason for this distortion is thus not to be sought in the liv­
ng conditions o f the Jews themselves, bu t ra th e r in the psychol­
gy o f the Christian nations. Beginning with Voltaire, p rogres­
ive individuals (those who rejected the Christian/Puritan trad i­
ion) tended to equate Puritanism o r any manifestation, for that
atter, o f the dark side o f Christianity with the biblical-Judaic
radition . The heavy yoke o f the Church is no more than the resi­
ue o f Judaism , for which the Jewish God is to blame. T he rebel­
ion against the fa ther was therefore, in large measure, a rebellion
gainst what was considered the satanic influence o f Judaism .
his type o f anti-Semitism was given expression in many literary
ources, in the poetry o f William Blake and P.B. Shelley, and in
u tler’s
The Way of All Flesh,
mentioned above. Matthew Arnold
lso equates the Puritan-Christian tradition with “Hebraism”
Culture and Anarchy,
1869). The ugly fa ther comes to be a Jewish
a the r (See also Sigmund Freud,
Moses and Monotheism,
1939).