Page 83 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 5 (1946-1947)

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COHEN ---- SZYK---- ILLUSTRATOR OF BOOKS
71
SZYK----DEEPLY RELIGIOUS
Despite his protestations that he is not a “professional Jew,”
Szyk is deeply Jewish and religious. His religious attitudes reveal
the
hassidic
environment in which, as a boy, he was raised. A
warm current of mysticism runs through him. To him, God is
not a philosophical concept by which the thinker organizes his
thoughts about life and the universe. Szyk appears to be on
familiar terms with his God. He argues with Him, grows angry
at Him, yet worships Him as the creative spirit imminent in the
world and in all mankind. For him, art is his method of serving
his God and the high purposes which he believes God wants to
see realized in the personal lives of men, in a just society and in a
peaceful world.
Similarly, Szyk looks at Judaism and the Jewish people. Juda-
ism, to him, has given mankind its ethical ideals. The basis of
all ethical humanism is found in Judaism. He believes that much
of the world’s hatred of Judaism and Christianity may be found
in the subconscious resentment of western civilization against the
spiritual disciplines that Judeo-Christianity has placed upon the
animalistic paganism and barbaric impulses and passions of human
nature. Yet, he is convinced, only as Judaism’s ethical and
spiritual values are accepted by mankind will humanity be re-
deemed from its animality and its barbarism. Judaism is, for
Szyk, the foundation stone of human civilization.
His Jewishness, says Szyk, is his religion. His Jewishness binds
him in close spiritual bonds to all his fellow-Jews throughout the
world. He would want to see Palestine’s gates thrown wide open
to all the Jews of Europe, indeed of the world, who wish to go
there. He wants to see a Palestinian State established, and he
devotes much of his means, his energy and his art to the cause of
Palestine. He believes that Jews should be permitted to live every-
where as of right. But, from letters he has received from Jews in
Europe and from personal information, he has learned that almost
every Jew in Europe wants to get away from that war-torn
continent and go to Palestine, where he can live as a free human
being.
He bewails the fact that some American Jews are antipathetic
or even hostile to a Jewish nation in Palestine. He cannot under-
stand why these Jews are fearful lest their zeal for Palestine might
bring their American loyalties into question. He charges such
Jews with destroying complexes, with
hinterglauben
, which betray
them, frustrate them and prevent them from being free spirits and
honest Jews. He points out how Christians in America freely