Page 200 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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192
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
This refers to the two contenders for the office o f synagogue
president. . . whoever wins — the result is anarchy. One says to
destroy the women’s section so that men and women may sit
together, while the other wants to have regular gambling events
in the synagogue (this really happened!). A third person might
want to have dances at which boys and girls dance together, thus
turning the synagogue into a den o f iniquity. To all o f these
suggestions the president readily says ‘Amen.’ How can he turn
down the people who have elected him, and who can be counted
on to elect him again?”20
Despite the illusion of leadership, the community has no di­
rection. In the book’s concluding pages Harkavy repeats and
extends the metaphor employed earlier.
‘We have a little sister, and she has no breasts.’ (8:8)
The sister is the people Israel, and the breasts — the (true)
leadership that she does not have.21
SAD OUTLOOK
To the very end, Harkavy is unremitting in his pessimistic
diagnosis of and prognosis for the ailing spiritual life of Amer­
ican Jews. Unlike Weinberger, who held out some hope for the
American Jewish future, Harkavy saw none. For him, it is only
in the Land of Israel that Jews can have a religious life. He
employs the concluding two verses of the
Song of Songs
to make
his point.
‘Oh you who linger in the garden,/The companions listen for
your voice./Hurry, my beloved,/Swift as a gazelle or a young stag,/
To the hills o f spices.’ (8:13-14)
This refers to the Jews living in all o f the cities in unity. They
will listen to Your (God’s) voice and walk in the ways of the righ­
teous. Then You will lead us the ‘land o f the gazelle’— the land
of our forefathers. Hurry, my beloved. . .for when You, God,
will it, You will hurry like a gazelle to bring us to Jerusalem
the Holy city, to ‘the hills o f spices’ in Eretz Israel, Amen.22
Of Harkavy’s life we know precious little. He is not mentioned
in any of the standard histories of American Jewry, nor is his
20. Ibid.,
p.
84.
21 .
Ibid.,
p. 97 .
22 .
Ibid.,
p. 102-3 .