Page 196 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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lation that Jews comprise. These Jewish protagonists are formed in
many different circumstances, settings and plots, and like other
Jews, the process of acculturation may have blurred distinctions
between them and their gentile neighbors. A sense of peoplehood,
however, has not been entirely suppressed. Using the nomencla­
ture that has been disseminated by the National Jewish Population
Survey, the detectives and police in these novels frequently can be
found in the category of “Born Jewish with No Religion (secular).”
The heroes and heroines often reflect that wide group ofJews who
marry non-Jews, whose commitment to Jewish education is mini­
mal, whose Jewish identity is often marginal and whose Jewish at­
tachments are peripheral.2
There does seem, however, to be a thread that binds many Jews
to their ancestors and to their co-religionists and for the protago­
nists in these stories that thread has not entirely disappeared. At
times, it may appear very thin, and at others, it may be knotted and
even quite twisted, but nonetheless, it exists and still connects. If
the God of their ancestors has been forgotten, the cooking of their
mothers has been remembered. If the cooking of their mothers has
been forsaken, our protagonists have invented alternatives which
are hinted at in their fictional contexts.
Meet, then, some popular portrayals that shed some light on
who they are. Not all the private eyes willingly embrace their Ju ­
daism: few of the police officers make it a central part of their own
identity, even fewer use aspects of Judaism to help solve the mys­
tery. But each one of them gives the reader something to think
about. The following six categories most appropriately organize
the vast array of literature within this sub-genre.
The best known of all of these books feature Rabbi Small, the
creation of the late Harry Kemelman, whose fictional debut oc­
Barry Kosman,
et al., Highlights ofthe C JF 1990 NationalJewish Population
Survey, New York: Council of Jewish Federations, 1991.