Page 9 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 8 (1949-1950)

Basic HTML Version

u r v e y
m e r i c a n
e w i s h
o o k s
n g l i s h
o r
B y J
o s h u a
ROM the beginning of our exilic history we Jews have
been deeply concerned with what the non-Jews thought
of us. This concern was animated, in part at least, by a sense
of insecurity, in part by a consciousness of having embarked upon
a great mission — “ to distribute the spiritual riches” that have
been entrusted to us; a mission that is chiefly to be accomplished
by the force of example, yet one that nevertheless represents
a challenge to the world. Non-Jewish opinion ran the gamut
from contempt to enthusiasm.
We are still deeply concerned about the non-Jewish view of Jews,
but the inspiration now is different. We are no longer conscious
of insecurity and only a small minority still confesses to that
uncomfortable sense of social inferiority that was so marked
in the centuries preceding the era of emancipation. Our interest
now flows rather from our awareness that the Jews and their
non-Jewish neighbors are in this together, our realization that
we must present, if we can, a common front against common
enemies. Non-Jews want to know their Jewish neighbors. In fact,
this is a time when many people are grasping with sudden
urgency at knowledge about the Jews and the role they play.
They find themselves suddenly confronted with a great historic
event hardly anticipated by them — the rebirth of Israel as
a nation on its ancestral soil — which demonstrates that history
repeats itself, indeed'
Actually, we Jews become conscious of the repetitions of his-
tory in times of great upheaval and momentous change. The
historical sense is quickened, just as it becomes dulled in the
placid intervals when men are wrapped in a feeling of security
and life gives the illusion of being unalterable. We have been
living through generations in which the currents have been swift
and unpredictable. Time, in our generation, does not flow like
a broad and imperceptibly flowing river; it rushes on with in-