Digest of Public Opinion on Jewish Matters

[The purpose of the Digest is informative: Preference is given to papers not generally accessible to our readers. Quotation does not indicate approval.--Editor.]

The protest of a group of Jewish individuals against the alleged anti-Jewish discrimination by Tammany, based on the purported assertion of Norman E. Mack, one of Tammany’s chiefs, that a Jew can not be nominated for the high office of U. S. Senator (said to have been uttered in connection with the effort to nominate Carl Sherman for that office), is termed by S. Dingol, in the “Day” of Sept. 24, a “dangerous and irresponsible procedure” because it threatens to inject the race issue into American politics.

In objecting to the action of the Jews who protested to Tammany, Mr. Dingol points out that although there can be no doubt that the Jews of America are entitled to a representative in the U. S. Senate, “nevertheless we cannot regard the action of the committee that visited Tammany Hall in behalf of Carl Sherman’s candidacy, as other than an irresponsible, scandalous act; to knock at the doors of Tammany Hall and to create a noise in the American press that Carl Sherman was not nominated for Senator because he is a Jew means to inject the race issue into American politics, and that is undignified for us as citizens and harmful to us as Jews.

“Politics is a private affair and it is the privilege of every individual to play the game. But,” Mr. Dingol continues, “to play politics personally is one thing and to do so at the expense of the Jewish community and to drag into this disgraceful game the names of the Zionist organization and other Jewish organizations, is quite another thing.

“The committee which called at Judge Olvany’s office declared that they were acting in their private capacities and not as representatives of their organizations. None of them, however, in their published statement to the American press, failed to mention that Benjamin Winter is the president of the Federation of Polish Jews in America, that Jacob de Haas is secretary of the Palestine Development Council, that Samuel Blitz is director of the organization department of the organization department of the Zionist Organization, that Jacob Ish Kishor is secretary of the Order Sons of Zion, that Dr. Mordecai Soltes is president of the Jewish Council of New York, etc., etc., and that together they represent 200,000 Jews.

“Why drag into this the names of such Jewish organizations, which have absolutely no connection with politics and have much more important work to do in Jewish life than to make a noise in Tammany Hall about a doubtful injustice to a Jew who strove to secure the nomination to a high office and did not get it?”

URGES JEWISH CULTURE “FROM THE BOTTOM UP”

Objection to what he terms the effort to create in American Jewry a culture “from top down, rather from bottom up,” is voiced by Maurice Samuel in an article, “The Quest for Culture,” appearing in the “Menorah Journal” for Aug.-Sept. Mr. Samuel’s article is by way of criticism of contributions in the “Menorah” by Dr. Horace Kallen, Henry Hurwitz and others on the subjects of the survival of Judaism in America, the development of Jewish culture in this country etc.

“Culture is not something derived from study, something learned at lectures in a school,” writes Mr. Samuel. “It is not something sought in and for itself. The truth is that a healthy culture is least likely to be found among those who pant for it. If the time has come when Jews ask themselves: ‘How on earth are we going to be Jewish?’ we must examine the actual conditions of their life as a whole, rather than the instruments — schools, galleries, synagogues–through which a culture might express itself.”

Reviewing briefly the “Jewish mass life,” as he calls it, during the centuries following the dispersion from Palestine, the writer points out that Jewish culture was not a result of artificial stimulus or of a conscious purpose, but of the fact that there was a definite Jewish life mentally and emotionally every hour of every day.

“But what is it,” he goes on, “we are trying to do here in America? We are trying to create a culture from top down, rather than from bottom up. We are trying to become Jewish by bidding the artist to excogitate Jewishness–because there is not a Jewishness around him to provide his natural material.

“What does that amount to? Simply the academizing of Judaism. In no people, not even the Jewish, with its traditional awe for book-learning, does the learned or consciously-cultured minority represent more than a tiny fragment of the whole. What of the ‘ignorant’ masses? What of the type of shrewd, intelligent, strong personality with no turn for academic training? What of the salt of a people, which is not its scholars but its natively-endowed and untrained children?

“We were Jewish once in what we ate, drank, felt, thought; out of this came a Jewish culture. Shall we be Jewish now by virtue of what we read, draw, talk in our spare moments? It is precisely what we are warned against — ‘living on the past.’ Our artists, even if they were to be provided with the means, would be able to find nothing better for their subject matter than bearded Jews (who wears a beard outside of the ghetto?), Menorahs (w###### Jew ever sees one except on the covers of this Journal?) exotic corners in Vilna (none of my readers lives there), and Biblical incidents done either in the flowery, bowery style of Gustave Dore or in the hysterical stylelessness of the latest Parisian rage.”

The solution of the difficulty lies in Mr. Samuel’s opinion, in the full development of Zionism, of a Jewish Palestine, which will reincorporate the natural vitality of the old Judaism which is passing out. He concludes: ‘I cannot think of material Zionism without a parallel spiritual work of the kind represented by Menorah. But I cannot think of Menorah without a material Zionism. Practical Zionism without spiritual effort here in America (as elsewhere) is either stupid charity or brute nationalism. Menorah without practical Zionism is mincing preciosity.”

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