The Jewish community in the United States is the only outstanding example of what is termed a successful “open adjustment” to the economic, cultural and spiritual environment in the history of the Jewish people.
This was the conclusion of Peter Wiernik, author of the “History of the Jews in America” and editor of the “Jewish Morning Journal,” in a lecture he delivered before the monthly meeting of the “Chavrutha,” a club of Jewish intellectuals, held at the Manhattan Square Hotel.
Mr. Wiernik, who spoke on the subject of “Adjustment and Preparation” developed the idea that the culture and mental productivity of the Jewish communities scattered throughout the world is dependent on the extent of their adjustment to the environment.
The history of the Jewish race knows several forms of adjustment. In Egypt the adjustment of the Jews to the environment was that of submission and slavery; in Palestine it was that of conquest. These adjustments were the extremes and cannot be taken as a standard for the historian.
There are countries, the lecturer stated, where the Jews have never adjusted themselves. In these countries nothing of permanent value has been created. Take, for instance, a country like Persia where the history of the Jewish race dates back three thousand years. With the exception of the story of Esther, which does not pertain to Persia proper, nothing of any value was created by the Jewish community there. In the Khazarian kingdom, where the upper classes adopted Judaism, the adjustment was so insufficient that no record of this epoch remains. The contribution of the Khazarian Jewish community to the Jewish culture was nil.
On the other hand, take the Jewish community of Provence, which existed a couple of hundred years. The adjustment there was so successful that within a short period outstanding Jewish scholars were produced.
Mr. Wiernik believes that the cultural productivity of the Jews followed only in those countries where an adjustment took place. In this, two forms are discernable; one is that of a “closed adjustment,” as for instance, the Jewish autonomy in Poland or the ghettos in other European centers; the other is that made by the Jewish community in the United States. With this “open adjustment,” the Jews in the United States are now entering an era of great cultural and spiritual productivity, which will make a lasting contribution to Jewish and American culture.
In discussing the conditions which made the “open adjustment” of the Jews in the United States a success, the author of the “History of the Jews in America” pointed to the two factors which were the preparatory steps for this development. The course of Jewish adjustment in other countries is obscured by reason of the fact that there is no exact data available as to the origin of the communities. The Jewish community in the United States is an exception. Concerning its history, all data is available since the landing of the first group of Jews. The factors which paved the way for this adjustment are twofold: the first was the successful conclusion of the battle in Western Europe for freedom of conscience, and, second, the record of service to the general good made by the first Jewish pioneers in the colonies and subsequently the record of the second wave of Jewish immigration to the United States, including those who came from Germany.
The early Jewish settlers who came to the colonies from Holland via England were mainly men of means and of great experience in business. They were viewed by the colonists as benefactors in the same way as capitalists who settle in Palestine are viewed today. They helped to develop commerce and industry and were a blessing to the country. Close upon these pioneers came the Jewish immigrants from Germany, who continued the same tradition. These two groups paved the way for the third wave of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe which lasten from 1882 until recent years.
Otto H. Kahn, banker and patron of the arts, sailed Saturday on the Leviathan for a trip abroad.