Max Reinhardt, Germany’s greatest theatrical producer, was compelled by the Hitler actions against Jews in Germany to leave both his post in Berlin and the country which, up to the rise of the Nazis, had shown appreciation of his gifts in the theatre.
For two thousand years we have been accustomed to lavish our cultural gifts on other people, adapting them, in each country, to the national ideals, or to the racial, mental and moral peculiarities of that country.
Conversely, our own Jewish culture has been influenced by the ideals and the culture of the various nations who have been our hosts throughout all these long centuries.
That has made it very difficult for us to revive our own Jewish culture. to achieve a sort of cultural self-containedness or even to define sufficiently closely what Jewish culture is.
I hasten to say that I am not advocating cultural isolation. That would be a calamity to us, as well as to the civilized nations to whose culture we are proud to have contributed and who appreciate our contributions.
What I do advocate is a Jewish cultural renaissance in which Jewish achievements in the fields of literature, art, music, and the drama should bear the unmistakable hall mark of their Jewishness and in which Jewish genius should not be compelled to assume the disguise of another nationality.
I am convinced that such a renaissance would stimulate us to ever higher attainments and would also benefit the rest of the world, perhaps to a far greater extent than at present.
Who, for instance, can doubt that Jewish histrionic talent, which has made theatrical history in so many countries, would find a greater range of expression and thrive better in its own national cultural home?
The Habima is a striking example of what Jewish histrionic talent can accomplish in its natural sphere.
I am not certain whether the achievements of the Habima could be emulated in the Diaspora without the Hebrew language as a medium of expression.
I think that a Jewish Arts Theatre in each country where there is a sufficient number of Jews represents a satisfactory solution of the problem, or at least a first step towards a satisfactory solution. In such a theatre plays of Jewish life and character could be performed, in the language of the country, by Jewish casts.
No doubt, particularly at the outset, it would be very difficult to establish and maintain such theatres. In the first place, there would probably be a great deal of outside antagonism to be overcome in some countries. The supply of plays would present another difficulty, in addition to which there would be minor technical problems to be solved.
But with courage, both physical and moral, and with that specifically Jewish brand of enthusiasm which is really concentrated optimism, every obstacle can be overcome and every goal attained.
These are difficult times for Jewry. But if we look back through our long history we shall find that the flame of Jewish genius has always burned more brightly, and the Jewish spirit has always willed with greater determination in times of great crisis, and I have no doubt that it will be so again.
Rightly led, Jewish youth will not fail to achieve a Jewish cultural renaissance.
I think that this great movement ought to be launched by Anglo-Jewry.
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