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The Human Touch

I Have recently seen another example of the man afraid to betray his Jewishness. Until about a week ago he was a perfect stranger to me and he is not much more than a perfect stranger now. His fearfulness was betrayed to me in a curious way. A mutual friend, knowing of my interest in the graphic arts, had solicited my good offices in selecting for this stranger a print suitable to cover the nakedness of a wall. I have on loan exhibition, so to speak, the prints of a small group of artists. To this stranger I showed several of these pictures and I noticed an attraction to and recoil from a small group of prints that might be described, in subject matter, as Jewish.

“Oh, I couldn’t hang up anything like that!” said, in effect, the stranger. And later in the day I heard the story.

He is, to begin with, a Nordic looking young man with a non-Jewish name. Upon receiving his degree from an architectural school, being full of beans, confidence and high hopes, he applied him for a job in the offices of one of the most exclusive, hotsy-tosty architectural firms in New York City. When a bridge is thrown over the Atlantic, this firm will probably draw up the plans and then throw the bridge. That’s the kind of a firm it is. Not that there hasn’t been a depression but this firm is still top dog.

He got the job. He has advanced in his firm. They wouldn’t throw him out upon discovery that he is a Jew, but they might not like it. He dines his associates and his associates dine him. He is passing; he is on the way. Now it wouldn’t do for his friends to see even a remotely Jewish print on his walls; they might look at him again and see the not so horrible truth. And then what? And what of it?

I do not intend that condemnation of this young man should be the moral of these paragraphs. The feeling which his story evokes in me is that of sorrow rather. He cannot be himself, either at home or office. His chief preoccupation must be that of protective coloration. He probably plays golf because that’s the thing. Like the socially rehabilitated ex-convict, his chief sub-conscious thought in reference to others must be: “I wonder if they know. I wonder if they’ll ever find out.” He is constantly giving hostages to fortune. Perhaps he might find the cure easier than he thinks. Perhaps if he made it plain that he was a Jew, his associates might say, “Well, what of it? We knew it all the time.” Think of the relief which this would bring him, but he dare not take the chance. As the zoologist is enabled to reconstruct a pre-historic animal from a bone or two, so do I reconstruct the soul-state of this man from his fear of displaying on his walls a print of

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