The Human Touch

THERE is a saying to the effect that it is hard to be a Jew. But there are Jews who derive a great deal of satisfaction from thinking themselves better than their fellow-Jews. There is nothing which can match the self-complacency of these modern Pharisees, these recail analogues to the superior Negroes who called another Negro Nigger, while appearing to resent the use of that epithet by strangers. They are the Jews who have persuaded at least themselves that if Germany had been poepled only be such as themselves, the means of Hitlerism never would have arisen, or, having arisen, would soon have been scotched. I suppose the moment Hitler had a heart-to-heart talk with one of these self-righteous superiorties, he would-have relaxed the anti-Semtic code. But one wonders what would happen to the self-es-teem of these gentry should a miracle all other Jews into their likeness and there be no inferior Jews for superior Jews to look down upon? Long before Hitler the Eastern Jew was the cause of embarrassment to the assimilated Jew and I from Poland appeared for help at one of the settlement houses, or, more probably, at a Jewish communal center, and asked for a night’s rest, he would be given the night’s rest and, the following morning, a sum of money on the surly condition that he move along grace as out of little as possible by his prewsence the respectable Jews of the town. But there can be little doubt that the spectacle of the Eastern Jew, as a type, superiority to the asssimilated Jew, as being shamed by his presence.

I have recevied a letter full of the writer’s autobiography, the burden of which is contained in this paragraph:

“In my experience I found that if the Jew is frank and respectable, and will not conceal his nationality, the Gentile will have more respect for him and will gladly associate with him.” TO prove which he relates various incidents from his career to show that a Jew need not coneceal his origin and will suffer nothing froom frank and upright avowal of his rece.

The writer, the son of a Jewish physician in Russia, was born in Courland, where he received his education. Some of his father’s best friends were Gentiles, and among his school chums were Gentiles who liked him so much that they thought he must be Gentile too. Said one of them: “In your veins surely runs Christian blood,” whereupon our Jewish autobiographer, with a touch of priggishness of which he does no seem to be aware, answered: “Certainly, as you know, Christ was a Jew, so why should my blood be different; the sort of blood in your veins, I presume, is that of a Tartar or other savage.” We have no report of the reply made by the scion of savages.

He came to America, studied law, became a lawyer, obtained a post with the government of New York City-this was thirty years ago-and although he was a lonely Jew completely surrounded by Gentiles, he had no difficulty in getting along; thatis as a Jew. Opportunities for advancement being blocked by other considerations, however, he left the service of the city in 1908 and found himself a job with no difficulty with one of the most respectable Gentile frims in town, and, as he imagined, an object of such curiosity that a few members of the four hundered, of which employer was one, specially visited the office to examine this curous specimen of a Russian Jew. Fate, or a chain of circumstances, made him the legal representative of the Russian Orthodox Church and he would often dine with Russian priests in whose company he had upon occasion to oppose aspersions cast upon Jews and to proclaim his own Jewishness and to inform them that Christ, too, was a Jew. Our autobiographer informs us that the Gentiles preferred his company ot that of two who had been converted to the Russian Church-the correct name of which, of course, is the Greek Orthodox Church.

I believe our letter-writer revealed more between the lines than he intended. He seems to believe that he proves his superioity by consorting with Gentitles and gaining their approbation, and the implication is that until the Gentile approbation is gained, no Jew can other Jews. The letter suggests rather a slave ideology and the pleasure our friend seems to find in quoting Gentile approbation of himself has something of the equivalent of Negro pleasure in consortin with white persons. A young Jewes who could not possibly conceal her origin barely concealed her pleasure one evening at the YIddish Art Theatre in the fact that she was having a Gentile in tow, one, probably, who was taking a slumming tour among the Jews. The analogy to a Negro taking a whte man through Harlem me then as painfully appropriate.

There is a clever Gentile friend who applies good-naturedly a very revealing test on Jews whom h# meets for the first time. “Really are you a Jew?” he queries, half refusing to believe, and then: “But you don’t look like a Jew.” And it is in response elicited by this supposedly flattering doubt that he takes the measure of his Jew. Six out of ten if not more, will redden embarrassedly and falter phrases which are, in essence, a “Thank you!” for the doubt. It is rather a rare persons who sees the insult implied in the doubt. I think it may be taken as axiomatic that every Jew who speaks another language than Yiddish will feel complimented at being taken for a non-Jew and feel perfectly capable of “passing” as a Gentile. Which type of person, of course, is close kinsman to the fellow who is always proclaiming his Jewishness, but knows that Gentiles prefer him because he is a superior Jew and who, therefore, form the eminence of that regard, can afford to look with a sneer upon his less favored brethren.

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