The following is the fifth of a series of seven articles on “Under the Hammer and Sickle,” a reappraisal of the Jewish position in the Soviet Union. The series is running daily in the Jewish Daily Bulletin.
The author, Dr. David Goldberg, is a well known writer and lecturer who has just returned from his third visit to Russia in recent years.
The fear that, without religious and social injunctions to condemn it, Jews would practice intermarriage by preferance, is as old as the Jewish exile. It is based on the assumption that there is present in the human being something like a biological urge to mate with one outside his group.
If that were generally true, then such neighbors, for example, as the French and the Spanish and the Italian peoples had been throughout their histories should have by now been merged into one people. They are all Gentiles, of the same religion, and even of kindred racial origin. Often enough, too, they had been under one political rule. However, we know them to the present day to be peoples distinct and apart from each other.
The fact is, not only is there no such natural tendency to marry away from the group, but there is, on the contrary, a natural urge to cleave to one’s own. On the lowest rung of the ladder human beings were even practicing incest at the behest of that natural urge, until it became necessary to prohibit the practice religiously, that is, it became necessary to legislate intermarriage between families of the same tribe. It took the twelve tribes of Israel some three hundred years to form the nation of Israel, so difficult was it for them to overcome the natural tendency to keep within the tribe and shun intermarriage even with their brother tribes.
Civilization has polished down a great deal the tribal instinct against intermarriage, but it created other considerations to insure the preservation of the group. The historic consciousness, the heritage, the common language and the community of custom-these afford powerful inhibitions against intermarriage. Let the physical existence of the group be assured, and there is no doubt that the mating instinct will travel via the shortest and least resisting route towards one’s own.
How, then, about those German Jews who, according to popular indictment, “had bartered their souls for the price of civic emancipation” and intermarried Gentiles by the score?
The indictment, to begin with, is a terrible exaggeration. Lion Feuchtwanger lists more than 60 percent, of the half million German Jews of today as antedating the Napoleonic era. The rush, therefore, for Gentile brides and grooms on the part of the emancipated German Jews couldn’t have been so great. But it is true that an inordinately large number of the German-Jewish aristocracy did intermarry, precisely because they were of the aristocracy, that is, men and women who, like the aristocracy everywhere and at all times, have lost contact with the people, with the masses. They were bidding for social equality for which the Napoleonic emanicipation had made no provision. They were the exception, and not the rule.
But the emancipation of the Russian has provided for social equality as well. There is no fickle Jewish aristocracy in their midst. Nor is there the slightest external consideration or incentive for intermarriage, excepting the incentive of love, which is personal and exceptional, hence-cannot threaten the existence of the group.
There might have been a spasm of intermarriage at the beginning of the Revolution, but no one will notice the effect of it in the Jewish community at this time. I took the genealogical record of several groups of Jewish families in Moscow and Leningrad whom I learned to know intimately. They have a long revolutionary pedigree and have never known religious or racial scruple about intermarriage. That is, they were just the kind of people who you would believe to be hopelessly mated with Gentiles.
There were just two Gentile brides in the first group of seven families, and one Gentile groom in the second group of four. Needless to say, the Gentiles adjusted themselves to the Jewish groups, and not the groups to them. No doubt, in the capitals, there are cases where a solitary Jew marrying into a populous Gentile family group identifies himself with them and not with his own. But on the whole, ### doubt whether intermarriage in Russia has reached the proportion it has reached in the United States, and I doubt that it will ever reach it. There is no apostacy in Russia, there is no bid for Gentile front, there is not a single incentive for intermarriage there; but there is the powerful group instinct for self-preservation against it.
JEWS NOT INTERMARRYING
So, the picture of Jews being scattered in small groups over a wide land full of Gentiles and ready to obliterate themselves racially through intermarriage may be dismissed as grotesquely false. The former Pale is now a motherland to them, and they live there in great bulk, and their livelihood is being provided for by the new industries created on the premises, in accordance with the avowed economic policy of the Soviets which calls for the decentralization of industry.
There remains the fear that though surviving as a group, the Jews will in the course of time take on a totally new orientation under the Communist system. Also, that they will be so different from what Jews had been in the past, or what they will continue to be in the other countries of the Diaspora that, for all historical purposes, they will write themselves off the record of the Jew, something which, on different grounds though, has happened with the Karaites. The ground for such fear will be gone over in the next article. (To be continued tomorrow)