Dr. Emanuel Gamoran, educational director of the Commission on Jewish Education, whose headquarters are in Cincinnati, wrote the following article in reply to a column by Ludwig Lewisohn entitled “Shame Over Vienna,” which appeared in the Jewish Daily Bulletin. “Though I am usually in agreement with Mr. Lewisohn,” Dr. Gamoran wrote in an appended letter, “I find myself radically in disagreement in this case.”
In a recent article which appeared in The Jewish Daily Bulletin, Ludwig Lewisohn calls the Jews of Vienna to task for protesting and for trying to arouse public opinion against the action which the Austrian Government recently took by issuing an order to segregate the Jewish children in separate Jewish schools.
Mr. Lewisohn takes the attitude that the Jews of Vienna should have made a festal day of the first day of school. They should have sent their children there with blue-white banners, they should have asked for Jewish teachers, and insisted on courses in Hebrew and in Yiddish history, etc., etc.
He makes the comparison with an incident which occurred in 1925, when, upon learning that Jews were excluded from Alpine clubs, he advised them to organize clubs of their own.
He proceeds to describe the vacillating, servile, “inferiority feeling” of the Viennese Jews, who answered him by saying: ‘Jaâ€”aber dann.”
FAILS TO SEE ANALOGY
There is no doubt that a Jew so lacking in self-respect that after being excluded from a non-Jewish club he still seeks to enter it is a despicable creature and deserves all the shame and contumely heaped upon him by Mr. Lewisohn.
Is the segregation of Jewish children in the schools of Vienna, however, to be classed in the same category with exclusion from a social club? People have a right to choose their friends, and if our neighbors do not like us, that’s unfortunate. We have to associate with those people who do like us. But action on the part of a government in the direction of segregation reminiscent of the compulsory ghetto is by no means in the same category as exclusion from a social club. If Austria had issued a school ordinance providing different schools for the different minorities in its midst, the problem would be entirely different from what it is at present.
Austria has not done anything of the sort. What she has done is distinctly an attempt to declare the Jew a second-rate or third-rate citizenâ€”a sort of preliminary to the acceptance of Nazi ideals.
Why should the Jews pretend in the face of action of that sort on the part of the government that they have been given occasion to rejoice and to go out marching with the white and the blue?
We are second to none in our ideal of Jewish nationalism, and just because we detest the tactics of the Revisionists is no reason why we should confuse the issue in the present situation. As long as no arrangements are made for minority rights of ALL groups in Austria, there is no reason why the Jews should act differently from their fellow citizens as far as the education of their children is concerned. It would have been supineness on the part of the Jewish leaders of Vienna to accept without protest the action of the Austrian Government.
For the sake of argument, let us assume that a similar proposition is made by one of the Jew-haters of America to the American Government. And, inconceivable as it may be, let us assume that the proposition is accepted. Would Mr. Lewisohn urge that the Jewish children in New York City should march to a segregated Jewish public school with the white and the blue, and with banners unfurled at the time when all the other nationalities that constitute Americaâ€”the Irish, the Italians, the Greeks and the Slavsâ€”go to the public school?
SHOULD BE VOLUNTARY
If for reasons of policy or for love of tradition or for devotion to Hebrew culture, Jews should wish to have separate schools, as the Catholics do, such action should be the outgrowth of their inner desire, not of external compulsion. But if it were to be suggested as a matter of governmental legislation, Mr. Lewisohn, and with him a great many other Jews, would no doubt oppose such a measure as an attempt to deprive American Jews of their rights of citizenship.
It is strange that Mr. Lewisohn, whose nationalism is not of the Revisionist variety and whose writing reflect so beautifully the cultural, spiritual ideals of Zionism, should thus be led astray into yielding on a matter on which he ought to be of the most vigorous opposition. Hasty thinking is not always good thinking.