Is it possible to heal these hurts, to break down these inhibitions in the Jewish psyche, to prevent, before it becomes too disastrous, before it invites the very horrors it feigns to fear, the flight of a portion of our Jewish youth into the dreary and desperate morasses of Communism?
For it is a fight; it is a last, unhappy and unworthy attempt to escape the affirmative embracing of one’s Jewish fate and ineluctable destiny; it is putting off the day of manfulness for another wretched assimilatory generation or two; it is substituting the babbling of an alien ideology in Yiddish or Russian for the ape-like babbling of other alien ideologies in Prussian, if one may say so, or in French; it is becoming the henchmen of another alien order. And to that experiment in assimilatory exile as to every other there is a term and a date and a day of reckoning; and the day of reckoning which will end that experiment may well be the most monstrous and the most terrible of all.
In the great world it is minds of easy virtue that embrace Communismâ€””fellows whom it hurts to think.” A closed orthodoxy is always a comfort to such. That is not the exact motivation of Jews. I have recently met the clever, the wealthy and the well-born under or around thirty who were desperately flirting with that grimy and degrading way out only because, alas it is not a Jewish way, only because it is one of the ways of the pagan world. And these young men and women are so dazzled by the pagan world and its ways and in such wounded flight from their world and their people and its ways that they will rather choose the cloaca and officina gentium of the pagan world than stay in their own world and, by what they are there or could become there, remedy the shortcomings that estrange them and heal the hurts that the pagan and the barbarian have inflicted in it.
How quaint and sadly amusing are those who deny the uniqueness of the character and therefore of the fate of the Jewish people. Among other peoples it is the proletarian and the oppressed who out of his suffering and out of his woe and at the end of his long patience embraces the dark doctrines of the Communists and raises that desperate torch. Among us it is often, tragically often, as I have said, the free, the enlightened and the gently bred who seek out of flight from their Jewishness to set on fire the civilizatory structure that houses us all, Jew and Christian alike.
But I was to speak of remedies. And at first, certain of the remedial ways that I shall propose may seem feeble and even foolish. They will only seem so. Remember that human nature has strange and obscure and apparently trivial secrets out of which arise results that can shake both the soul and the world. . . . A group in a Western city recently was discussing the eternal problem. A thoroughly well-disposed Gentile journalist was telling the story of a boyhood friendship which had once and for all made him, as far as any Gentile can be, a friend of the Jewish people. And his story began as follows: “It was at public school that we met. His name was Abie Finkelstein and he looked exactly like that. . . .” It is needless to say here what the Gentile journalist meant. One knows. We know. We know, too, how Abie Finkelstein felt about the entire matter and how the bearing of that name and the knowledge of the false and brutal associations it had in the pagan world wounded and warped his tender child’s soul so immedicably from the start that it was, as it were, only by a thousand fires that he could ever (that trauma suffered once and for all) become a proud and self-affirmative Jew and is probably today a violent assimilationist, whether polite or Communist, and is in full flight from his people, in full flight from the early half-conscious but indelible hurts which the bearing of his name, which he identifies with his people, inflicted upon him.
Let us begin with an analysis of that name. We shall find here gradually symbols of all the nethermost miseries of Galuth. The boy’s name was Abrahamâ€”the most majestic of all human names. In Christian churches, too, the name is majestic. And if it had been spelled preferably Avraham and followed by an equally noble and euphonious Hebrew vocable, the individual who bore these names might have seemed exotic and strange and even menacing to his boyhood friend. It took the vocable Finkelstein to make him seem comic with a touch of contemptuous comedy; it took the combination of Abie and Finkelstein to make Abie hate his people through himself. I shall take up the name Finkelstein next week.