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To the Editor, Jewish Daily Bulletin:
It’s not often that I write letters to newspapers but your reader, Mr. Levey, so provoked me that, despite the disagreeableness of the task, I feel compelled to write. It is not to come to the defense of Mr. Lewisohn, for he needs no defense, but to assure the editors of the Jewish Daily Bulletin that Mr. Levey does not represent the opinions of all the readers.
It seems to me that of all those writing in the Anglo-Jewish press, Mr. Lewisohn is the only one who has something to say. You may agree with him or disagree, but you will not find him parading a superior complex to hide a feeling of inferiority. Mr. Lewisohn does not try to excuse the Jew; he is proud of being one, and for being a Jew he has sacrificed much. He is one of the few Jews who can have his name on Broadway and the standard magazines, but deliberately turns aside from these honors and glories and says: “I prefer to write for The Jewish Daily Bulletin, the B’nai B’rith Magazine, The Menorah Journal.” Knowing as I do how many Jewish actors and writers would give an arm to desert the field of Jewish work in order to get into the Gentile world (and they are ostensibly zealous, warm-hearted Jews), this means much to me.
Before Lewisohn got to like Jews and like to be one, all my intellectual friends spoke in lyrical terms about the great stylist Lewisohn, the tremendous influence he was in letters. And yet when he became one of us and rejected the Gentile world, from which he received plaudits and honors, the change was immediate. And what a change! He was psychotic; he suffered from a persecution complex, from an inferiority complex; he was killing himself as an artist. The Gentile world did not notice this change (as notice the success of his late books), but the Jewish world did.
DEPLORES MISTAKEN ATTITUDE
I liked Lewisohn before he became a Jew and I like him now. The fact that he is a Jew and writes for Jewish publications does not minimize his importance in my eyes. If anything, I respect him more highly, for here I feel is a man who has given up much for his convictions. I like that about him, even if everyone else doesn’t.
I had occasion to interview Mr. Lewisohn in Paris. His home impressed me as that of a cultured Jew. It contained menorahs and works of art from Palestine, and hanging proudly was a personal letter from Dr. Freud, and if I remember correctly, letters from other prominent Jewish writers, the names of whom I forget. He was studying Hebrew. He regretted, he told me, the years he had spent studying Latin or Greek, which language I forget.
DOES NOT HIDE JEWISHNESS
It’s silly to talk of Mr. Lewisohn suffering from an inferiority complex. It can much more safely be said about those Jews who are trying to win honors in the Gentile world and are not succeeding, and if they are succeeding, are doing so in a mediocre fashion. It can much more safely be said of Jews who try to hide their Jewishness. It can be least accurately said about Jews who do not pretend to be anything else, but who say: “I’m a Jew and proud of it.” Where can one see inferiority in that?
The letter of Mr. Levey touched off the firing trigger to something I’ve been wanting to say for several years now. If I’ve wandered afield, it was not only to answer Mr. Levey, but the host of Jewsâ€” many intellectual and cultured Jews who have taken a lofty attitude toward Mr. Lewisohn ever since he became conscious of his Jewishness and happy to take a part in Jewish life and thought.
Dec. 9, 1934,
New York City.