Menu JTA Search

World Press Digest

Download PDF for this date

Is assimilation a solution to the Jewish problem?

Ha### K. Coldstein, editor of the Hebrew Union College Monthly, discusses this question editorially as follows:

That our task is one of adjustment and that assimilation is not the way out—this is the objective of Jewish education. It is usually predicated on the assumption that assimilation won## work and that therefore we should live a complete Jewish life. Many students feel that the first is an arbitrary assumption, and that the second is a non-sequitur. Who can rightfully say that it will not work? True it isn’t working in Germany, but it is also true that it is working in Russia. Assimilation has never been given its proper chance. Up to the end of the last and the beginning of this century, the Jews were segregated; they lived integrated Jewish lives; they were different. With the coming of emancipation, with the flowering of an age of science, with the great impetus given to the universality of education, with the seven league strides in transportation and communication, the Jew is becoming assimilated as never before. If rabbis are really concerned with the solution of the Jewish problem, here is an atmosphere which is most conducive to such a solution.

This argument seems plausible. But even if we concede its speciousness, what is the alternative? The living of a rich Jewish life? But what does that mean? Is it the foisting of a past culture on a disinterested people? Is it the masquerading of customs and ceremonies in modern dress? Is it the participation in past practices without the sanguine cosmological presuppositions of our ancestors? What is this rich Jewish life? And for whom is it rich? And by what right do we say that the Jewish problem plus a rich Jewish life will give as its quotient an integrated personality?


Touching upon the problem or Jewish students in American {SPAN}univers#es{/SPAN}, Mrs. {SPAN}##stelle{/SPAN} M. Sternberger {SPAN}###{/SPAN} an article in the B’nai B’rith Magazine, emphasizes the woman’s viewpoint of this question.

The women of today are credited with controlling the wealth of the United States. Though that impression is exaggerated, it is true that a considerable portion of our country’s income is falling under their power. Many of our women have it at their command to do something substantial in these several disturbing issues. They are allowing themselves to ignore some of the most inspiring services that society was ever asked to perform.

There are, first of all, the scholarships that they might set up, for women as well as men, stipulating that the beneficiaries must elect to prepare for certain careers. There are studies and surveys that ought to be made of the economic adjustments open to the tens of thousands of Jewish young women who still find firms and employment agencies discriminating against them because of their “race” and faith.

The problem must be examined without prejudice, with deep sympathies and a ready generosity.


The assertion that there is little intermarriage in Hollywood was made by Eddie Cantor in an interview for the London Jewish {SPAN}###icle{/SPAN}. reported as follows:

I asked Mr. Cantor whether there were strong tendencies towards assimilation among Jews in the film industry and whether marriage out of the faith was frequent. He assured me that quite the reverse was the case. Most of the Jews in Hollywood were married to Jewish girls and he mentioned the names of some of the more prominent Jewish personalities there as examples. An interesting exception to these was Mr. Irving Thalberg who was married to Miss Norma Shearer, a non-Jewess, and easily among the most popular artists both in America and over here. “Norma Shearer,” said Mr. Cantor “is much more Jewish in feeling than are many Jewesses. The sufferings of the Jews in Germany moved her intensely and she invariably refers to the misfortunes of Germany Jewry as ‘the sufferings of our people’!” German-Jewish refugees were received with open arms when they took up jobs in films in Hollywood, he said: and he revealed that he had taken a prominent part in raising money on behalf of the Refugees’ Funds.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund