‘americanization’ of Jews Seen Weakening Jewish Cultural Achievements

A warning that the Americanization of the Jew may produce a scattering and weakening of “the vast accumulation of Jewish learning and culture” has been sounded by Richard Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston.

The Cardinal told a meeting of the Brandeis Club here that whatever might be said against the European ghettoes of past periods, “there was no reason to be anxious in these centuries about the survival of Jewish tradition and culture.” He said that this living pattern “produced a Jewish community conscious of itself and one aware of the extraordinary treasures of the past which were handed down by learned teachers from generation to generation.”

In contrast, he said, the complete Americanization of the Jew in this country was “a new experience for the Jewish community.” He said it posed the threat that “the vast accumulation of Jewish learning and culture will now be dissipated into the wider community and in the process lose much of its strength in the generations that lie before us.”

Stressing that the problem in the United States now “is the opposite of the one that faced the Jewish community in times past” the Cardinal declared: “The over-concentration of Jews in a single place has given way to the scattering of Jews in all places. Unless steps are taken to meet the challenge this new social situation presents, Jewish culture itself will be affected in the years that are before us.”

He said that “the Jewish contribution to science and art and literature” in the United States as in other parts of the world, “is a massive one but it could become a purely personal contribution made by people of Jewish descent but without a basic Jewish identification.”

For this reason, he advised that “along side and encouraging the great personal efforts of individual Jews, there should be somewhere in this broad land a visible institution which in a sense can formalize and give structure to all the Jewish learning of times past and through its presence provide new inspiration for the learning and discoveries in the days ahead.”

The Cardinal stated that Brandeis University, “without being in any exclusive sense Jewish, provides the home in which the riches of the past can meet the challenges of the present in terms of the universal genius of Judaism.”

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