Catholic Laymen’s Journal Devotes Entire Issue to U.S. Jewish Culture

The Jewish effect on the American way of life is the theme of a symposium, the first of its kind in an American Catholic periodical, which comprises the content of the autumn 1963 issue of Ramparts, the Catholic Layman’s Journal, published here today. The symposium is comprised of articles by five leading American Jewish literary figures: Leslie A. Fiedler, Maxwell Geismar, Arthur A. Cohen, Trude Weiss-Rosmarin and Harold U. Ribalow, and poems by Karl Shapiro and Leonard E. Nathan.

Edward M. Keating, publisher of Ramparts, said that the decision to devote an entire issue to the Jew was based on the fact that “too few Catholics know anything about the Jews who are certainly major contributors to contemporary literature and the arts.” He also reported that “so great is our personal regard that two of the Jewish writers, Fiedler and Geismar, have become associate editors of Ramparts.”

Fiedler, writing on “The Jew as Mythic American,” sees the Jew in the United States being swallowed up in the prosperity of modern American life. He writes that when the Jewish writer functions as such today. “when he pledges himself, that is to say, to describe the kind of Jew he most probably is, and the kind of Jews he most probably knows, these must be if not terminal Jews, at least penultimate ones; the fathers or grandfathers of–barring always some horrific or miraculous turn of events–America’s last Jews.”

This view is challenged by Harold Ribalow in his essay “The Jewish Side of American Life.” He asserts that “as American grows-older, the ‘minority’ culture becomes part of the American culture, yet it continues to retain its differences, and in so doing, enriches all America.”

GEISMAR ‘CONFUSED’ ON WHAT IS A JEW; COHEN SEES RELIGION ‘IRRELEVANT’

Maxwell Geismar, discussing “The Jewish Heritage in Contemporary American Fiction,” admits to confusion as to just what his Jewishness means. “Sometimes indeed I wake up and ask myself, half in some kind of dream-nightmare state, what is a Jew? Is it a cultural heritage, is it a religion, or is it an enigmatic blood-and-race affair? This is the unresolved question which haunts the so-called ‘Jewish mind.’”

Arthur A. Coben, discussing what he considers the growing irrelevance of religion in modern life in his essay, “The Jew, Secularity and Christian Culture,” finds that the Jew, in joining the West, “no longer joined the Christian West, for he did not join a Church wedded to society. He joined an emancipated West–externally emancipated from unjust secular power and internally emancipated from repressive constructions of thought and imagination. The Jew joined an already de-Christianizing West; and, as part of the bargain he agreed–foolishly–to de-Judaize.”

Dr. Weiss-Rosmarin examined in “The Jewish Idea” the contributions of the ancient Hebrews to the ideas and ideals of modern western civilization and comments that “as Judaism sees it, much of Christianity’s failure to Christianize its confessors, so that they would be able to control power with ethics, is due to the reliance on the omnipotence of love.”

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