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Rejection of Jewish Past Can Erode Jewish Tradition in Israel

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“The Jewish tradition can evaporate even in Israel In an atmosphere of rejection of the Jewish past.” This was declared by Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, president of the American Jewish Congress, who opened the 11th annual American-Israel dialogue last night. The theme of the dialogue this year is “Jewish, ness and the Creative process.”

Rabbi Hertzberg attacked what he termed “the pernicious notion that the Jew must be a marginal man to achieve great art or great ideas. Spinoza, Freud and Marx–men who saw their Jewish particularity as a kind of disease that had to be destroyed if they were to realize themselves–have no Jewish children,” he said, adding that Isaiah attacked the Jewish community of his day but af firmed its continuity.

“The marginal man cannot create Jewish art whether he writes in Hebrew or in English. Those who seek to become universal men by transcending and abandoning the Jewish past will speed the day when Jewishness disappears whether they live and work in Israel or America,” Rabbi Hertzberg said.

A different view was voiced by Prof. Shmaryahou Talmon, who saw a role for “a certain marginality” in the creation of a specific Jewish culture. “It remains to be seen whether the historical and political normalcy of Israel is in fact conducive to the emergence of a specific Jewish culture or whether a certain marginality or participation in a surrounding culture is necessary for the tension which breeds creativity,” Talmon said.

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