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The Human Touch

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I have received several letters this week. Elias Tobenkin, author of “Stalin’s Ladder,” which I reviewed last Sunday, writes a brief comment on the importance of the reporting function, showing thereby his appreciation to the hilt of my characterization of his book as a report. . . . Irving Fineman, author of “Hear, Ye Sons,” of which, I believe and trust, you will be hearing a good deal, writes to reproach me—very gently—for destroying the illusions of stenographers who think he’s handsome, and to state that he had no idea that his teeth were so sinister as I had reported them as being. . . . The editor of America, a Catholic journal, expresses his polite resentment at the Bulletin’s cartoonist’s hostile interpretation of the Catholic Church, an interpretation which, I am sure, Mr. Carl Rose did not intend to apply to the modern Vatican, a Vatican in which—as Ernest Bloch, the composer, reported to our interviewer—the Pope receives the Rabbi who was his tutor in Hebrew and publishes an announcement of that reception for the subtle instruction in the amenities of the Nazis. . . But the briefest and most provocative letter of this week comes from Cleveland, from Newton D. Baker, secretary of war in the cabinet of President Wilson, to whom I had sent a request for a guest editorial. Mr. Baker writes:

“I have your letter of August 12. Frankly, I have not time to contribute the guest editorial which you invite me to write, but even if I had, I would hesitate as I am far from sure how much good we do by writing on American Jewish life and similar subjects as though they differed from American life. In my own thinking I do not draw discriminations and distinctions of that kind.”

Nazis, wherever they may be found, intensify, where they do not create, what we call the Jewish problem; Newton Bakers subordinate, when they do not erase, that problem.


Dr. Georges Hayem, physician and surgeon and former president of the French Academy of Medicine, proved his excellence to the world at large by dying at the age of ninety-two. The command, Physician, heal thyself!, could not be directed at him; he not only healed himself but kept himself going two years and a score beyond the span set in the Bible of three score and ten. Even mere longevity can be a physician’s triumph; we have yet a distance to go before longevity can be coupled with mental agility and physical stamina.


Last Week I wrote about an Aryan gentleman who, with his Jewish wife, was entertained {SPAN}by{/SPAN} a group of Jews who were requested, in advance of the evening, not to allow Hitler to enter the conversation, if they would be so kind. Hitler therefore did not enter the conversation. Which, as I reported, tended to make the subject subconsciously more important than it might have been had the taboo not been imposed. But I wondered afterwards whether the subject that was tabooed among ten was taboo also between two, the Aryan husband and the Jewish wife.

Ludwig Lewisohn has striven, with the force almost of obsession, to teach a generation that there was something wrong about intermarriage—and probably there is. But intermarriage has been going on for so many hundreds of years and in so many scattered regions over the face of the earth that one may wonder whether, after all, intermarriage is much more of an error than perhaps marriage happens to be, in many cases. You are welcome to debate whether intermarriage is a basic error, whether or not you can prove certain intermarriages to be individual errors. The sensitive princess of the fairy tale, you may remember, felt the pea beneath several dozens of eiderdown quilts, and for the equally sensitive, there are almost as many occasions for friction in a marriage with one’s own kind as in marriage with a member of another race or creed.

Don’t mistake me. I am not defending intermarriage. I am not attacking it. I was for a time under the spell of the Lewisohn ideology and assumed the correctness of his diagnosis. But the sight of the apparently happy Aryan-Jewish couple made me realize that intermarriages may differ among each other in as slight, or in as fundamental, ways as marriages may differ among each other. I think it is even possible to argue that even Hitler can’t come between hundreds of intermarried couples. And that would be a test which no un-intermarried couple would have to face.

The other day I had a chat on the subject with what the lawyers would call a competent authority. He has an aunt, sister, brother and cousin who are intermarried and they happen all to be happily intermarried. And almost everyone else he knows is divorced, or separated, or about to be divorced or separated, or on the verge, or quarreling in public. But our competent authority has such unmodern reasons for what he calls the success of intermarriages that I doubt whether you will like his reasoning.

His theory is that Jewish girls are spoiled by their parents, enjoying equality in esteem with their brothers, which, of course, is not the habit of old-fashioned Jews. These girls therefore enter marriage with their own people with expectations that do not prepare the ground for happy marriages. They may be good companions, but not good wives. The Gentile woman, our authority continues, is accustomed to look up to her husband, and is grateful for small favors. There is enough deference to make for happiness. Now, says he, the Gentile wife of a Jew requires far less in the way of attention than she would if she were a Jewess, but as for the Jewess who marries a Gentile, the subconscious feeling of inferiority in her disposes her to be content with much less in the way of attention and attentions than she would if her husband were a Jew. In brief, this is the intermarriage set-up: The Gentile woman is ready to be subject to the dominion of her Jewish husband; the Jewish wife gives to her Gentile husband a deference which she would deny to a husband of her own people.

Now, if you don’t like this diagnosis, please don’t tear my hair; tear out Samuel Harrison’s hair. He’s the fellow who says this. I interrogated him about intermarriages because in his novel about Jews in the pioneer West, “Yonder Lies Jericho,” there is a most marvelously happy and adjusted intermarried couple, of which the man, the Jew, wears the trousers, while the Gentile wife gives deference without surrendering her independence. Their man-child is even circumcized, without a religious ceremony. The understanding and peace between the two are taken for granted rather than realized, for the main concern of the story is not so much in the relations between people as between people, on one side, and a business, on the other.

Mr. Harrison tells me he has spent so much time with Gentiles he finds Jews exciting. He has even worked for Jews who prefer Gentile subordinates. He has worked in Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Oregon and for Hiram Bloomingdale, from whom he learned about department stores. His most exciting days, from a conventional point of view, have been spent on the range and in lumber camps. Mr. Harrison has no traffic with the notion that the more American a Jew is the less of a Jew he is. He believes, and please don’t bite off his head for it, that the Jews of the West are better Jews than are those of the East and much finer as human beings than are the Jews of, say, New York. The Jews of the West are superior not because they’re wealthier, but because—they’re superior.

Mr. Harrison expects to have his first play, “Heigho Delilah !” on the boards this Fall and plans to spend some time in Oregon to refresh his memory; it is to be the setting for his second novel, in which also there will be a couple of Jews.

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