"Therefore Choose Life"-
An Exchange
I should like to say the following directly
to the pseudonymous Mrs. Rossman:
Much as I sympathize (in the German sense
of mitfiihlen) with your plight as you descn’be
it in "The Community and I" (November
1954), I cannot excuse you…. For the logical
reasons of your predicament lie in the illogical,
albeit ardent, wish to reconcile irrecon-
cilables …
Let us start with the rudiments of the
problem. You are candid enough to admit by
implication that you do not uphold the religious
tenets around which the whole problem re-
volves, at least you do not maintain them in
their outward manifestations. Why? One can
understand. You (thought you) had unlearned
at high school and at Hunter, in your studies
of geology and physics and even psychology,
your blind subservience to those dogmas your
Rebbe had drilled into you. So far so good. But
no sooner did you come to this realization than
you chucked the whole business overboard.
Now you are tortured by the impossibility of
making your children submit to a discipline
whose object is to inculcate doctrines (you think) you yourself reject. But why, my dear
lady, should you want them to submit to them?
I’ll tell you why. Your innermost self is aveng-
ing itself on that reckless self we saw above
chucking the whole business overboard. It
knows better. It is (dimly) animated by that
compulsive, immanent truth which requires no
proof, because it is all-pervading and eternal.
Have you thought about, did you know anything at all of the content of that admittedly
mystifying cargo your good mother sought so
unquestioningly to entrust and transmit to you?
It is not very prudent or intelligent to discard
so indifferently something we have learned
we do not know anything about. The supreme
values of life reside in objects we must learn
to realize and appreciate.
And now you blame your rabbi for failing
to "inspire" you and help you achieve that
realization. Offhand, one may admit all the
negative qualities you ascribe to your rabbi:
Is there any solid reason why the rabbi chosen
by the congregation (admittedly, a cake-eating,
card-playing, bingoing, book-reviewing, and
other like edifying busyness-center) should in traits and character be different from his con-
gregants? He is merely the approved, more or
less glorified, image of his congregation. But
you may be right in your complaint that the
rabbi and teacher are stand-offish in their re-
sponse to most of their congregants’ intellectual
quests. The point is that intellectual under-
standing is not analogous to vitamin injection.
The rabbi cannot be religious for you, no more
than he can be pious or have faith for you …
The priests in some churches may seek to
intoxicate you; Judaism is not out after such
easy conquest, nor is, conversely, the quest for
it as simple as that. You have to do the wrestling
and ruminating, and if you do he can at best
guide you and throw some light on your pur-
suits. When you studied to understand your
geometry or Shakespeare, or James or Dewey,
or Mill or Bentham, you had to ruminate and
toil and drudge through an infinitude of ob-
scure, often occluded, mental pathways to ar-
rive at a possible meaning. How much more is
this imperative in an endeavor to penetrate to
existence’s profoundest truths. You did a great
deal for the cultivation of your intellect. How
much more do you owe to the infinite quest of
your soul!
OF YOUR intellect …. The laws of conduct
your father and mother lived by, who were
much wiser than you are inclined to acknowl-
edge, and for which and by which alone a peo-
ple has gone through history fifty hundred
years and endured a million incredible ordeals
and survived peoples mightier and much more
numerous than they-these laws were not good
enough for you. You wanted broader vistas,
and you embarked on the high road of Ration-
alism (not realizing that you thereby only
circumscribed and narrowed your vista). You
shut yourself off to anything above and be-
yond its sphere, and thus succumbed entirely
to it. And now you lament when your children
follow out your mute but all too manifest direc-
tion. But Judaism-and that is what you strive
for and aspire after-is nothing less than total
and scrupulous adherence to and observance of
the Jewish Law. I want to emphasize it: noth-
ing less and nothing more. If you wish to put You insist that faith and understanding come
it so: the ghetto Judaism of your and my Rus- out of the observance of the Law. Or perhaps sian or Polish parents. We know of no other. you do not ask for understanding. Is it just sur- Anything else is surrogate, spurious. Long ago vival that is important? Evelyn Rossman would our Torah and our prophets warned us: you feel that her observance must come out of un- live by them, or you cease, you perish. Of derstanding. She would wonder what you mean paramount significance in your case and for us by the Law. Do you refer to a Jewish life ac- all today is the admonition: "See, I have set cording to the Shulchan Aruch? Do you mean before thee this day life and good, and death all of the Law or some of the Law? Who de- and evil, in that I command thee this day to cides which? For whom? Do you believe that love the Lord thy God, to walk in His ways, Jews should only live in ghettos where the Law and to keep His commandments and His can be maintained, or all go to Israel? statutes and His ordinances; then thou shalt live Evelyn Rossman’s heresies are not those of a and multiply … . But if thy heart turn away, person eager to throw a valuable heritage over- and thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn board, but rather of one who is examining her away, and worship other gods, and serve them; heritage and trying to discover the greatest I declare unto you this day, that ye shall surely meaning it can have for her. What Judaism she perish …. I call heaven and earth to witness accepts is truly hers, because of all the possi- against thee this day, that I have set before thee bilities in the world she chose it uncoerced. She life and death, the blessing and the curse; worries and she studies and it would be better therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, not to have too much contempt for her if she thou and thy seed." does not trouble to salt and soak her meat, but KARL REIss is concerned with learning what the prophets New York City have written and what the Law she is not yet prepared to follow actually says. Though she DEAR KARL REISS: may yet find that she can some day follow more I imagined that you had misread my piece, of the Law than she does now, the acceptance "The Community and 1," when I read your will come through her intellect that you respect letter. Perhaps I invited such a misreading. so little. Her concern for her community is a Evelyn Rossman is not a pseudonym in the Jewish one. She respects Jewish virtues and val- usual sense. She is almost a fictitious character, ues, though she feels that the details of Ortho- invented so -that I could tell about the town of dox ritual are the frosting on the cake, not the Northrup without hurting the town’s right to cake itself. Perhaps she suffers from a diet of privacy. It was not intended that she should be too much frosting. She is even aware that Jew- more important than the town. Though Evelyn ish Law concerns itself with the good of the Rossman and the writer have shared similar ex- community, more than that of the individual. periences, they are not identical personalities. In her town, however, she sees that Judaism I am sorry therefore that she has caused you so survives or dies with individuals and it is the much agmas nefesh. reactions of ordinary individuals to their Jewish The author of the article does not long for heritage that interests her. The fate of the com- inspiration, nor does she worry about what to munity depends on these individuals. teach her children. If you reread the piece you You caution Evelyn Rossman on the impru- will notice that these questions were not raised dence of throwing a valuable "cargo" overboard. by Evelyn Rossman, but by her neighbors. The Yet her concern for her community should writer happens to live a vital Jewish life, more make it plain that she has not thrown anything difficult yet possibly as satisfying to her as that overboard. Few people who received a heritage of her parents was to them. can throw it away easily if at all. Those who But let’s think of Evelyn Rossman’s parents, live as if they were the first people in the world whom you are so eager to defend. I think that received no heritage or received it from parents she would defend them too, though they lived who did not learn enough in the ghetto to ex- their Judaism simply, without questioning, plain it to their children or who were so dis- sometimes without understanding. Torah and satisfied with their ghetto that they urged their superstition, wisdom and foolishness, and a hard children to fly from it and everything in it. For narrow life made them as they are. Their this you can take the parents, America, or the daughter, however, needs to question, to weigh, time to task, but not Evelyn Rossman. She is and ‘to choose where you believe there is no hardly responsible. choice. She does not accept their faith, not out Thank you for writing me. Try to forgive of perversity, but because she cannot. Faith, me if I believe that my intellect and soul are like love, cannot be forced. If it does not inseparable, each worthless without the other. come spontaneously, where is it to come from? THE AUTHORLETTERS FROM READERS
Jews and the Community
Evelyn N. Rossman’s "The Community and
I" (November 1954) describes some aspects of
the small-town relations of Jews and non-Jews
not dissimilar to those which exist in the larger
metropolitan areas.
Both my husband and I came out of conser-
vative homes. Both of us lost our religious be-
liefs before we had finished college. We are
both independent liberals who think they have more in common with Gentiles interested in
politics, literature, the theater, and other ‘inm- tellectual" pursuits than with the average Jew
in our community who plays canasta or poker
and goes to Florida every winter. We have chil-
dren who are fully aware of our religious atti-
tudes, or rather our lack of them. Unlike so
many of our friends, we have always tried to be
honest with them. The problem some of Evelyn
Rossman’s friends also have, "How can I teach my child to believe things he knows I don’t be-
lieve?" we have never had to face. We assume
that most intelligent parents nowadays answer
their children’s questions honestly, be they con-
cerned with people, sex, or anything else. Why
then so often a hypocritical approach to
religious matters?
Despite our lack of convictions we are send-
ing our children to Sunday school. Despite our
"universal" interests most of our friends are
Jewish. As to the latter statement, we are not
sure why this is so. I belong to the League of
Women Voters, yet even in this organization of
intelligent, progressive women it is the Jewish
ones with whom I have become most friendly.
At the children’s public school, in an upper
middle class neighborhood, about a fourth of
the pupils are Jewish. Their parents are active
in various school activities, mixing with those of
the non-Jewish children at committee meetings
and other school functions. Yet when they ask
friends over to their homes, it is usually their
Jewish acquaintances who are invited. One will
hear the remark that "we have lots of Gentile
friends," but somehow, on the many occasions
of social get-togethers with people from different
circles, these Gentile friends are absent. Little
wonder, then, whether it be cause or effect, that
many of us have joined Jewish organizations,
although there may be little interest in Jewish affairs per se. Little wonder, also, that we send
our children to Sunday school: to have them
learn of their historical background, but also to help assure their social integration in the Jew-
ish community.
Often we ask ourselves to what extent our
social ghetto is self-imposed. At the present
time our children accept others and are accepted
by them without regard to religious or ethnic
ties. Would this mutual acceptance not con-
tinue, at least among the children of "enlight-
ened" parents, if we did not try to bequeath to
ours a heritage of segregation? DEBORAH DORFMAN
Washington, D. C.
Grossinger’s: Israel Division (Cont’d)
Permit me to make two observations in con-
nection with Morris Freedman’s articles on Gros-
singer’s (July and August 1954) and on
some letters printed in their wake.
Firstly, I find it inconsistent with your pur- sued selective policy, and incompatible with the
high standards of COMMENTARY, for a member
of your editorial staff, under the pretense of
describing the American Jewish way of life, to portray an extremely successful commercial en-
terprise with a healthy, say truly American,
sense for publicity. In a country where business firms are so shrewd about getting publicity, an
editor ought to guard his pen.
Secondly, let me say that the reaction (to use this ominous word) that came to light from
some of your readers’ letters (October issue)
shows that, at best (or at worst-as you please),
Grossinger’s is only one current in the broad
stream of Jewish life in the States against which
many are valiantly struggling, and that there
are currents running in the other direction.
Thank God, Grossinger’s isn’t the last word.
And as a postscript, let me correct an impres-
sion possibly given by Mr. Norman Lourie’s
letter ("Grossinger’s: Israel Division") which
smacks of being a hitchhike on the publicity bandwagon. Mr. Lourie writes: "The Dolphin
House Hotel and Country Club . . . operates
very much in the spirit of Grossinger’s, a fact
which Mrs. Grossinger much appreciated when
she came here." I find this statement ought to
have been qualified by admission of at least one
fundamental difference in spirit between both
establishments. The Dolphin House of Shavei
Zion (which, incidentally, means Returners to
Zion), Israel (of all places), is strictly and
guaranteed-treif. I wonder whether Mrs.
Grossinger indeed appreciated, or did she,
though it is most improbable, overlook that fact
of difference in spirit?
L. WAGENAAR Jerusalem, Israel
Mrs. McCall Defended
Doctors Nunberg and Ostow, in their letter
"Freudianism and Mrs. McCall" (December
1954), are critical both of your publication and
the contributions made to it by Mrs. Lillian
Blumberg McCall. They feel that the subject
of psychoanalysis should be discussed only in a professional journal and that it should be dis-
cussed solely by psychoanalysts; for anyone
else to do so is arrant presumption.
It may well be that psychoanalysis has be-
come too popularized by writers who know
little about the subject, and once an art or so-
called science is popularized, deterioration sets
in. However, the contributors to COMMENTARY
on this controversy have displayed a high stand-
ard in the quality of their writings, and in their
knowledge of the subject matter. I would like
to mention briefly that some of the best writing
and interpretation on psychoanalysis have been
done by such non-analysts as Bronislaw Mali-
nowski, Morris Raphael Cohen, and Dr. Abra-
ham Myerson.
As for iMrs. McCall, she seems to be well
equipped and apparently has both a practical
and scholarly knowledge of psychoanalysis. In
the November 1950 issue of COMMENTARY,
under the heading "Does Psychoanalysis Cure?"
Mrs. McCall sets forth, in a detailed, well-
documented article, the conflicting opinions on psychoanalysis. Among other things, she quotes
from the 1949 Yearbook of Psychoanalysis con-
cerning a questionnaire sent out by the late Dr.
Clarence Oberndorf to twenty-four leading
analysts, all of whom had more than twenty
years’ experience. Eighteen replies were re-
ceived which, to quote Dr. Oberndorf, "were
very disconcerting." Miss Blumberg further
quotes Dr. Oberndorf: "There is nothing upon
which they [the analysts] agree, not in type of
case best suited for analysis, nor the method of
termination, nor results, nor how many pa-
tients were helped through analysis to avoid serious mental illness." It would do credit to
many well-qualified analysts if they could pro-
duce as penetrating and scholarly a piece of
writing as this article by Mrs. McCall….
New York City
"St. Charles" or "Saint Catarina"?
Dr. Handlin ("Adventure in Freedom: First
Chapter," September 1954) writes that the
new immigrants of September 1654 arrived on
the tiny bark "St. Charles." May I draw your attention to the fact that the bark’s name was
"Saint Catarina." My reference: "The 250th Anniversary of the Settlement of Jews in the
U.S.," addresses delivered at Carnegie Hall,
New York, published by the Executive Com-
mittee of the General Oelebration (1905).
Judge Mayer Sulzberger, Oscar S. Straus,
Louis Marshall, Dr. Solomon Solis Cohen, Rev.
Dr. M. Heller, and Rev. Dr. Joseph Krauskopf
-all spoke of the ship as "Saint Catarina." May I quote from the latter’s address: "Oh, that we
might hold forever sacred, alongside the MAY-
FLOWER the name of the little ship SAINT
CATARINA that landed the first Jewish colony in the harbor of New York!"
Los Angeles, California
"Class and Opportunity"
Mr. S. M. Lipset and Miss Natalie Rogoff
express the belief that the data on social mobility
which they report in their article, "Class and
Opportunity in Europe and the U.S.," pub-
lished in your issue of December 1954, are
"exciting." I suspect that such excitement is
quite unjustified. If a man’s passage from a
manual to a non-manual job is defined as "up-
ward social mobility" then it is obvious that since in all societies industrialization has
brought in its wake a secular trend of increase
in white-collar work, only data which would
show contrary evidence might be deemed "ex-
citing." As it is, the authors have only belabored
the obvious.
Nowhere in their article do Lipset and Rogoff
even attempt to explain why they believe that
a movement from, say, skilled manual work to
routine office work is evidence of social or class
mobility upward. Do they contend that if the
son of a typographer becomes a sales clerk he
has experienced upward social mobility? And
if they so contend, what criteria of class or
status do they in fact employ? Income? Power?
Prestige? According to all these criteria, down-
ward rather than upward mobility might in-
deed be involved.
In fact, the authors operate with a rather
muddled mixture of occupational and class cri-
teria. Thus throughout the article they equate
white-collar jobs with (new) middle class status
but then assert that while in America workers
and middle class people can own cars, in
Europe only the middle class can. I submit that
an Italian clerk, a French saleslady or a German
municipal employee would be astonished in-
deed were they to learn from Mr. Lipset and
Miss Rogoff that they belong to the car-owning
middle class.
William Petersen proved to the apparent
satisfaction of the editors of COMMENTARY
that America is the land of opportunity; now Lipset and Rogoff prove that Europe too pro-
vides mobility channels aplenty-let’s have a
similar study of Japan to round out the picture.
It’s the best of all possible worlds, a perpetuum
mobile in fact.
Waltham, Massachusetts
LEwis A. CosaR
Brandeis University
MR. LIPSET and MIss RoGoFP write:
Mr. Coser’s chief criticism of our article is
his suggestion that a shift from manual to non- manual work does not necessarily constitute
upward mobility. This is, of course, quite true;
but it should be obvious that the simple classifi- cation of occupations into manual and non-
manual was forced on us by the lack of com-
parability in occupational or status categories in existing research. However, even when we limit the comparison to opportunities to move
into admittedly high level occupations, rather than into just non-manual work, the data still
indicate that a significant minority are able to
move sharply upwards in countries such as
Sweden, the Netherlands, Great Britain, and the United States. The variations in the systems
of classifying occupations make it impossible to
come to any definitive statistical conclusions,
although the data are sufficient to indicate that
these and other countries probably have mobil- ity rates comparable to that of the United
States. Mr. Coser’s conclusion that similarities
in occupational mobility are purely a conse-
quence of changes in the distribution of occu-
pations is also belied by the fact that there is
much downward mobility in each country. Mr. Coser raises precisely the sort of ques- tions which we hoped our report would stimu-
late. By pointing to the different criteria of class and status that one might use in judging
the amount of opportunity existing in a society,
he suggests the need for a much more differ-
entiated and intensive study of comparative
social structures than has heretofore been made.
It was our aim to clear away one of the in-
appropriate and vaguely conceived notions that
has hindered such analysis. We cannot agree
that the findings are at all "obvious" to a gen- eration nourished on the idea that if there is a
land of opportunity anywhere in the world, America is it. If Mr. Coser thinks that the most
important question is, opportunity for what-
jobs, income, prestige, or power?-we wish
nothing more than that he would take his
opinion seriously enough to make or encourage
others to make systematic studies of the different countries-including Japan.
We are puzzled by Mr. Coser’s being dis- turbed by the fact that there is more mobility, both upwards and downwards, than has tradi-
tionally been thought. The facts about mobility do not make this the best of all possible worlds; but they do suggest that the world is a lot dif-
ferent from what some of us thought it was. If
Mr. Coser objects to the evidence we have
assembled, he will have to take the trouble to
find evidence sustaining his own view.
. . I am very glad to have S. M. Lipset’s
and Natalie Rogoff’s "Class and Opportunity in Europe and the U.S." (December 1954) at
my disposal, because I plan to revise and bring
up to date my volume on Social Mobility, and
their study is a valuable contribution in this field…. PITmIRM A. SoRomuN
Harvard University Cambridge, Massachusetts
American Policy and Israel
Mr. Hal Lehrman’s article "American Policy and Arab-Israeli Peace" (June 1954) contains
much revealing information on the attitudes of
the government and army of Israel, as well as
on the disunity which, until recent months, has reigned in the Arab League nations. In
evaluating U.S. strategic interests in the area,
however, the article creates some impressions quite contrary to the facts….
In claiming that Israel is "the one element of stability" in the Near East and the most
useful ally of the U.S., Mr. Lehrman dis- regards the following facts painfully apparent
to Americans living in the area.
1. Israel and Syria are the only Near East nations in which the Communist party operates
legally and holds seats in parliament.
2. Though founded with U.S. aid and sup-
posed to be an ally, Israel sent not even a
platoon to Korea, permits no Western military
or air base on its soil, as do Arab Jordan, Iraq,
Saudi Arabia, and Libya. Israel recently con-
cluded an agreement with the USSR promising
never to join any anti-Russian bloc! If an Arab
nation did this, what a howl would go up in our press!
3. As Mr. Lehrman admits, Israel is not viable and the Arab states are viable. He may
deplore the Arab standard of living, but that
surely is for the Arabs to accept, if they so wish,
as a price for independence. With current moves
to unify their economy and to invest locally
their vast income from oil, the Arab states will
soon be strong -through their own resources, without calling on the U.S. taxpayer. An Amer-
ican would suppose that this is a consummation devoutly wished by all friends of the U.S.A.
4. Israel continues to flout the UN by try-
ing to move her capital to Jerusalem. Jerusalem
is not in Israel at all; it is UN territory. Every
act of the UN has reaffirmed that "nothing
shall be done to prejudice the international
character of greater Jerusalem," whose future
status the UN is charged with determining. In
the meantime, under the Armistice, the armies
of Israel and Jordan quite properly police the
respective zones of the city. 5. Israel’s denunciations of the Suez settle-
ment are astonishing from a nation described by Mr. Lehrman as a firm ally of the U.S.A. 6. We read much of Israel’s protest against Egypt’s seizure of the "Bat Galim"; but Zion- ists fail to mention that Israel seizes every Arab ship in its territorial waters and shoots down every civilian Arab plane which strays over its land.
7. Mr. Lehrman alternately stresses Israel’s might, and her vulnerability. On one page we read that she could take Old Jerusalem, the Triangle, the Litani Waters, and Damascus whenever she wishes; on the next page we read that without the shield of British troops in Egypt, and the denial of arms to Iraq, Israel is pitiable and helpless. He should make up his mind. Keeping 40 million Arabs, who live be- tween Israel and our potential enemy, poor, fragmented, and unarmed, is quite a price to ask the U.S.A. to pay for Israel’s gratitude. A glance at the map will show any child how use- less Israel alone would be to us in another war, if the Arabs are neutral or on the enemy’s side. I have no doubt that (barring Three Power intervention) Israel’s army could tomorrow oc- cupy Amman, Beirut, and Damascus, and triple the perimeter of hate on her borders as well as the number of refugees to be fed. Let us all concede at once that Israel has a tough fighting force, but Israel is so situated that it can strike only against potential Arab friends,
not at our chief enemy. Does a look at these facts permit Mr. Lehr- man really to believe that Israel is "our one element of stability" either in the Near East or in the U.S.A. itself?
Beirut, Lebanon
Colonel, U.S.M.C. (Ret.)
MR. LEHRMAN writes:
Colonel Eddy’s arguments are based on "facts" that call for some correction: -Israel indeed has Communists in its parlia- ment-seven out of 120 members (less than 6 per cent)-and it also has a democratic parlia- ment, the only one in the Near East. A main strength of the illegal Communist movements in the Arab states lies in the fact that virtually no democratic parties exist there to express the aspirations of their people….
-Israel sent food and medical supplies to the UN forces in Korea; she kept her troops home
because of the Arab threat. Israel voted with the U.S. against the Communist aggression; the Arabs sent neither platoons nor anything else, and straddled on the vote.
-Has the West ever asked Israel for bases? Has Israel ever refused? No. Shall we blame Israel for not compelling the West to march in? -Israel has no agreement with the USSR about "never joining any anti-Russian bloc." Israel has pledged herself not to commit ag- gression against anybody. So has the U.S. Israel has signed multi-national pacts, such as the UN Charter, to which the USSR also is a signatory. So is the U.S. Israel does have a major pact of mutual friendship-with the U.S…. -Is there anything to support Colonel Eddy’s easy assurances that "current moves" will "soon" render Arab society healthy? Does he seriously think the poverty and disease of the Arab peoples are proofs of "independence"? -There is no active UN policy in Jerusalem, and certainly none which puts Jerusalem in "UN territory." If Israel is now "flouting" an old UN ruling, it is because that ruling, flouted by others from the start, has been judged archaic and meaningless by all-except several of the Arab governments. -The U.S. is not a party to the Suez settle- ment. Nor has Israel denounced the settlement. . . . Israel has urged that the Canal’s passage into Egyptian control should not lead to a diminution in its character as an international
-Israel does not shoot down Arab planes. When they infringe her borders they are some-
times required to land, they are inspected- and released. As for ships, Israel operates under Armistice regulations concerning vessels in Israeli or Arab waters. The conduct of both
sides under these regulations has occasionally been disputed. But Israel has not detained ships and cargoes indefinitely, or kept crews in jail, as has Egypt. Moreover, the "Bat Galim" was passing through international waters.
-Perhaps Colonel Eddy should "make up his mind." If Israel is so formidable, and the Arabs "poor, fragmented, and unarmed" (cer- tainly not because the U.S. "keeps" them so), where should the U.S. look for a center of stability? In the opinion of this writer, the proper safeguarding of the American national interest requires peace in the Near East. No reasonable observer will insist that the Arab case is all black, the Israeli case all white-or vice versa. But peace can scarcely be achieved by granting weapons to one side and setting off an arms race. Peace may be brought nearer by economic and technical assistance to all, in the degree and amount which each is capable of usefully absorbing for peaceful purposes.

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