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KY, 


FRONTIER 


Vdd LL 


The Elections — And After 


* Julien. Steinberg | 





The Dog and The Deer 
* Marie Syrkin 





FACING THE FUTURE 
* David Ben-Gurion 





Jewish Expression in the USSR 
* Jacob Lestshinsky 


The Essence of a Non-Entity 
* Ben Halpern 


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Jewish 


FRONTIER. 


VoL. XV 








DECEMBER, 1948 No. 12 (165) 








HaymM GREENBERG 
Editor 


Ben HALPERN 
Managing Editor 


Editorial Board 


SHLOMO GRODZENSKY Marie SyrkIN 


Davm PInsxkI 


JosepH SCHLOSSBERG 
Jacos J. WEINSTEIN 


PincHas Cruso, Manager 





Contents: 





NE, 84. 8S ak we ew Ow we BOR we 
FacinGc THE Future, by David Ben-Gurion . . . . . . «2 © sw S 
THE Doc AND THE Derr, by Marie Syrkin . . . . «1 ww «© « 10 
THE ELECTIONS—AND AFTER, by Julicn Steinberg . . . «. «. «© « « 12 
THe EssENcE oF a Non-Entity, by Ben Halpern . . . . . . . 17 
JewisH ExprESSION IN THE USSR, by Jacob Lestshinsky . . . . . 21 
SKETCHES OF A Heroic Era, by Moshe Prager . . . . »« » « « «+ 24 
Books: 

MESSIANISM IN JEwIsH Patntincs (Hugo Bieber) . . . . . . 30 








Published monthly by the Jewish Frontier Association, 45 East 17th Street, New York 3, N. Y., amd 
admitted as second class mail, December 1, 1934, at the Post Office, New York, N. Y. under the act of 
Mareh 8, 1879. Single copies 35 cents. Subscriptions $4.00. Canada and Foreign, $4.50. Telephone: New 
York Editorial and Business Office: Algonquin 4-8754. Los Angeles Office: 929 N. Kenmore Avenue, 


Telephone: OL 2367. GS» & 








CONTRIBUTORS IN THIS ISSUE 


Huco Breser (p. 30), before Hitler, pub- | MosHE Pracer, having been a prominent 
lished a number of studies in German, 
on the history of culture. In France, 
until 1940, be was co-editor of Corres- 
pondances Diplomatiques Internation- 
ales. Now in New York, he is a con- 
tributor to the Universal Jewish Ency- 
clopedia. 


Agudas Israel journalist in Poland, has 


since the war made his home in Israel. 


JuLiEN STEINBERG is Assistant Editor and 
staff labor analyst of the New Leader. 














DECEMBER, 1948 


A Lost Opportunity 


HE HISTORY of the establishment of the 
State of Israel, under the UN resolution of 
November 29, 1947, will most likely be written 
as a long chronicle of lost opportunities. Specu- 
lation will inevitably center around such ques- 
tions as these: Would there have been any Arab- 
Jewish war at all, if instead of opposing the UN 
resolution at every step, Britain had supported it 
and lent it the weight of her approval? Would 
the fighting have asumed such proportions as it 
has, if the Mandatory government had at least 
refrained from sabotaging the UN’s efforts to 
implement the resolution, if she had permitted 
the UN Commission to enter the country when 
they proposed to enter, and complied with the 
UN proposal to set aside a port and surrounding 
area through which the nascent Jewish State 
could import supplies and admit men? Finally, 
could Britain have played the part that it has, 
in encouraging and protracting the conflict, if 
the American attitude had been firmer and more 
independent? 

But of all such speculations, the one open to 
the least doubt refers to the situation which 
existed during the last month. It is as clear as any 
such proposition can ever be, that a definitive so- 
lution of the Palestine conflict and an agreed 
peace settlement were within the grasp of the in- 
ternational community, had it wished to take 
certain steps. There are a sufficient number of 
nations in the UN whose explicit statements or 
general attitude make it clear that they regard 
the Arab states now engaged in Palestine as ag- 
gressors. The major aggressors, having been de- 
cisively beaten by the Israeli army, or for reasons 
of self interest, were in a much more reasonable 
mood than ever before. Initial talks were already 
under way between Israeli and Egyptian, as well 
as Transjordanian, representatives. A firm order 
from the UN to convert these talks into peace 
negotiations—an order which would be plainly 
understood as directed toward the aggressors 
trespassing on foreign soil—had every chance of 
ending the struggle. 

Instead, we got threats of sanctions against Is- 
rael, and orders requiring the Israeli government 
to withdraw forces from a part of its own terri- 
tory, as defined by the UN itself. The villain in 
the piece was Britain, but the role of members of 
the United States delegation and of the State De- 
partment was, if anything, even more heinous, 
because in order to play their part in the drama, 
they had to pervert the stated intentions of their 
own political chief, the President. The Israeli- 


Arab talks were, of course, broken off at once. 
Instead of having peace in Palestine in the fore- 
seeable future, we have again a situation of the 
deepest confusion and uncertainty, in which the 
only reliable element is the strength and determi- 
nation of Israel itself. 


THE first hope which must have stirred in the 
breasts of the crestfallen Arab councils, that Brit- 
ain would maneuver the Security Council into 
actual sanctions against Jews, was disappointed 
—though the threat still hangs in the air. But the 
ensuing situation was hardly any more conduc- 
ive to restoring their initial inclination to direct 
peace negotiations. Britain proclaimed brazenly 
enough its opposition to direct Jewish-Arab 
talks, on the curious grounds that, with the Jews 
having the upper hand militarily, it would be 
unfair to leave seven Arab states to meet the 
Jews in negotiation without UN mediation. This 
makes it obvious beyond any quibbling that, for 
Britain, UN mediation means UN backing for 
the Arabs. But it is doubtful whether the Arabs 
themselves look at it in that light. They have 
shown a singular reticence on the whole question 
of the boundaries to be established between 
themselves and Israel, which, even in the British 
proposal, is the major topic to be mediated. They 
did not seem to be particularly interested in Brit- 
ish efforts to bind the proposed UN conciliation 
board to the Bernadotte proposals, which give 
the Negev to the Arabs. For one thing, they 
would like the mediation to deal with other ques- 
tions as well, questions affecting the sovereignty 
and integrity of the state of Israel. But beyond 
this, the Arabs were by no means united upon 
the territorial issues at stake—by no means did 
they all agree to enlarge Abdullah’s kingdom by 
the Arab section of Palestine. Nor did they ap- 
pear to regard Arab retention of the Negev—or 
as much as possible of the Negev—as the vital 
question, once the existence of Israel has been 
conceded. It was the British, not the Arabs, who 
were the most agitated over this point; and in 
oposing direct Jewish-Arab negotiations, Britain 
was trying to obtain for itself, much more than 
for the Arabs, the advantages of UN backing. 

Under these conditions, whichever version of 
the various proposals for a UN conciliation 
board was finally adopted, whether the board 
would be bound to the Bernadotte plan or the 
original Partition boundaries, or whether it 
would be bound only to bring the two sides to- 
gether on mutually agreed boundaries—it ap- 








4 


peared obvious that the course of the mediation 
effort would be a rough one. Even though Trans- 
jordan still showed a strong interest in peace ne- 
gotiations, the tide of opinion in the Arab League 
would have had to swing far back to the side of 
reason before such a favorable atmosphere for 
peace as existed last month would be restored. 
The UN maneuvers of the past weeks poured 
fresh oil on the guttering flame of Arab intrans- 
igeance. The possibility even remained open that, 
once again, one or more of the Arab armies 
would try its luck at war. And even if a precari- 
ous truce were maintained, there was very little 
hope in Paris that the UN conciliation board 
would actually conciliate. All sides seemed cer- 
tain that the Palestine issue would come up at 
least once more, in the General Assembly session 
of 1949, 


However, in the closing days of November, 
it was clear that the final UN stand on Palestine 
adopted in Paris would put an end to Arab hopes 
that the new UN machinery could be drawn into 
further discussions of the existence and essential 
sovereign rights of Israel. The major subject for 
negotiation from now on must be peace and 
boundaries. Even if the Arabs delay entering into 
these questions, they will have a far more diffi- 
cult task henceforth in sustaining the position 
they successfully maintained vis a vis Mediators 
Bernadotte and Bunche: viz, the view that the 
job of these gentlemen was to find a middle 
ground, as a basis for truce, between the Arab 
contention that Israel does not exist and Jews 
are aggressors, and the Jewish claim that Israel 
is a sovereign state legitimately defending its ter- 
ritory. This “problem” has been tabled, by the 
adoption of a new agenda—the agenda of peace 
and of boundary demarcation. 

At the moment of writing, it is not clear 
whether one additional step will be taken which 
would go far toward retrieving the losses of the 
past month. Israel submitted its application for 
UN membership on the anniversary date of the 
November 29, 1947 resolution. But if the re- 
maining days of the UN session prove too short a 
time to grant Israel this well-deserved interna- 
tional status, it will be more than ever necessary 
for the United States to convert its de facto to 
de jure recognition. Such a move would be a 
powerful incentive for Arabs’ resuming a mood 
of peace. 


IN THE new lull which may now ensue in 
progress towards peace in Palestine—unless Arabs 
should be bold enough to revert fully to war— 
one major task of elucidation stands before the 


JEWIsH FRONTIER 


Zionist movement. It refers to the status of Jeru- 
salem. Even those countries who stood out most 
staunchly against British pressure to cut the 
Negev away from Israel, in return for recogniz- 
ing Jewish possession of the strategically essential 
Western Galilee, still repeated the pious formula 
that Jerusalem must be internationalized, with- 
out reference to all that has happened in the past 
year. 


It is nothing short of a hypocritical fraud for 
members of the UN to claim today that a broad 
international enclave must be established in Pal- 
estine, including Jerusalem and Bethlehem, in 
order to safeguard the religious shrines of these 
places. Whence comes such assurance that the 
UN is capable of safeguarding the peace of the 
holy places? Every synagogue in the walled Old 
City of Jerusalem was destroyed by Anglo-Arab 
bombs and brands, without the UN Truce Com- 
mission’s lifting a finger to stop the desecration. 
For a year Jewish burial on traditional Mount 
Scopus has been interdicted by the British ally, 
Transjordan—under the very eyes of the UN for 
most of that time. Nor can Jews, at least, be ex- 
pected to regard it as compatible with the sanc- 
tity of Jerusalem that, under the UN Truce of 
God, almost a hundred thousand Jews in Jeru- 
salem were subjected to a shelling whose casual- 
ties were greater in total on some days than any- 
thing London experienced during the blitz; or 
that the UN was impotent to prevent the water 
supply of the Holy City from being blasted on 
the very day it was handed over to UN care. 


Only inveterate malice can pretend, after the 
record of the Jewish occupation of Nazareth, 
that the holy places of other religions will be un- 
safe under a Jewish government. UN supervis- 
ion of the actual holy sites will be a sufficient pre- 
caution to safeguard the international interest in 
Jerusalem. But UN supervision having already 
been proven insufficient to safeguard life and 
limb in the overwhelmingly Jewish city of Jeru- 
salem, any realistic attempt to draw borders for 
a peace in Palestine should recognize the neces- 
sity that the modern city of Jerusalem, together 
with the land along which runs its water supply 
and communications with the coast, be retained 
by the state of Israel. Any attempt to evade 
this natural and realistic solution will end in an 
impasse and simply prolong the unholy ordeal 
of the Holy City. But so far removed is the 
mood of current Palestine discussions in the UN 
from reason that one need not be a congenital 
pessimist to fear that every resource of fantasy 
will be tested before the voice of reality is finally 
heard. 























DECEMBER, 1948 


Facing the Future 


by David Ben Gurion 


WE NOW STAND on the threshold of pro- 

found and far-reaching transformations, 
we are on the eve of a great revolution, unequall- 
ed in our lives. This revolution may result in a 
defeat amounting to total destruction. We must 
not preclude such a possibility nor close our 
eyes to it. But there also exists the possibility— 
and I hope that this will indeed prove to be the 
case—that this turning-point will open before 
us broad horizons and wide potentialities for 
Jewish and human creativeness, new Socialist 
horizons for social, scientific, and spiritual at- 
tainments of a kind of which we scarcely dared 
dream before. 


The military factor alone will not decide 
which of the two possibilities inherent in our 
revolution will be realized. At this moment 
all our energies are directed toward a military 
victory. Without it, we will surely fall. A mil- 
itary defeat would mean a total defeat, an end 
to immigration and settlement, an end to our 
independence, perhaps even a complete physical 
and material collapse. But military victory in 
itself will not guarantee our historic aspirations, 
nor will it automatically lead to the fulfillment 
of our human and Jewish aims. More than one 
obstacle still encumbers our path. 


In addition to the military front, we also have 
a political front. We face not only the Arabs 
armies. To a certain extent, we are opposed by 
the entire world. Ours is a historic struggle be- 
tween the Jewish people and the antagonists, 
detractors, and oppressors which it has found 
among all the nations and at all times. It is not 
a localized battle, and its roots in time are not 
limited to the present alone. Israel now demands 
atonement for the suffering of all the genera- 
tions, it demands its rights of all the peoples. The 
outcome of the struggle will be of international 
significance. 

In our day there still occur local conflicts 
which do not concern the world as a whole, and 
which, consequently, do not attract wide notice 
or intervention. . . But almost the entire world 
is partisan to the struggle which involves Jews 
and Arabs and is conducted in and about Pales- 
tine. Our conflict with the Arabs seems to have 
stirred the world more profoundly than the 





AN appress delivered before a meeting of mem- 
bers of the Federated Collective, Hakibbutz 
Hameukhad. 





struggle between hundreds of millions of Hindus 
and Moslems in India and Pakistan, more than 
the civil war of the Chinese people, which em- 
braces nearly one fourth of the entire human 
race. The history and geography of Palestine, 
the history and geography of the Jewish people, 
have transformed this war into a conflict of 
world-wide implications. This would be so even 
if Bevin and ihs friends had not involved Eng- 
land as a direct factor in this struggle. ..Very few 
people in the world are not related in some way to 
Palestine. Its geographic position between three 
continents, at the crossroads of the British Com- 
monwealth of Nations, at the parting of the ways 
between East and West; its historic role in the 
history of human civilization, Christian as well 
as Moslem; and its part in the history of religion 
—the Jewish dispersion and the Jewish position 
of influence, or of martyrdom, in a number of.- 
countries, the historic conflicts between Judaism 
and Christianity, and between Mohammedanism 
and Judaism and Christianity, the stubbornness 
of the Jews (including so-called assimilation- 
ists) in preserving their uniqueness among the 
nations—these and other factors serve to trans- 
form the relatively small conflict between 
700,000 Jews in Palestine and their Arab neigh- 
bors into an event that has aroused the world. 
For two years the United Nations have been 
weighing the Palestine problem. Who knows 
how much longer they will have to deal with it? 
We must not overlook this international con- 
cern with the Palestine problem. The decision 
of this international forum is liable to differ 
radically with the military results. 


ON THE political front we won a number 
of important victories, but none was complete. 
We won the support of great powers. There is 
no doubt that the important and surprising sup- 
port of the Soviet Union was our greatest a- 
chievement in this field. This support remained 
unchanged and unshaken in Lake Success since 
May, 1947. But this political departure did not 
change the situation of the Jews in the Soviet 
Union. . . . Jews of the Soviet Union still cannot 
go to Palestine, and there now exists the danger 
that the gates of other countries in Eastern 
Europe will also be shut to Jewish emigration. 


We have received and continue to receive 
support from another great power—the United 
States. This country has been supporting us 
since the issuance of the Balfour Declaration. 








6 


The Balfour Declaration was in fact not drawn 
up by Balfour alone, but also by President Wil- 
son. In 1922 the Congress of the United States 
unanimously adopted a resolution in favor of 
the Jewish Naticnal Home. The great political 
parties and most of the Presidents have always 
supported our aspirations. The United States was 
the first to recognize the State of Israel, 
even though, unlike the Soviet Union, its 
recognition was only de facto. But the attitude 
of the United States to Israel does not affect its 
attitudes to world problems and to internal mat- 
ters. The 140 million Americans have other in- 
terests as well, and it is these which are determin- 
ing. When discussing politics, we frequently 
underestimate the influence of oil. But without 
oil our army could not fight, or even exist. Oil 
is no less important to the Soviet Union and the 
United States. Fuel is now a prime necessity in 
the life of nations, in peace time as well as in war 
time. The problem of fuel may transcend in im- 
portance America’s attitude toward Israel, and 
if oil is available in the Negev the United States 
might decide—mistakenly, in my opinion— 
that it would be better that the oil-bearing area 
be under Abdullah’s dominion, because Abdullah 
can be bought whereas the Jews will not sell 
themselves for the purest gold. There are other 
considerations of great and small countries be- 
sides their attitude toward Israel, and these con- 
siderations mount up on the political scale. Our 
political fate is influenced by calculations of 
power relationships, common and contradictory 
interests of the great and medium powers; and 
we may triumph on the military front and de- 
feat all the Arab armies and still lose the political 
battle if we should, for some reason, arouse pre- 
ponderant world interests against ourselves. Our 
army is sufficiently strong to beat the Arab 
armies, but there exist in the world forces strong- 
er than ours, and the influence of these forces 
reaches Palestine because this land stands in the 
center of world interest. We must, therefore, 
see to it that our military victory is not undone 
on the political front. The question before us is 
whether we will succeed in winning the support 
of a maximum number of countries, whether 
we will retain and strengthen the support of 
those countries which have hitherto been on our 
side, and whether we will improve relations with 
those countries which have thus far remained 
indifferent or hostile. We have no right to 
“renounce” any factor operating in the power 
relationships of the world today. 


We must seek a way to all peoples 


For us there is no more harmful advice than 
the advice of those who proclaim that the world 


JEWISH FRONTIER 


is permanently (i.e., until World War III) and 
inevitably split into two camps, and that we 
must identify ourselves with one of the two. Let 
us assume that this evaluation is correct, that 
one of the two sides, be it the West or the East, 
is lost to us, and we have no other alternative 
than to identify ourselves with the opposing 
camp. Whence the assurance that we can also 
persuade this party to identify itself with us? 
It is the easiest thing to make ourselves hated 
in one of the camps. It is not difficult to per- 
suade someone that we are his eternal enemy... 
But whence the assurance that after we trans- 
form one of the camps into our mortal enemy, 
we will also win the friendship and the support 
of the opposing camp? Let us imagine that we 
have become the mortal enemies of the countries 
of the Eastern bloc, and we have made them into 
our strongest oppontents. Is there any guarantee 
that America and its allies will support us for 
this reason? Becoming totally dependent upon 
the United States will not compel the United 
States to come to our assistance if its interests 
compel it to help our enemies. On the contrary, 
were we to have no other friends than the United 
States, it would only encourage American indif- 
ference toward our needs and desires and in- 
cline it to win our opponents to its side. The 
same would be true in the opposite case. Should 
we entirely detach ourselves from the Western 
powers and swear eternal hatred for America 
and its allies, there would be no guarantee that 
the Soviet Union and its allies would support 
us, and not the Arabs. They would be sure of 
us because we would have no other choice. Why 
shouldn’t they then try to win the Arabs at our 
expense? 


In general it is necessary to ask: Is the world 
indeed hopelessly split and must we write off 
the UN as long as the Soviet Union and the 
Slavic countries, the United States and the Latin 
American countries, the Anglo-Saxon lands and 
the Oriental countries still participate in it and 
try to maintain it? Whence this haste, especially 
among Jews, to reach such conclusions regarding 
the peace and unity of the world, and to consider 
one part of the world as a beacon of love for 
Israel and the other part as a domain of darkness 
corrupted by anti-Semitism? 


An embargo is in effect against us. Does the 
imposition of an embargo against us by any 
country suffice that we consider that country 
an eternal enemy, beyond hope of changing? In 
the United States there is an embargo against 
the export of arms; in the Soviet Union there 
is an embargo against Jews’ leaving the country. 
Naturally, neither embargo is in our favor and 
we hope that they will be rescinded. But is that 























DECEMBER, 1948 


sufficient ground for us to overlook the financial 
aid which we receive from America and without 
which we could not conduct the war, or to 
overlook the political aid which we receive from 
the Soviet Union? Why should we renounce 
the hope that the embargo will, in time, be lifted? 
Haven’t we seen greater changes in the policies of 
these countries toward us and toward others? 
Would it not be better to concentrate on winn- 
ing friendship and aid from all parties instead 
of preaching hatred to one or the other of the 
existing camps? But such a course is possible 
only if we do not identify ourselves with either 
side, if we do not decide—not prematurely, at 
least—that the world is split, if we do not per- 
mit ourselves to be misled by fantasies of a 
world divided, one half of which is bright light 
and the other black darkness, one half is sacrific- 
ing itself for the Jewish State and the other 
half only seeks ways and means to destroy us. . . 

We can have no hope of victory on the pol- 
itical front unless we moblize all our abilities, 
wisdom, and will in order to find a way to all 
the peoples, especially to the great nations which 
today determine world politics. Each deviation 
from this path, each attempt to create ill will 
between ourselves and an important segment 
of humanity is like a knife in the back of our 
people in its struggle for its existence and future. 
This would be tantamount to a plot against 
our war effort and the battle efficiency of our 
army, because our war effort and our political 
efforts are mutually interrelated and indivisible. 


Why we fight 


Tuis double effort is also insufficient in itself, 
and even if we should win on both the military 
and political fronts we will still have to face the 
crucial question: How should we prepare for 
the future? 


We are on the threshold of a great transform- 
ation, unequalled in our history. Jewish history 
is undergoing a revolution. In a general way 
we know the aims of this revolution. Our hist- 
oric struggle is being conducted for three pur- 
poses: tngathering of the dispersion, rebuilding 
the desolation of our homeland, and the creation 
of a workers’ society. Superficially these appear 
to be unrelated aims, but in truth they are only 
varying expressions of the one goal of total re- 
demption. Our military and political victories 
will pave the way for the realization of this 
three-fold goal of the revolution we are now 
undergoing. 

One might be inclined to ask: Why discuss 
now what we will do after victory? Isn’t it our 
duty to concentrate all our thoughts and efforts 
exclusively on the attainment of victory? Let 


7 


us triumph first, then we will talk of further 
tasks. 


But the answer to these questions is a very 
simple one. Victory itself requires this discussion. 
We will not win only by virtue of our physical 
strength. Guns, planes, cannon, tanks, bombs, 
the number of battalions—these are very im- 
portant. But in these we are outnumbered by 
the Arabs. We need moral superiority. Such 
superiority, devoid of physical strength, will not 
conquer, but in combination with physical 
strength it can overcome an opponent of greater 
physical force. Napoleon was wont to say that 
two forces rule in history, spirit and the sword, 
and in the final count, spirit wins. Napoleon 
knew whereof he was speaking. 

Persons far from amateur appreciate the mil- 
itary value of spiritual and moral superiority. 
The past eight months of warfare have demon- 
strated this. On most of the fronts we were in 
the position of few against many, and for a 
long time we were also the ill-equipped against 
the well-equipped, nevertheless we emerged vic- 
torious because the spirit of our fighters was 
superior to the spirit of the Arab soldiers. Our 
chief spiritual and moral advantage lay in that 
the Jewish soldier knew what he was fighting 
for, and he was prepared to sacrifice himself for 
his cause. The mighty weapon of the Jewish 
soldier, the force which goaded him on and from 
which he derived his courage, was the knowledge 
that he was fighting for the redemption of his 
people, for the total redemption. And total re- 
demption means gathering in the dispersed, re- 
building the wastes, and a workers’ society. None 
of these three goals is attainable without a mil- 
itary victory. But victory alone, military as 
well as political, does not guarantee their fulfill- 
ment, it only makes possible their realization. 
This realization will entail great hardships and 
we must even now prepare to overcome them. 
I will list only a few of these hardships. 


Even after a complete victory we will still 
live in an environment of Arab nations. This 
means that we will live in a milieu that is sunk 
in poverty and disease, in ignorance and exploita- 
tion, cheap labor and low standards of living, 
feudal relationships and slavery. Within this 
environment we will have to create a ramified 
modern economy, based on Jewish labor with 
its high standards, on freedom and mutual as- 
sistance, on a high culture, a regime based on 
democracy, human rights, and civil and political 
equality. The history of our colonization bears 
witness to the difficulty of this task. It is true 
that changes will also take place among the 
Arabs. But social, political, and economic tradi- 


tions that have grown up in the course of gen- 








erations cannot be eradicated overnight, nor 
even in the course of a few years. Thirty years 
ago there took place in Russia one of the most 
far-reaching revolutions in human history, a 
revolution that attempted more than any pre- 
ceding one. Yet today the living conditions of 
the Russian workers and peasants are still a long 
way from the living standards of workers and 
farmers in America, and who can tell how many 
generations will pass before the Russian revolu- 
tion will attain its goals. 

Another difficulty is the tremendous produc- 
tivity of the highly developed countries. Just 
as the economic backwardness of the Arab en- 
vironment will serve to depress our progressive 
society, the productive capacity of developed 
countries, such as the United States, where a 
peak of industrial potentialities has been reached, 
will provide us with powerful competition for 
a long time to come. The recent world war has 
raised America’s productive capacity to a legend- 
ary level and we, who are compelled to develop 
an extensive industry because we will have to 
absorb a large scale immigration, will be con- 
fronted with the problem: How can we com- 
pete with these mighty forces? 

Still another problem: How should we harm- 
onize our security needs, which even after vic- 
tory will consume a great part of our national 
energy and capital, with the needs of immigra- 
tion and colonization, that will impose upon us 
a burden unknown to any other country in the 
world? 

There exists still another problem which I 
scarcely dare voice: Will there be enough Jews 
for the State of Israel? Ten years ago such a 
question could not have arisen. Now, after the 
Hitler catastrophe, it gives us no rest. Only 
small remnants of European Jewry survive, and 
the emigration of the majority of these is for- 
bidden. When the gates of Israel were opened, 
the exit gates of those European countries where 
large numbers of Jews still live remained closed. 
Will these gates be opened soon? 

Other difficulties relate to the country. Three 
quarters of the area of Israel—within the borders 
drawn by the UN—is a rainless waste without 
water. The water resources are chiefly in the 
North, while the broad expanse of land is in the 
South, in the Negev. 

I do not intend to make an exhaustive list of 
all the difficulties which we must expect. I 
merely wish to point out that even the most 
extensive military and political victories will not 
solve all our problems, and though the victories 
will open broad vistas before us, we will still 
have to contend with many obstacles. How 
should we overcome them? 


JEWIsH FRONTIER 


I believe they can be overcome through science 
and through progressive pioneering (khalutziut). 
In other words, by means of high intellectual 
and moral qualities, backed by devoted effort. 


The power of science 

WE LIVE in a generation of scientific revolu- 
tion, in the atomic era. Mankind finds itself in 
possession of nearly infinite sources of energy. 
Chemical and bacteriological discoveries are rev- 
olutionizing agriculture. The mighty productive 
potential of modern technology has revealed un- 
dreamed-of possibilities for industry. 

Because of our numbers and our dispersion we 
are behind other peoples in state-building attri- 
butes, but we can compare with any other peo- 
ple in intellectual ability. Jews are not backward 
in the field of scientific research. Until now we 
have scattered our spiritual treasures abroad. 
During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries 
we aided other peoples with great scientific a- 
chievements in physics, chemistry, mathematics, 
biology, technology. There are no grounds for 
assuming that the Jewish scientific genius will 
be less productive in the homeland than it was 
in dispersion. On the contrary, the new freedom 
which the Jewish individual will enjoy in his own 
state, the spiritual integrity of the Jewish indi- 
vidual at home, the strength which he will de- 
rive from contact with his own landscape and 
the encouragement of the environment, which 
will pride itself in him, these should lend wings 
to Jewish scientific development. The Jewish 
State will not be able to develope the land on 
a large scale and to absorb a great immigration, 
if science will not permeate our life, if the high- 
est attainments of science and technology will 
not be a foundation for our agriculture, indus- 
try, handicrafts, navigation, aviation, house 
building, and if we will not provide the maxi- 
mum encouragement to those who work in the- 
oretical or practical scientific research. Only in 
this manner will we raise the productivity of 
labor, refine the quality of our products, utilize 
fully the natural potentialities of the land, the 
waters, the natural heat, and sources of energy. 
We can overcome the poverty and backwardness 
of the country and its environs only with the 
help of science and only if we will mobilize our 
best intellectual potential for this purpose. 


Progressive pioneering 

But science alone is not enough. Our mission 
will not be accomplished without “khalutziut.” 
Science means the domination of nature by man; 
“khalutziut” means domination of man over him 
self. Science discloses forces of nature and util- 




















DECEMBER, 1948 


izes them to satisfy human needs, good as well 
as evil needs, without distinction. Khalutziut re- 
veals hidden human forces, spiritual forces, po- 
tentials of will and intellect, it fructifies them 
and activates them for selected aims and accord- 
ing to definite historical and moral criteria. 
Science is a mighty creator of wonders, but it is 
a blind and passive instrument. Khalutziut directs 
human action, it selects, judges, and mobil- 
izes spiritual strength for higher aims. Khalutziut 
marshals the intellectual and moral qualities of 
man. It does not adapt itself pliantly to circum- 
stances; it does not surrender; it does not des- 
pair; it does not allow itself to be dragged along 
by reality; it criticizes, rebels, and dares to make 
changes under the impact of distant goals and 
the will for perfection. It transforms reality not 
only in accordance with momentary needs but 
in line with historic aims, not only for the bene- 
fit of the individual but for the social unit as a 
whole. It does not elevate the individual at the 
expense of society, but aims to elevate all, so- 
ciety as well as the individuals of which it is com- 
posed. 

Khalutziut does not recognize conventional 
classifications according to which mankind is 
divided into geniuses, thinkers, discoverers, and 
leaders, on one hand, and a grey mass on the 
other. Man, as well as nature, conceals powers 
and attributes of which only a small part has 
been revealed. In the soul of every person there 
lie hidden treasures of desires and abilities which 
have to be uncovered and activated. The secret 
of khalutziut lies in that it fructifies these inner 
forces and mobilizes them for higher human 
aims. Khalutziut does not admit that an inde- 
structible wall separates man’s good and evil in- 
clinations. A khalutz can activate even his “evil” 
inclinations in the service of a higher goal. 
An army is a good example of this... . 

Courage is not a matter for chosen individuals 
only. It is a gift attainable by any person who 
wills it. In the course of two world wars we have 
seen manifestations of courage on the part of 
millions, of masses. Had they not had the oppor- 
tunity, these heroes never would have suspected 
that they possessed a heroic spirit. There does not 
exist the peak which man cannot scale, nor the 
obstacle which he cannot overcome. Such is the 
simple and proven truth of khalutziut. Its first 
rule is not to submit to reality, but to shape life 
anew in the light of historic vision. Such is the 
mission of the khalutz. 


Freedom, equality and unity 
KHatutzivtT is the fruit of human freedom. 
One who is not free is incapable of dominating 


9 


and activating the forces hidden within him. No 
robot is capable of the life and efforts of a khal- 
utz. Human freedom is the primary attribute of 
a khalutz. 

A second attribute is equality. Where discrim- 
ination between people is in effect, where indi- 
viduals hold a monopoly on the creative oppor- 
tunity, the creative forces shrivel and the hidden 
human potentialities languish and disappear. The 
potentialities of the pioneer can reveal themselves 
only in a society of equals. 

A third attribute—perhaps the most impor- 
tant one—is human cooperation, which means 
faith in the community, a bond with it and the 
will to pioneering unity. 

Khalutziut means service for society. This 
is the alpha and omega of khalutziut. The sub- 
jective intention of one who pretends to act in 
the service of society is not enough. The true test 
of service for society lies in acts which deserve to 
be an example for all. Not only service for the 
community, but also through it—such is the 
highest test of khalutziut. True service of society 
is indivisibly linked with identification with so- 
ciety—hence the need for unity—among the 
pioneers. 

A calamity befell the pioneering movement. It 
was split into fragments, first by Hashomer Ha- 
tzair, then by Hapoel Hamizrakhi, and finally 
by the opposition group in, and later the bolters 
from Mapai. Nevertheless we must not lose our 
faith in the pioneering potentialities of the Jew, 
and we must not renounce the aim of pioneering 
unity. As long as the khalutz spirit lives in our 
movement, we hope for the achievement of this 
unity. 

During the past six months, we have wit- 
nessed great transformations and wonders. We 
foresaw them and believed in them, though 
many did not believe and declared them to be 
impossible. Our faith and our will have not dis- 
appointed us. We are now in the anteroom of 
the new history. The main hall is still sealed with 
seven seals. One of the keys is our pioneering 
strength and will. Let us strengthen it and gather 
the power scattered throughout the community. 
Let us raise high our vari-colored flag, the flag 
of pioneering and freedom, of equality and 
unity, the unity of the people and the unity of 
the labor movement. Within our hearts let us 
cherish faith in man, individuality and collec- 
tively. Let us remain true to the vision of com- 
plete redemption. Let us mobilize in its service 
true science and honest effort. Let us establish 
the creative unity of men of thought and men of 
action. With this dual strength we will overcome 
all obstacles. 








10 


JEWIsH FRONTIER 


The Dog and the Deer 


by Marie Syrkin 


I MUST ADMIT to a measure of scepticism 
when I was first invited to visit several friend- 
ly Arab villages. The existence of acquiescent 
Arabs, in villages which had surrendered or 
been conquered, was well-known, but “‘friend- 
ly” sounded a bit over-done. However, after 
having drunk innumerable small cups of power- 
ful black coffee, reclined on cushions, squatted 
on low stools, sat on plain western chairs in vari- 
ous Arab homes, I am prepared to testify that 
“friendly” Arabs are not an invention of wish- 
ful thinkers. 

My first conversation with an Arab was not 
precisely amiable. We had been walking through 
an Arab quarter of Haifa which had not been 
abandoned by its inhabitants. Many Arabs had 
remained and the stirrings of returning life could 
be seen. We chatted with the burly owner of an 
Arab cafe where Jews and Arabs were playing 
chess, and stepped into a bakery to see pittah 
being baked. The round, flat pancakes were fash- 
ioned from dough brought by the customers 
and baked to suit each family’s taste. 

A mattress-maker wandered down the narrow 
street carrying a curious wooden instrument 
for carding wool. A melon vendor chanted his 
wares. The scene called for snap-shots. 

While I adjusted my camera, a disgruntled, 
unpicturesque Arab, dressed in Western clothes, 
walked over and remonstrated in fluent English: 

“Why do you take pictures of a slum section? 
Why don’t you go where the better class lives? 
Before the troubles you should have seen how 
elegant our people were—like New York or 
Paris.” 

We explained that we were interested in “life” 
—poor or rich, what was the difference? The 
Arab was not mollified. Obviously unconcerned 
about providing us with sociological or exotic 
data, he insisted: ‘You should have seen how our 
better people lived before they left.” 

I wanted to say: “Don’t be such a snob,” but 
instead inquired politely: “Why did they 
leave?” 

“Because they were fools,” was the surly an- 
swer. 

The reply encouraged me to ask: “Did the 
Jews drive them out?” 

His answer was emphatic: “No.” 

“Who drove them out?” 

The Arab was silent a moment, and then he 
said guardedly: “You know.” 


“The Mufti?” 

My interlocutor edged away, allowing him- 
self a final word: “If you know, why do you 
ask?” 

The conversation having ended like a Yiddish 
joke, I went back to my camera. But by this 
time the mattress-maker was out of sight. 


Tuts debut in Arab-Jewish contacts proved 
to be untypical. My subsequent encounters with 
Arabs, whether in town houses or clay hovels, 
were marked with the oriental punctilio which 
is as stylized as a decoration in a Mosque. The 
grace with which we were welcomed had its 
charm, though I was prepared to interpret it as 
the famous Eastern hospitality which supposedly 
bound the host only as far as his threshold. How- 
ever, the children convinced me that there was 
more to it. 

As soon as our car would stop in an Arab vil- 
lage, we would be surrounded by a swarm of 
curious children, obviously not the least bit 
afraid of the Jewish “conquerors.” Smiling, anx- 
ious to give directions, they would climb up on 
the running board and start chattering with 
those members of the party who knew Arabic. 
Such cordiality could not be simulated; it was 
plain that in their homes talk about the “Yehudi” 
was probably not hostile. Occasionally, one of 
the elders of the village would utter the Arab 
equivalent for “scat,” but in a moment the 
youngsters would be back, entranced by the car 
and the visitors. 

Of course, we were visiting villages which had 
not fallen prey to Arab League propaganda 
about the “Jewish terror,” and whose inhabit- 
ants had refused to flee despite the pressure of 
the Arab commanders. The fact that they had 
remained indicated an a priori readiness to come 
to terms with their Jewish neighbors. 

Not only the children displayed an unsolicited 
warmth. As we would trudge along narrow dirt 
roads, past clay hovels or low stone houses, Arab 
women standing in the door-ways and modestly 
averting their faces (veiled or unveiled accord- 
ing to the tribe) from the gaze of strange men, 
would call out to me: Saida (the Arab greeting). 
More than one ventured: “Shalom.” Saida I 
would answer, and they would smile shyly. 


IN ONE village which had steadfastedly re- 
fused to participate in the hostilities against the 




















DECEMBER, 1948 


Jews, our appearance assumed the character of 
“old home week.” Arabs don’t slap their guests 
on the back, but the welcome was as hearty as 
the more delicate gestures of the East permit. 
Acquaintances in our party were embraced like 
returning buddies, and the air was thick with 
Saidas and Shaloms. 


Other villages were less exuberant, but the 
willingness to sit down and talk things over was 
notable. After the ceremonial coffee-drinking 
long conversations would be held in a setting 
which varied with the economic status of our 
host. No matter how poor the village, the Sheikh 
would generally have a stone house, often the 
only one amid the clay hovels, set high on the 
mountain slope. We would be received in a cool, 
bright room with a freshly scrubbed stone floor 
and light-blue walls—an unexpected oasis in the 
squalor of the village. The furnishings might be 


cushions and small stools, or wicker chairs ac- . 


cording to the degree of westernization, but the 
talk would run the same course. The Sheikh 
would bide his time till a few of the leading 
men of the village had joined the company. I 
could not figure out whether they had been sum- 
moned or whether the mere arrival of guests was 
reason enough for their appearance. 


Though I had to follow the conversations 
through an interpreter, it was impossible to miss 
the amazing articulateness of these untutored 
Arab villagers. Some of the men to whom we 
spoke were illiterate but their discussions of local 
politics and the war sounded about as reasoned 
and informed as that of the average literate cit- 
izen of the U. S. A. I heard men who could 
neither read nor write discourse on the respective 
roles of Great Britain, the United States, and 
Russia in the Middle East. This display of pol- 
itical acumen, as distinct from folklore and 
marketplace gossip, was something of a revela- 
tion. To a sedulous reader of four daily news- 
papers and several weekly journals of opinion, 
it was even disconcerting. 


One old Druse Sheikh, who weighed his words 
carefully before answering questions, gave an 
exposé of international rivalries which could 
have appeared in a letter signed “Pro Bono 
Publico.” He pointed out that the United States 
was unduly influenced by Great Britain, sug- 
gested what might be expected from Russia, and 
analysed the strength of the Jews. 


He had always liked the Jews, he told us, be- 
cause they had bought the land, not conquered 
it by force. Furthermore, as a Druse he too be- 
longed to a minority and appreciated minority 
problems. 


11 


So far this sounded like a speech I might have 
delivered in Poughkeepsie; then, of his own ac- 
cord—the theme was too delicate to raise—he 
began discussing the reason for Arab defeats. 
He summed up his explanation with the tale of 
the dog and the deer: 


The dog’s master had bidden him to catch 
the deer. The dog ran fast but the deer was 
fleeter. Finally, the dog gave up. When peace 
was made between the two, the dog asked the 
deer: 


“Why are you swifter than I? Why do you 
always outrun me?” 

The deer answered: “I can run better than 
you because you run at your master’s bidding, 
only to do me hurt, whereas I run for my life.” 


That is why, said the old Sheikh, the “Yehudi” 
had scored such victories despite the fact that 
they were so greatly outnumbered. 

The Sheikh’s tale, I decided, was better than 
anything I had produced in Poughkeepsie. 


IN a Bedouin village consisting of the typical 
black tents of the tribe, we were received under 
a canopy stretched between several trees. The 
Sheikh, a lusty old fellow, had dyed his greying 
moustache a fierce black, and I suspect had 
touched up his eyes. His costume was a hybrid 
common in Palestine—a tightly fitting khaki 
military jacket worn over a long striped robe, 
and, of course, a flowing keffyah. 


The tribesmen squatted around a small fire in 
the open, over which coffee was already being 
prepared; the guests enjoyed a wooden table 
and chairs. Large platters of rice, bowls of sour 
leben, lamb, and tomato were served by the 
Sheikh’s sons. Forks were mysteriously produced, 
but the better schooled among us scooped up 
the food with pittah. The women, as usual, had 
withdrawn; we saw them peeping from behind 
the flap of a tent or out of a door-way. The 
children, male and female, ran freely about. 

After having industriously dipped many pieces 
of pittah into the common bowls, and later hav- 
ing loudly sipped the coffee in the approved 
style, we got down to serious talk. Palestinian 
Arabs, said the Sheikh, wanted peace and pros- 
perity. He personally wasn’t going to be ter- 
rorized by foreign Arabs. Nobody was going 
to tell him what to do. 

A small boy ran by noisily. 

“You Syrian,” one of the tribesmen shouted 
to quiet him. Apparently Syrians were not pop- 
ular in the vicinity. 

The Sheikh peppered his discourse with 
proverbs, one of which I had already heard from 








12 


other Arabs: “Whoever marries my aunt is my 
uncle.” 

The peasant candor of this bit of folk wisdom 
seemed to me an honest expression of Arab sent- 
iment, when not artificially stimulated. It is 
hardly a flaming slogan and no doubt would be 
repudiated by Arab extremists, just as its simple- 
some Jews. But by and large it states the case. 
the Mufti and the “foreigners” has proved dis- 
bitter experience that the war precipitated by 
hearted opportunism might be displeasing to 
his soil and live peaceably. He has learned from 
The average Palestinian peasant wants to till 


The Elections 


by Julien 


[N THE EARLY HOURS of post-election 
day, there was a curious suspension of polit- 
ical judgment. The campaign had been apathetic, 
as the result of Dewey’s evasion of the issues and 
the President’s seemingly hopeless plight. There- 
fore, as the startling results trickled in, political 
speculation yielded to an enthusiastic acclaim of 
the unexpected triumph of one who was already 
supposedly vanquished. One could hardly be ex- 
pected at such a moment to maintain a critical 
reserve in the face of what seemed a political 
“miracle.” 

The election results were quickly and properly 
appraised for what they were — a blow against 
the cynicism and starch-collar arrogance of the 
Republican campaigners, and a victory for gen- 
eral liberalism, as represented by the choices the 
electorate faced. But as the post-election days 
passed, initial ardor — while correct — under- 
standably became more restrained. After all, the 
heart of the victory consisted in what had been 
avoided; a more critical focus was called for in 
terms of what we were actually likely to achieve 
in a positive direction. 

Accordingly, observers are confronted with 
three major questions: what happened (conjec- 
ture which still has not lost one whit of its fas- 
cination); what will administration policy be, 
and to what degree can possible policies be im- 
plemented; and what is labor’s future political 
role? 


What Happened? 

ANY national political victory represents, of 
course, a resultant of numerous forces. The poll- 
sters would have it that a sizable last minute shift 
of voting strength took place; but the major evi- 


JEwiIsH FRONTIER 
astrous to his house, his sons, his harvest. Now, 
he would like to come to terms again with the 
Jewish “uncle.” 


Of course, there is always the chance that if 
“uncle” lost “auntie” to another, the allegiance 
would shift. However, as long as uncle is in 
charge, and treats the family well, peace and 
prosperity are likely to prove a sound basis for 
a good relationship. 


Beneficent uncle, desperate deer—in tale and 
proverb the intricate problem crystallizes and 
finds its truth. 


—And After 


Steinberg 


dence that we have that Truman at any point 
was out of the running is based on the findings 
of the polls themselves, and it is hardly permis- 
sible to validate a result in terms of techniques 
that on this occasion failed notably to demon- 
strate their validity. It is not unreasonable to as- 
sume that certain factors weakening Mr. Tru- 
man’s chances were caused to some degree by the 
predictions of the polls. This was certainly true 
in the case of Democratic politicians, labor offi- 
cials and others, who with an eye on the polling 
tabulations abandoned Truman at the conven- 
tion, declaring that he could not win. But once 
the nomination was assured, these opposition ele- 
ments again entered the arena in the President’s 
behalf. The party machine was reassembled, the 
trade unions fell into line—but still the polls re- 
ported no significant changes in electorate 
choice. 

Until the returns were in, a number of signi- 
cant factors were generally overlooked. The mi- 
norities’ vote which drifted away from Roose- 
velt in 1944 was likely to support Truman in 
1948, and indeed did. A new factor which in- 
fluenced this vote to a large degree was the Mar- 
shall Plan. Many American groups were under- 
standably concerned with the plight of their 
friends and relatives abroad; they maintained a 
certain psychological tie with the “old country.” 
The political strength of these groups is huge; 
they represent 35 million persons, or about one- 
fourth of the nation’s entire population. Their 
common bonds are race, foreign birth, or re- 
ligion. Truman’s chances were aided by his fre- 
quent denunciation of the American DP law, 
which is anti-Catholic and anti-Jewish; and 
Dewey’s silence on Senator Revercomb, who 














DECEMBER, 1948 


guided passage of the law and who prevented 
changes in it after passage, did not go without 
notice—despite after-the-event reports by news- 
men of a Dewey “repudiation” of this candidate. 


More uncertain in this category were the Ne- 
gro and Jewish vote. Working in a confused sit- 
uation, the Wallace machine counted on draw- 
ing away this vote. They failed badly. As was 
apparent even before Nov. 2, the Negro vote was 
not to be included in the Wallace tally. What 
doubts existed as to the sincerity of Truman’s 
civil rights pronouncements were diminished by 
the ferocity of the Dixiecrats’ anti-Truman 
fury. In addition, Stalinist duplicity in the past, 
when Negro interests were involved, did not aid 


_ the Wallace candidacy. For its part the GOP 


lost its opportunity to split this vote, when it 
opportunistically traded for Bourbon Democra- 
tic support in Congress by sitting on its hands in 
the case of civil rights measures. 


The importance of the Negro vote for Tru- 
man has been accurately assessed by Walter 
White of the NAACP: “There can be no ques- 
tion that the pro-Truman percentage of Calif- 
crnia’s 200,000 Negro voters supplied more than 
his 63,000 margin of victory in that state, that 
Illinois’ 312,000 Negro voters gave the President 
his 51,000 majority (76 percent of the vote in 
the eleven Chicago wards where Negroes live 
went for Truman) and that enough of Ohio’s 
275,000 Negro voters were responsible for his 
margin of a scant 18,451. Switching of these 
three states would have given Dewey 277 elec- 
toral votes, reduced Truman’s to 216.” 

The Jewish vote went to Truman, but less 
heavily. Observing this vote at close range, it 
was apparent that under different circumstances 
Truman could have rallied it almost overwhelm- 
ingly. There existed no real pro-Wallace feeling. 
The strong pro-Israel stand of the Progressive 
Party was discounted in the light of Jewish 
knowledge of the traditionally anti-Zionist posi- 
tion of the Soviet Union, the banning of Zionism 
within the USSR, and the lack of religious, cul- 
tural, and political freedom for Jews and all oth- 
ers in the “Socialist Sixth of the Earth.” How- 
ever, Wallace’s own support of the embargo on 
arms to Israel, voiced by the Progressive candi- 
date on half a dozen occasions, was a secret well- 
kept by his crypto-Stalinist party, which issued 
conflicting statements on this point when ques- 
tioned. And above all, there was the contradic- 
tion between what Truman professed in regard to 
Israel and what the State Department actually 
did. In his Madison Square Garden address just 
before the election, the President again made 
vague promises and did nothing specific. He 


13 


knew of course that Jewish voters were aware of 
Mr. Marshall’s support of British sanctions pro- 
posals in Paris. The pre-election delay the Pres- 
ident effected, while gratifying, was not too re- 
assuring. 

In spite of this record, the Jewish vote went 
mainly to Truman. The Wallace total in New 
York City was enormously less than what the 
Progressive party has predicted. In the two most 
important Congressional elections in which Wal- 
laceites participated—both districts with a heavy 
Jewish vote—Leo Isaacson and Lee Pressman 
were trounced badly. O. John Rogge, the Wal- 
lace candidate for the office of Surrogate, was 
never in the running. Had Truman implement- 
ed his policy declarations on Israel in any impor- 
tant way, he seems likely to have carried New 
York State handily. As regards the Jewish vote, 
the biggest blow against him did not come on 
election day—but earlier, when droves protested 
by failing to register. 


ALso instrumental in the Truman victory was 
the support he received from farm voters who 
shifted sizably into the Democratic column. 
This was one of the biggest surprises in the sur- 
prising 1948 elections. Republican do-nothing 
activities in the special session of Congress, 
farmer fear of possible Dewey policy toward 
farm subsidies and other farm interests, threw a 
startling part of this vote to Truman. Not to 
be ignored are the thousands of government em- 
ployes who campaigned for Truman in order to 
prevent the loss of their jobs under a GOP ad- 
ministration. Dewey’s boast, while avoiding def- 
inite policy commitments, that he would insti- 
tute the “biggest unraveling, unsnarling, un- 
tangling operation in our nation’s history,” and 
his depiction of civil service employes as “‘medi- 
ocrities,” hardly helped him in this regard. 

Other factors were: Dewey’s defense of the 
80th Congress, his heavy-handed victor’s air and 
his pathetic and yet frightening strut, his ma- 
chine-oiled refusal to discuss issues; the crack-up 
of the Wallace machine (although Truman won 
the important state of Illinois only because Wal- 
lace was ruled off the ballot); the almost total 
trade union support for the President; and hard- 
ly last, Truman’s own incalculable contribution 
to his victory by stumping the country, blasting 
again and again the 80th Congress, his refusal to 
quit—all these aided his candidacy mightily. 
Truman’s concoction of the Vinson mission was 
injudicious, but it is improbable that it cost him 
votes. On the contrary, as an expression of a de- 
sire to avoid war—however impractical a strata- 
gem—it must have struck a response among the 








14 


voters, who certainly do not want war. Finally, 
the election would seem to indicate that the Re- 
publicans had sorely misjudged the meaning of 
the 1946 “had enough” elections and the political 
mood of the country. There would seem to be a 
deeply-rooted frustration and amorphous non- 
Stalinist current of dissidence which manifested 
itself in this election, with Truman serving as 
electrical as well as electoral conductor. This 
sentiment may go deeper than the Truman pro- 
gram itself and it would be a mistake to equate 
the fact of the vote with a complete congruence 
of political attitudes between the President and 
those who voted for him. Certainly, one myth 
has been laid to rest for the moment—and that is 
that national political sentiment in the U. S. has 
been going right at a time when general world 
sentiment is headed left. 


Probable Administration Policy 


IN view of labor’s contribution to the Truman 
victory—an aid immediately conceded by the 
President and Howard McGrath—and in keeping 
with Truman’s repeated attacks on the 80th 
Congress for passage of the Taft-Hartley law, it 
can legitimately be expected that early attention 
will be paid to this legislation. Labor has spoken 
with one voice in demanding its abolition. Phil- 
ip Murray has interpreted the election returns as 
evidencing clearly that “the people want reveal 
of the hateful Taft-Hartley Act.” William 
Green expressed his confidence that the 81st 
Congress will erase that law “without delay or 
quibbling.” 

In the meantime, the NLRB continues to 
function strictly in accordance with the present 
law. Robert N. Denham, general counsel of the 
NLRB, has anounced that the board cannot take 
official cognizance of the election and will con- 
form to a policy of “business as usual” as long as 
the law is on the books. Mr. Denham is serving 
a four-year term, dated from his Senate confirm- 
ation in Julv, 1947. His pronouncement is, of 
course, legally proper; what has irritated labor 
has been the narrowly literal application of this 
law by the Republican counsel. 


Some recent examples illustrate this policy. In 
October, after witnessing a series of hostile deci- 
sions by the NLRB, labor denounced the Board’s 
ruling on mass picketing as illegal. This decision 
grew out of a number of cases, including the 
Sunset & Twine Co. case. Previously, the NLRB 
had ruled that if a union strikes because of “‘eco- 
nomic” issues, such as higher wages or shorter 
hours, it can be legally ousted, and strike-break- 
ers can replace unionists. This is achieved by the 


JEWISH FRONTIER 


ruling that strikers in such cases cannot vote for 
a union to represent them if an employer has 
hired others to replace them, i.e., strikebreakers. 
By calling for an NLRB election, the employer 
can thus break strikes successfully. The CIO was 
quick to announce a court test case and denounc- 
ed the decisions, which “reflect a partisan inter- 
pretation of a partisan act.” All labor observers 
noted that the decisions were timed to appear just 
before the election; to all intent, the NLRB was 
already anticipating the expected Republican ad- 
ministration. At any rate, they were showing 
openly what the Taft-Hartley law really pre- 
saged. Business Week, a journal of industrialist 
outlook, candidly headlined its account of one 
of the NLRB rulings: “Mass Picketing. NLRB 
says it’s illegal. Tough decision has so enraged 
CIO, some wonder if that wasn’t the board’s in- 
tent.” Another business magazine, United States 
News, summed up the rulings as an “anti-strike 
club for employers.” Harvey Brown, president of 
the International Association of Machinists, eval- 
uated the rulings cogently when he stated: ““The 
Labor Board finds that the employer has full au- 
thority to break the strike by the simple expedi- 
ent of hiring strikebreakers, designating them as 
permanent, and by announcing a reduction in 
force as a result of business lost during the 
strike.” 

These and other, similar decisions pointed up 
the fact that the Taft-Hartley Act, in spite of 
the rhetoric of its supporters, was growing more 
anti-labor in practice, and that additional puni- 
tive action was likely from the NLRB and from 
Congress in the event of a Republican victory. 


Ir 1s understandable, then, why trade unions 
have determined that the law be blotted from 
the books. However, that the present law will 
not be revised by a few simple amendments—if 
the expected changes are made—for the seventy 
page Taft-Hartley law is too complicated to al- 
low of such a procedure. Nor it is probable that 
the Wagner Act will simply be repassed in full. 
The new legislation will probably be more re- 
strictive to labor than was the Wagner Act. La- 
bor, however, will certainly press for repeal of 
the ban on the closed shop. Maurice Tobin, Sec- 
retary of Labor, has already anounced that any 
legislation will “definitely have to restore the 
closed shop.” In addition, the provision requir- 
ing a vote for union shops will probably be elim- 
inated. This is of little importance, since in the 
costly union shop elections of the NLRB the un- 
ions won 98 percent of the elections to date. The 
checkoff will probably be permitted without the 
requirement of specific authorization by the in- 




















DECEMBER, 1948 


dividual unionist. Picketing rules are almost cer- 
tain to be modified to the liking of the unions. 

Some of the provisions of the Taft-Hartley 
law, however, may remain. It is doubtful that 
President Truman will strip himself of injunctive 
powers that he has utilized to deal with impor- 
tant strikes in the past, powers that he has not 
always used very wisely. If these powers are re- 
tained, it is to be hoped that they will be more 
moderately and appropriately applied in the fu- 
ture. Secondary boycotts may well be banned, 
as may be jurisdictional strikes. In short, labor 
will probably find some of the measures in the 
new “liberating” legislation hard to take, al- 
though it is unlikely that post-election predic- 
tion of Mr. Hartley will be fully confirmed. Said 
the retired legislator: The first act of the admin- 
istration will be to repeal the existing labor law 
to get rid of its name; once done “they will write 
most of it back into law.” 

Sen. Elbert D. Thomas of Utah, chairman of 
the Senate Labor Committee, has indicated other 
legislation that the administration will sponsor; 
a rise in the minimum statutory wage from 40 
cents to 75 cents an hour, new health laws, and 
federal aid to education. There will also be pro- 
posals to enlarge the present, totally inadequate 
social security system, and some impetus will be 
given to legislation to hasten housing construc- 
tion, although it is unlikely that these measures 
will be even nearly adequate for the low cost 
housing need. Civil rights proposals will depend 
on how close an alliance will be built between Re- 
publican and reactionary Democrat and Dixie- 
crat Congressmen—this, plus the strength of the 
post-election determination of the President in 
this regard. Should a workable anti-administra- 
tion log-rolling apparatus be fashioned, Southern 
help on other issues may win Republican recip- 
rocity on civil rights. Although some action— 
mostly formal—will be taken, it is probable that 
Truman’s supporters will be sadly disappointed 
with the lack of really important measures in this 
field. One wonders, for example, how long it 
will take the President to get around to anti-dis- 
criminatory action in regard to the armed forces; 
to effect immediate remedies of the most-needed 
sort, he need only use an executive order. If earl- 
ier inaction is prolonged—concerning problems 
with which the President is already equipped to 
deal—it will be difficult to explain away by ref- 
erences to an obstinate Congress. 

As regards prices, the Democratic platform 
emphatically failed to call for restoration of 
OPA, and it is most unlikely that wartime con- 
trols will be instituted. Some lesser measures of 
varying efficacy seem likely in individual con- 


15 


nections and for limited items. The farmer can 
undoubtedly expect administration advocacy of 
high farm price supports. Anti-trust laws 
will probably be strengthened. 

In general terms, Truman’s New Deal is not 
likely to introduce qualitatively different innova- 
tions. To a greater or lesser degree, depending 
on issues and the strength of the pro-and-anti 
administration coalitions, extensions in the tradi- 
tion of the New Deal of the pre-1937 period may 
be expected rather than new developments. 


Labor’s Election Role 
and Political Future 


AT THE time of the Democratic Convention, 
when it seemed certain—after the Eisenhower 
refusal—that Truman would win the nomina- 
tion, labor officialdom, by and large, remained 
passive. A number of unions pledged only nom- 
inal support. In view of the situation at that 
time, such a position was understandable. The 
political activity that the AFL and CIO commit- 
tees engaged in then was almost exclusively de- 
voted to the Congressional races. It was no se- 
cret that American labor, like everyone else, an- 
ticipated a Republican victory. The job, as they 
saw it, was to prevent Congress from going over- 
whelmingly to the GOP. What hope there was, 
centered about the Senate elections. Only in the 
last weeks before election, when the labor lines 
re-formed, was there any significant promotion 
of the President’s candidacy. 

And yet, labor’s contribution to the Truman 
victory was notable. How, then, are we to un- 
derstand this aid? What was its nature? On this 
point there has been considerable confusion. 

After the 1946 Republican victory, observers 
fell into the habit of stating that there is no such 
thing as a “labor vote” in the United States—by 
which they meant that unions do not control the 
electoral choices of the membership. The 1948 
elections would seem to have labelled this view 
as nonsense. And yet, strictly speaking, it is 
highly doubtful whether—as usually understood 
—there is a ‘labor vote.” 

There seemingly is such a vote when the can- 
didate-choices of the union leaders and mem- 
bership coincide; when there is this identity of 
choice then the contribution of the labor leaders 
lies in their efforts to increase the number of ac- 
tual voters. If the membership voted in obedi- 
ence to union leader choice—as would have to 
be the case if a “labor vote” were to have its 
strict meaning—then the test cases would be 
those instances in which the selection of the lead- 
ers ran contrary to membership preference. Such 
a test case was furnished by John L. Lewis’ oppo- 








16 


sition to Roosevelt; the miners were loyal to 
their union, the bulk of them revered Lewis— 
and yet they voted for Roosevelt. It would have 
been absurd to speak of a “labor vote” in UMW, 
if Lewis had supported Roosevelt—and the min- 
ers voted as they would have done in any event. 

But when the congruence between the choice 
of leaders and members does exist, then the con- 
tribution of the unions in getting members 
to register and vote is enormous. That is what 
happened in the last election. And in all fair- 
ness, it must be noted that much of labor’s help 
for the President was subsidiary. In concentrat- 
ing on the Congressional elections, the unions 
convinced the voters to go to the polls. Once 
there, they also voted for Truman. 

In a largely unnoticed pre-election interview, 
George Gallup expressed an opinion that may 
perhaps be far more important than his ill-fated 
predictions. Discussing compulsory voting in 
the Netherlands and Australia, Dr. Gallup stat- 
ed: “I have often thought that compulsory vot- 
ing here might be one way to give the Demo- 
crats a tremendous advantage. If everyone in 
this country voted, it would be hard to elect Re- 
publicans.” Asked if this was not purely a 
Roosevelt phenomenon, he replied: ‘“‘No, it’s sim- 
ply the fact that the great bulk of the people in 
the lower income levels are Democrats.” In re- 
cent elections, it has been the contribution of la- 
bor unions to induce these persons to go to the 
polls. In the last election, this factor was appar- 
ently magnified by the fact that many Repub- 
licans seemingly did not bother to vote. Statis- 
tically, the proportion of those eligible to vote 
(some 96,000,000) to those who actually did vote 
was the lowest in the last 32 years. But if Dr. 
Gallup is correct, then—as present political al- 
ignments stand—the bulk of that potential vote 
is Democratic. And one important future poli- 
tical activity of labor will be to attempt to bring 
it to the polls. 


To soME degree, there is evidence that union 
leaders understand the nature of this “labor 
vote”; in part, it may explain labor reluctance to 
plan for a new independent political party even 
when Truman’s chances seemed nil. The new 
party sentiment in the CIO was voiced by the 
UAW ’s Walter Reuther and Emil Mazey, and in 
the AFL by William Green. These hesitant dec- 
larations seemed likely to evoke little labor lead- 
ership support. In fact, the UAW grapevine, 
after the Reuther statement was released, sent 
out frantic smoke signals that Reuther was mis- 
understood; in the AFL, union leaders were even 
more blunt and said frankly that Mr. Green was 
voicing only his own opinion. 





JEWISH FRONTIER 





At present, labor’s political efforts are fo- 
cused almost completely in and about the Demo- 
cratic Party. George Meany, AFL secretary- 
treasurer, has already stated that the proposed 
new party is “not dead, but the AFL is not ready 
for it as this time.” Neither is the CIO. It is 
known that Philip Murray and other important 
CIO leaders were never enthusiastic about the 
proposal; the elections have hardly altered their 
stand. 


Within this framework, it is reported in labor 
circles that the unions will conduct a more vig- 
orous and continuous campaign between elec- 
tions in an attempt to be able not only to turn 
out the vote, but to deliver more efficiently to 
specific candidates. Also in the making is a pol- 
icy of greater concentration on Democratic pri- 
maries, so that labor influence can be brought to 
bear when the candidates themselves are actually 
chosen. 


On the international scene, the AFL has been 
building a sturdy anti-Stalinist international. To 
date, considerable activity has been focused on 
Latin America and Europe, with Serafino Romu- 
aldi and Irving Brown as the respective lieuten- 
ants. The CIO, in conjunction with the British 
Trades Union Congress, seems likely to break 
soon with the Soviet-manipulated World Federa- 
tion of Trade Unions. The British TUC recent- 
ly refused to pass a vote of confidence in the 
WFTU, and its general council has even more re- 
cently called for the suspension of the interna- 
tional labor body. Arthur Deakin, British presi- 
dent of the WFTU, stated that this group has 
‘become a Communist-dominated organization.” 
In the U. S., the important CIO Textile Workers 
Union has officially made the same charge and has 
requested that the CIO withdraw from WFTU. 
When the CIO does make its exit—as seems in- 
evitable—then the AFL and CIO will undoubt- 
edly work far more closely together on the in- 
ternational scene. The eventual removal of the 
WFTU issue—plus the steadily diminishing 
strength of the Stalinists in the CIO—will aid in 
bringing the AFL and CIO somewhat together 
operationally, although the prospects for out- 
right merger will no doubt, continue to look dis- 
couragingly dim for what may be a long time to 
come. Ironically, the election victory, by re- 
moving the pressing need for labor unity in the 
face of serious economic and legislative threats, 
has made the prospect for labor unity even more 
distant. But it has also stimulated a new interest 
in political action which is likely to bring the ri- 
vals in the House of Labor together in parallel 
action on more than one future occasion. 








DECEMBER, 1948 


17 


The Essence of a Non-Entity 


by Ben Halpern 


HE CATASTROPHE visited by the war 
upon European Jewry, on the one hand, and 
the post-war battle for Israel, on the other, have 
undoubtedly caused a certain stir in the mind 
of the Christian world. The recent World Coun- 
cil of Churches felt obliged to deal with “the 
Jewish question” at some length, though with 
no great results.’ Individual Protestant divines, 
notably James Parkes, have been brought by the 
new crisis in the Jewish problem to reconsider 
theologically the whole relationship between 
Judaism and Christianity. The Catholic Church, 
too, in its slow and deliberate fashion, has shown 
some concern with the problem. If Rome, as 
was reported, has decided to discourage the use 
of the traditional appellation perfidi Judaei 
(“the perfidious Jews”), and to order the sub- 
stitution of more colorless terms such as “unbe- 
lieving Jews,” this is certainly far from a radical 
transformation of attitude; yet it is the fruit 
of the same serious concern with the cancer of 
anti-Semitism as animates such a Catholic journal 
as the Parisian Cahiers Sioniens. 

The new seriousness in the Gentile approach 
to the Jewish question is not confined to theolo- 
gians. Secular writers and thinkers, too, have to 
reconsider the problem; if for no other reason, 
then simply because Jews today take themselves 
more seriously. In England, attention has been 
focused on the bitter battleground in Palestine 
and the “noisy rows” in Whitechapel, and dis- 
cussion has been kept on a plane of superficial 
recrimination; yet the dignified position main- 
tained by British Jewry in this quarrel should 
lead naturally to a profounder examination of 
the question in a quieter time. In Italy, when 
Benedetto Croce allowed himself to make some 
ill-considered and contemptuous remarks, ad- 
vising Jews to spare themselves and the world 
“unnecessary martyrs” by dropping the relics 
of their barbaric and primitive religiosity and 
merging with the other Italians, he received an 
answer in detail. The Unione della Communita 
israelitiche italiane (Dipartimento per ]’Educa- 
zione e la Cultura) published a brochure con- 
taining a courteous, but firm reply by the 
distinguished Chief Rabbi, Dante Lattes, and a 
demonstration by Ferrucio Pardo that in denying 
to Jewry the right to exist, Croce was incon- 
sistent with the spirit of Crocean philosophy. 
In Rumania, one of the first cultural enterprises 
of the Jewish community seems to have been to 


1 See Karl M. Chworowsky’s article in Jewish Frontier, Nov., 1948. 


organize and publish a round-up of views on the 
Jewish problem by representative Rumanian 
writers.” In France, a similar symposium by 
Jewish and Gentile writers was published by the 
journal Confluences, under the title “Bilan 


Juif.”* 


IN THIs whole literature, such as it is, Jean- 
Paul Sartre’s volume, Réflexions sur la Question 
Juive, which has just been issued in America in 
English translation,* occupies a significant place. 
It stands out, first of all, because it was written 
late in 1944, in the early days of the Liberation, 
when specific reference to Jewish suffering and 
the guilt of anti-Semitism was far from popular 
anywhere in Europe, West or East, and when 
in France the stories of the extermination camps 
were still widely discounted as atrocity propa- 
ganda. But it stands out also for its permanent 
merits. It is doubtful whether one can find any- 
where in the literature on the subject a firmer 
conviction that anti-Semitism is not a mere 
“opinion,” that it is a passion for hatred itself, 
an obsession with the demonic, a force intrinsic- 
ally dangerous to civil society. In his analysis of 
the anti-Semite (as well as of the parlor anti- 
Semite), Sartre misses nothing that has been seen 
by the formal psychiatric and psychoanalytic 
studies conducted on the same subject in this 
country. He surpasses most of the studies in 
the systematic unity of his conception, whose 
detailed observations fit organically into the logic 
of his basic assumption—that the anti-Semite 
(or the anti-Negro or anti-Asiatic) is the man 
who has choosen hatred, irresponsibility, the 
anonymity of the mob—‘the permanence and 
impenetrability of stone,” the flight from free- 
dom. 

The book is equally striking in its intimate 
and penetrating understanding of the “inauthen- 
tic Jew” —the Jew who is nothing more than 
a creature of anti-Semitism, and who necessarily 
tries always to escape or evade his insufferable 
position. Sartre’s description of the plight of 
this Jew provides the dimension of depth for 
every one of the frustrations pictured so faith- 
fully— and so superficially—by Laura Hobson’s 
Gentleman’s Agreement. Where she can only 
muster up an indignation as brittle as her insight 

2 Le Probléme Juif, edited by Eliezer Frenkel, Cercle Culturel Juif 
de Roumanie, “I. L. Peretz,” Jassy, 1945. 

3 Confluences VII® annee (Nouvelle serie) No. 15-17. 


4 Anti-Semite and Jew, by Jean-Paul Sartre, translated by George 
J. Becker, Schocken Books, 153 pp., $2.75. 








18 


is shallow to season her tale of the typical inci- 
dents of rebuff and humiliation suffered by Jews 
in Christian democracies (where they are legally 
free but socially restricted, constitutionally 
equal but conventionally degraded), Sartre 
searches with psychological finesse, with ardent 
human sympathy, and with a certain moral 
rigorism. 

But by the very extent that Sartre is deeper 
than the kind of trash which was hailed as the 
peak of our current American discussion of the 
Jewish problem, in that same measure his book 
brings to the surface some of the chief inadequa- 
cies and absurdities of the basic assumption that 
he shares with Mrs. Hobson. Both members of 
this otherwise ill-matched pair agree in regarding 
not only the “inauthentic Jew,” but all Jews, 
the Jew as such, as no more than the product of 
anti-Semitism: except in respect of Gentile dis- 
crimination the Jew does not exist; this is the 
sum-total of his existence, and the Jew’s reaction 
to anti-Semitism is the whole of his essence. But 
a fundamental indecision, particularly apparent 
in Sartre’s moral evaluations of the inauthentic 
Jew, shows how little this postulate can contrib- 
ute to an adequate understanding of “Jewish- 
ness.” It may be that the whole existentialist 
approach founders on the modest Problematik 
of morality; but nowhere can it be so blatantly 
at a loss as in Sartre’s attempts to evaluate moral- 
ly the responses to the alleged condition of the 
Jew. 


PRIMA FACIE, one would suppose that not only 
ethical appreciation but moral approval should 
be accorded to an “authentic” person, to one 
who has the courage to accept the responsibilities 
of his condition. The “inauthentic person,” 
similarly, should be both despised and condemned. 
But Sartre is not a moralizing philosopher. A 
man who regards anguish, forlornness, and des- 
pair as the “authentic” spiritual modes of ap- 
proaching the human condition can hardly be 
harsh with those who lack firmness of will to 
choose the tremendous responsibilities, the very 
martyrdom of life. He may praise the high 
courage of a man who “chooses himself authen- 
tically,” but he cannot blame too much those 
who are cowards. Most men, indeed, are cowards 
for Sartre. But, in the case of the inauthentic 
Jew, Sartre is forced to make moral judgments 
directly contradicting the ethical perspectives 
of existentialism—he sometimes praises where 
he should blame; and, in the case of the anti- 
Semite, he makes moral judgments which are 
contradictory among themselves. 


We can well understand that Sartre’s philos- 
ophy should lead him to think charitably of the 


JEwIsH FRONTIER 


inauthentic Jew, to “understand” his inability 
to accept martyrdom simply because of some 
silly hallucination of the anti-Semite, who insists 
that the Jew exists—(and, who thus “causes” 
him to exist.) But, after all, in Sartre’s philos- 
ophy this is the “condition” of the Jew, and it 
is his human duty to accept it “authentically,” 
however anguished, forlorn, and desperate such 
an existence may be. It is, therefore, incompre- 
hensible in terms of existentialist philosophy 
when Sartre not merely condones as manifesta- 
tions of human weakness certain reactions of the 
“inauthentic Jew,” but praises them. 


According to Sartre, critical rationalism and 
universalism, the bent towards universal recon- 
ciliation are defensive reactions of the “inauthen- 
tic Jew,” a mere attempt to deny the particular- 
istic views of the anti-Semite, who on this basis 
would refuse him brotherhood. If Sartre’s ex- 
planation is correct, Jewish universalism is an 
outgrowth of ethical weakness, an expression of 
deficient courage. But Sartre does not draw such 
conclusions. Instead, he says: “The Jews are the 
mildest of men, passionately hostile to violence. 
That obstinate sweetness which they conserve 
in the midst of the most atrocious persecution, 
that sense of justice and of reason which they 
put up as their sole defense against a hostile, 
brutal, and unjust society, is perhaps the best 
part of the message they bring to us and the true 
mark of their greatness.” 


I need not say that I value the moral judgment 
just quoted; but precisely to the extent that one 
might agree, one would be forced to deny that 
such a message or such greatness could be merely 
the defense of an “inauthentic person,” a dodge 
of cowardice, a rebuttal of anti-Semitism. It 
must be the fruit of an authentic Jewishness— 
and if so, it cannot be understood as the reflec- 
tion of a Jewish condition defined solely by the 
anti-Semite. For, the proper attitude of the Jew 
to the anti-Semite, and according to Sartre’s own 
theory, the proper attitude of everyman to the 
anti-Semite, is not one of tolerance, it is one of 
bitter and uncompromising opposition, of active 
resistance. “Anti-Semitism,” says Sartre, “does 
not fall within the category of ideas protected 
by the right of free opinion”... “I refuse to 
characterize as opinion a doctrine that is aimed 
at particular persons and that seeks to suppress 
their rights or to exterminate them.” 


Just as in his analysis of the “inauthentic 
Jew,” so in his moral “appreciation” of “the anti- 
Semite,” Sartre falls victim to odd departures 
from the ethical perspectives one would expect 
of a strict existentialist view. One is led to the 
conclusion that his judgments are not derived 


DECEMBER, 1948 


logically from existentialism at all; and even 
more, that they demonstrate the arbitrariness of 
Sartre’s basic position on the Jewish question. 
First of all, one is bound to notice the striking 
vehemence of Sartre’s denunciation of the anti- 
Semite. As an “inauthentic” person—and to- 
gether with the Jew, but in a different sense, as 
the most extreme example of inauthenticity— 
the anti-Semite behaves according to a pattern 
rooted in cowardice; and accordingly he certain- 
ly rates an existentialist frown. But what he 
gets is an explosive denunciation, an unphilos- 
ophical excess of blame, which derives not so 
much from the general postulates of existential- 
ism as from the special premise that he is a danger 
to society, and from the simple horror of murder. 


But the anti-Semites, (particularly in the 
broader sense of the word, which includes the 
“secondhand anti-Semites,’ who “would not 
have invented anti-Semitism, if the conscious 
anti-Semite did not already exist,” but “who 
with complete indifference assure the survival 
of anti-Semitism and carry it forward through 
the generations”) not only threaten to kill the 
Jew; they also cause him to exist. Their attitudes 
toward him constitute precisely the Jew’s condi- 
tion. Sartre allows no other, historical or autoch- 
thonous, conditions. Now, in some respects this 
is not a unique situation. One might say that the 
attitudes of the bourgeoisie constitute the condi- 
tions of the existence of the worker. Yet Sartre 
cites with approval the Marxist repudiation of 
a moralistic hostility to the capitalists. Even 
though the bourgeois attitudes define the wretch- 
ed conditions of the workers’ existence, he would 
regard it as ludicrous and irrelevant to attach 
any moral blame to the bourgeoisie on this ac- 
count. Like Marx, but on much more obscure— 
or to put it plainly, on no ascertainable philos- 
ophical grounds at all, Sartre recognizes that 
these are existents of a historical quality, hence 
in a sense fated to be; that both the worker and 
the bourgeois have an essential, not a factitious, 
place in history; and this makes moral reproach 
irrelevant. 

Sartre adopts a different attitude toward the 
relation between the “Frenchman” and the Jew. 
He blames the Frenchmen for their attitudes 
which constitute the conditions of existence for 
the Jew. He urges Frenchmen to abandon this 
anti-Semitism by which Jewish existence is deter- 
mined, to release the Jews frcm their sorry condi- 
tions, and accept them into the French national 
community. It is consistent with this moral- 
istic approach that Sartre does not regard Jewish 
existence as in any way historically fated—‘the 
Jews have no history”: the Jews, in fact, serve 
Sartre admirably as perhaps the only example 


19 


he can hope to sltow of a people that can plaus- 
ibly be described in the existentialist terms of 
pure freedom of choice. To be sure, since the 
freedom and the choice are in this case those of 
the anti-Semites, not the Jews, and since the 
Jews are created by the anti-Semites to serve as 
a scapegoat, even though they do not exist ob- 
jectively in the conditions of France, the free- 
dom is “inverted freedom” and the choice is 
“inauthentic,” on the part of those who are free 
to choose—the Frenchmen. Yet, within this 
factitious (in the sense of artificial, unreal) sit- 
uation, the Jews, caught up in their pseudo- 
existence, are asked by Sartre to “‘choose them- 
selves authentically.” 


But att that is only one part of Sartre’s story. 
He denies that the Jews are historically fated to 
exist; but he cannot deny the fated and historical 
quality of the French national community. This 
means, of course, that France somehow eludes 
his existentialist analysis in terms of free choice. 
Perhaps the most striking result and symptom of 
this is Sartre’s helpless equivocation on the sub- 
ject of the real, as opposed to the legal France. 
When he mentions these terms specifically, he 
generally refers to the “real France” as a figment 
of the imagination of the anti-Semites, a creation 
of theirs in the same way as “the Jew” is their 
creature. But quite different conclusions can be 
drawn from other passages, where he implies, 
or explicitly asserts, the objective existence of 
the French national community as a historical 
fact, as a social reality distinct from the legal 
nation. 


He shares so strongly the conviction that such 
a historical fact exists, that he subscribes to most 
of the standard reproaches—both philosophical 
and vulgar— of French nationalist romanticism 
against the so-called Jewish rationalist and uni- 
versalist mentality, the attitude which denies 
the existence of a community to which one is 
born. It does not matter that he explains away 
these alleged Jewish shortcomings as being the 
product of anti-Semitism. When he says that 
Jews understand reality only by abstraction and 
analysis and not by Pascalian intuition; that they 
can conceive only the communicable, not the 
inexpressible; that they know only impersonal, 
negotiable property, and not the inalienable 
ownership of a heritage; that they are incapable 
of the pride of the body or the cultivation of the 
senses, or the tact of a subtle spirit—he, no less 
than the anti-Semite, is stating the proposition 
that the Jew cannot belong to the French nation- 
al community, as long as it exists as such. One 
begins to wonder how deep is his moral indigna- 
tion at the “refusal” to assimilate the Jew. 








20 


It is true that Sartre hopes for a transhistorical 
future (much like Marx), when the classless 
society will be established and—one gathers— 
all group particularities will fall away. At that 
time will be dissolved the situation which leads 
the French bourgeoisie to try to evade the reality 
of class struggle by inventing a “spurious” (but 
at the same time historically fated) French na- 
tional community, which transcends classes, and 
by opposing it to a fabricated scapegoat—the 
Jew. Not being created any longer by anti- 
Semitism, the Jew will be released from his ‘“‘con- 
dition” and cease to exist. 


At that time, the Jew, like the worker, will 
become capable of confronting the condition of 
man metaphysically. Today both the Jew and 
the worker suffer anguish, forlornness, and des- 
pair through the cruel pressures of their social, 
economic, and political position alone. They are 
thus prevented from conceiving the anguish, 
forlornness, and despair of the true, metaphys- 
ical responsibilities of man. Only the bourgeois 
Gentile intellectual, in the security of his class 
and national heritage, can really be an authentic 
person today, suffering real anguish, forlornness, 
and despair, is implied by Sartre. In the mean- 
time, it is up to the pseudo-“authentic” Jew— 
either to overcome his condition by becoming a 
Zionist and going to Israel; or to fight his condi- 
tion as a Frenchman, striving for the radical 
reform of the contemporary situation through 
the ultimate establishment of the classless society, 
and meeting courageously until then the trials 
of martyrdom as a Jew malgré soi. 


WHATEVER else one may have to say about 
this curious hodge-podge of intuitive sympathy 
and doctrinaire blindness, this mélange of half- 
baked and indigestible ideas, it is safe to predict 
that it will not commend itself to Jews as a guide 
in living. Even one who agreed with the Exist- 
entialists that first one exists within the limits 
of a situation and only then creates the essence 
of one’s being—would hardly be able to live as 
a Jew in pursuit of the essence of a non-entity. 
For assuming that the essence of a life is merely 
its final product, it is also its goal and justifica- 
tion. But most Jews will go farther. They will 
see that, whatever one may imagine about indi- 
viduals taken abstractly, historical groups ob- 
viously exist through achieved essences. These 
may have to be achieved again and again by free 
choice, and generally achieved in new forms, but 
they also come to us as fated facts, as history. 

Thinking in these terms, some Jews may be 
inclined to turn M. Sartre’s theses on their ears— 
as one critic has already done in France.° They 
may seek to define the essence of Jewish being 


JEwIsH FRONTIER 


as precisely its historical fatedness. Even where 
the creed and practice of religion are fallen 
away, the Jew persists as himself. He is reduced 
to an eerily metaphysical being, owing its exist- 
ence to the sheer history of his origin in a group. 
Under these circumstances, the reaction which 
may be predicted—the “authentic” reaction, at 
any rate—is not what Sartre supposes; it is rather 
a tendency among young Jews in Israel and in 
the Diaspora to try, at least, to recover or re- 
formulate the once achieved essences which had 
formed Jewish being. 


It happens that in itself existentialism offers 
many suitable points of departure for a philos- 
ophy of Jewishness today. Heine’s aphorism “‘Das 
Judentum ist keine Religion, sondern ein Un- 
gliick” has become very apposite, though in a 
serious rather than a comic sense, for an increas- 
ing number of Jews who can trace their Jewish- 
ness to no clear heritage of achieved essences. 
For many who have ceased to choose positive 
Judaism as a religion (it is significant that we 
now have text-books on “basic Judaism”) and 
ceased to affirm the values of its literary culture 
in any of several languages, Jewishness is, indeed, 
a kind of existentialist ““Ungliick,” a quasi-meta- 
physical fate. But in order to choose this condi- 
tion “authentically,” it is necessary to bear in 
mind a simple and familiar distinction, made 
most recently by Max Brod,° between edles Un- 
gliick and unedles Ungliick. Unedles Ungliick 
—ignoble misery—is something in principle con- 
tingent, not to be accepted in stoic despair, but 
to be fought and, one may hope, overcome. All 
purely social, economic, or political evils fall into 
this category. Edles Ungliick—is fate, the con- 
dition of man; and if anguish, forlornness, and 
despair may be proper in facing it, if it must be 
accepted, man can still face it with Stoic cour- 
age—which implies not a coerced submission but 
a philosophic affirmation and transformation of 
fate into destiny. A social, political, or economic 
condition is pure misery if it cannot be transfig- 
ured into the realm of edles Ungliick, if there is 
nothing in it of a man’s inner fate and destiny, 
but only the coercion of outer force. Under such 
conditions—and this is how Sartre pictures the 
Jew—it is sheer mockery to demand an “‘authen- 
tic” attitude, a Stoic acceptance by the victim 
of his ignoble misery. But Jewishness is fate and 
destiny, not a malicious oppression, and Sartre 
himself implicitly recognizes this when he speaks 
of the “authentic Jew” and calls upon Jews to 
be authentic. 


5 Emmanuel Levinas, “Etre Juif” in Bilan Juif (p. 253 ff.). 
6 Max Brod, Diesseits und Jenséits, 2 vols. 1947, Mondial Verlag, 
Winterthur. 








DECEMBER, 1948 


21 


Jewish Expressions in the USSR 


by Jacob Lestshinsky 


 iadeae CULTURE which sustains nationality 


among most peoples has almost the power of 
natural necessity. Without taking any special 
pains, a Frenchman from the day of his birth is 
imbued with potent influences of his national 
tradition and contemporary environment. Jews 
are not in this fortunate position. The traditions 
and environment of other nationalities affect the 
Jew with almost the force of natural necessity; 
and to sustain his own cultural heritage and his 
sentiment of ethnic “belongingness,” he must ap- 
ply himself deliberately to the maintenance of 
the Jewish language, schools, and literature. 


What is the situation of Soviet Jewry in this 
respect? There are hardly any Jewish schools. 
Even those in Biro-Bidjan cannot pretend to con- 
stitute a school system, in which all Jewish chil- 
dren would be educated in the Yiddish language. 
The Jewish children of the USSR are brought up 
with no knowledge whatever of their people’s 
history, and acquire through their education no 
personal bond with its collective destiny. Thus, 
if there is any element of culture cementing the 
Jewish group in the USSR today and holding out 
hope for their future as a Soviet nationality, it 
can only be the literature produced there in the 
Yiddish language. It is appropriate, therefore, to 
ask ourselves whether Yiddish literature, of the 
type that is being created in the USSR, makes for 
continuity, or if it makes precisely for the dis- 
integration of Jewish ethnic existence. 


I rave before me six Yiddish volumes recently 
issued in the USSR—five issues of the review 
Heimland, published in Moscow, and one volume 
of the review Der Shtern, published in Kiev. 
The latter book—121 pages of stories, essays, and 
poetry—one aproaches with the highest anticipa- 
tion. Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, had in 
pre-war days a deeply-rooted Jewish community 
with strong traditions, one that had developed 
unique institutions; and today, according to So- 
viet sources, Kiev is the center of a region in 
which there should be a resettled Jewish popula- 
tion of around a million. 


Turning to this review first, the reader is 
amazed to see how the Yiddish language has been 
turned into an implement for estranging Jews 
from their past, from Jews elsewhere in the 
world, and from all hope of a Jewish future. The 
vocabulary of these productions is dry, wooden, 
destitute of any values or conceptions that might 





convey overtones out of Jewish history and 
Jewish destiny. Nowhere does one encounter 
such words as Exile, Redemption, Messiah, De- 
struction, the prophet Elijah, the prophets gener- 
ally, Moses, the Temple, Jerusalem, Eretz Israel, 
the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Bible, 
Talmud, Shulkhan Arukh, Kabbalah, Sabbath, 
the festivals, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, 
Tishah B’Av, Simkhas Torah, or any of the my- 
riad expressions that lend color to the Yiddish 
language, awakening time-honored memories and 
stirring up immemorial hopes. 

The content of these writings is equally 
strange: not a single picture from specifically 
Jewish life. One might conclude that there is no 
specifically identifiable context of Jewish life to 
become the subject of literature. But even among 
the protagonists of these stories there is none 
who shows any trace of an individual Jewish 
quality, of specific Jewish concerns or experi- 
ences. 


TAKING all six volumes together, there is not 
a single piece about either of the two epochal 
events that have dominated Jewish writing else- 
where, in all tongues, and in all forms of litera- 
ture and journalism: nothing about the catas- 
trophe of European Jewry, and nothing about 
the fight for the State of Israel. There is an oc- 
casional reference, to be sure, to one or another 
Jewish protagonist’s having lost his father or 
mother, but these facts are mentioned in such 
a markedly dry and off-hand manner. that the 
impression created is of a purely individual mis- 
fortune, a mere incident. That this extraordinary 
silence is concerted, not accidental, becomes ob- 
vious enough when one sees a poet like David 
Hofstein, who once wrote with such poignant 
feeling, in his own way, about the Holy Spirit 
in Exile, joining in the chorus of muteness, and 
saying not a word about the Jewish tragedy, 
though he writes about everything else under 
the sun—not excluding panegyrics to Stalin. 


But if the slaughter of the Jews is occasionally 
referred to, in individual cases, there is utter 
blankness about Israel — verboten! Material 
about the new state with its 700,000 Jews, 
through whom Soviet policy may hope to score 
some points in its conduct of international af- 
fairs—this is an export commodity for the back 
pages of Einikeit, and occasionally for the front 
pages, when it can serve to embarrass England 








22 


and the United States among Jews abroad. But, 
in poetry, criticism, or belles lettres—not a word. 
Israel is prohibited from entering the hearts of 
Soivet Jewry — at least through the medium of 
Yiddish literature. 

Well, then, can one find anywhere in the re- 
views a piece about the Jews in any other coun- 
try in the world? Not that, either. Even the 
Jews of Poland, Rumania, and Hungary — all 
countries with Communist governments — do 
not exist! No discussion in a Yiddish review of 
the very interesting Yiddish literature and Yid- 
dish press that has arisen in neighboring, Com- 
munist Poland! The Soviet Jew must be purely 
and strictly Soviet, hermetically protected 
against any contact wth Jewish culture beyond 
the border. 

Let us overlook this idiosyncrasy and ask — 
What about Jewish culture in the Soviet Union 
itself? Nowhere any article on Jewish education, 
or any specific Jewish problem in the USSR! No 
cursory or incidental mention by any character 
in a story of the existence of matters of specific- 
ally Jewish interest. 


Most revealing is the way these reviews por- 
tray the Jew in his contacts with his non-Jewish 
neighbors. In the Ukraine, the local non-Jewish 
population was responsible for the slaughter of 
hundreds of thousands of Jews. In Byelo-Russia 
the number was smaller because fewer Jews 
lived there, but in proportion the crime was no 
smaller. Did this orgy of murder by the neigh- 
bors of the Ukrainian and Byelo-Russian Jews 
leave any traces in the relations between Jew 
and non-Jew? Not a trace: current Soviet Yid- 
dish literature is silent on this point. Rather, it 
is far from silent: it paints such an idyllic pic- 
ture of love between Jew and non-Jew, that we 
should all celebrate the arrival of Messianic times 
—lambs lying down with lions, swords forged 
into ploughshares. At least, in Yiddish belles let- 
tres in the Soviet Union all these prophecies have 
been realized. It is painful to read in Yiddish, in 
one’s own tongue, such a sycophantically aggres- 
sive wooing of those who so recently steeped 
their hands in Jewish blood. The harmony por- 
trayed between Jew and Gentile in the Ukraine 
and Byelo-Russia is not a mere cooperation in 
common projects; it is intimate and personal — 
not only no difference of opinion, but no differ- 
ences of feeling. Before such an overweening of- 
fensive of love, the other party must certainly 
yield—until the next wave of pogroms... 

According to this literature, there can hardly 
be a dozen guilty men in all Ukraine and Byelo- 
Russia. Even though the life portrayed is large- 


JEWISH FRONTIER 


ly, even mainly, lived in contact with Gentiles, 
rarely does one come across an anti-Semite, let 
alone a Jew-killer. All saints! The chauvinists 
and reactionaries who murdered the Jews—all 
gone. Are Soviet Jews compiling documentary 
materials on those distant events of 1941 to 1944 
when certain obscure ruffians, strangers to the 
spirit of the Soviet Ukraine and Byelo-Russia, 
destroyed a matter of a million Jews or so in such 
remote places as Kiev and Berditchev, Odessa and 
Kharkov, Minsk and Gomel? We do not know. 
About three years ago, there were some refer- 
ences to such a project, but they quickly died 
down. Now, one hears no more about it. But 
the Yididsh belles lettres of 1948 have quite other 
concerns than to evoke melancholy feelings 
among Jews because of a few exceptional 
Ukrainians and Byelo-Russians who, long, long 
ago, in 1941-1944, were misled by the Germans 
and took a small part in the extermination of the 
Tews. The theory of this literature is that all the 
Ukrainians and Byelo-Russians whom Jews meet 
in kolkhoz and factory, in offices and in institu- 
tions, are too kind and pure to harm a hair on a 
Jew’s head; most of them, indeed, saved Jews 
from death in those old, unhappy days. 


To BE more specific, let us begin with no less 
a writer than the novelist, David Bergelson, the 
author of Nokh Alemen and Arum Vokzal, in 
which Jewish nostalgia and Jewish individuality, 
the decay of ancient values and traditions, and 
anxiety over the clouded future of Jewishness 
achieve so fine an expression. That David Ber- 
gelson is no longer recognizable in the Soviet au- 
thor writing on “Jewish” themes in Yiddish to- 
day. The fabula of his new novel, which is be- 
ing printed serially in Heimland, concerns an 
American Jewish professor of Russian origin who 
journeys to Biro-Bidjan to-seek out the sweet- 
heart of his youth. Meanwhile, he observes the 
marvellous development of the new region, and 
the new types of Jews who live there. And they 
are indeed new types, particularly for the old 
Bergelson: nothing identifiable as Jewish, beyond 
the name, but each one a true copy of the stand- 
ard Soviet citizen. Their achievements are not 
celebrated as Jewish triumphs nor their set- 
backs grieved at as Jewish defeats, but in all re- 
spects their project is presented as one of the 
great USSR, directly. 

What sort of poetry is printed in the Ukrainian 
Yiddish review? Here certainly, in this most 
personal form of expression and in the journal 
of one of the densest Jewish populations, one 
might hope for a more intimate Jewishness. The 
first poem in the review, by Khanne Levin, is en- 











AW 


8 —_cCr = 





DECEMBER, 1948 


titled “Our Sun,” and includes lines which read 
roughly as follows: 


“The sun itself might have been quenched, 
Choked by blood and ash and loam, 

Had not the blooming of my home 

The brilliant orb with radiance drenched. 
For Stalin’s strength and Stalin’s will 

Mine earth irradiate to its heart.” 


For the rest, the poem is a bouquet of curses 
for England and America and a shower of praises 
upon the sole savior of a world menaced by fas- 
cism—that is, Stalin’s Russia. The opening lines 
and some additional verses are sufficiently illus- 
trative: 


“You there, choking on the venom 
Of hatred for my land, 


*Gainst whom do you now raise a hand?” 


“For all that turns unto the light 
Must go with us, does go with us.” 


The same poetess contributes a poem on prac- 
tically the same theme, entitled ‘For Human 
Joy.” Its joyous refrain runs as follows: 


“O, blossom forth with joy and glee 
For the happy dream of humanity! 
And a bullet for him who first lets fly 
In all the world a battle-cry!” 


After this political poetry, we find a long 
story, the major item in the review, laying down, 
so to speak, its economic program. The story 
contains a romantic tale which we may ignore, 
because it is a minor and unilluminating element. 
The hero of the story is Ephraim, a Jew who had 
come back after five years of war to find his wife 
and children lost (how lost, is not explained), 
and, without taking even a few days to rest from 
the war effort, went back at once to his old job 
in the tractor station, throwing himself into the 
work with unbounded energy. An older version 
of Ephraim is Kovel Gedalya, the other Jewish 
worker in the station. When a Ukrainian work- 
er, Danilo, comes to work late once, because he 
is tired, Kovel Gedalya speaks as follows: ‘‘Well, 
Danilo, do you think Corade Stalin doesn’t work 
day and night? To carry through such a war, a 
trifle! He was at all the fronts! Everywhere, 
he had to see things personally. He even came 
to us in the Urals, a mere trifle! And don’t for- 
get, that he’s not so young anymore; but for him 
nothing is too hard—work is work. Now then, 
Danilo, get behind that hammer!” (p. 27) These 
two figures exemplify the function of the Jew 


23 


in the Soviet economy, as portrayed by Soviet 
Yiddish letters — to stimulate effort, to be tire- 
less, to labor unremittingly with brain and 
brawn, and to urge on others to do likewise. The 
heroes are two Jews among many non-Jews who 
set the dominant tone of their lives. But even 
when the two meet alone, or speak to the two 
Jewish women in the story, both of them from 
Ephraim’s home-town, (the older had lost her 
husband and child, and the other, Malkah, whom 
Ephraim later marries, had lost both her parents) 
they never speak as Jews, never mention that 
their personal tragedies might have something to 
do with their being Jews, or that there might be 
some among their non-Jewish fellow-workers 
who participated in the slaughter. In the climac- 
tic love scene between Ephraim and Malkah, 
they talk about “ordering new machines, shops, 
setting up workers’ clubs as light and airy as 
palaces.” (p. 49) 


Other items in the review are “Spring 1948” 
by Moshe Pinchevsky, which hopes in verse for 
“thirty hundredweight” of grain per hectare of 
land. P. Kiritchansky sings about “axes roaming 
the mighty woods,” and girls preparing “dams 
to cut in the forest.” This poet is also represented 
by two other poems, “By the River” and “In 
the Village,” in the latter of which ‘ta cow stands 
thoughtfully still.” 


We come, thus, to a story by a well-known 
Soviet author, H. Blaustein, bearing the intrig- 
uing title “His Dream.” What is the “dream” of 
a Jewish scientist in the Soviet Union? He 
dreams of success in a breeding experiment with 
rabbits. The “‘resolute laborer of science,”’ David 
Vitkin, is afflicted momentarily with doubts con- 
cerning an experiment going on in a Soviet in- 
stitute, but he summons up his reserves of reso- 
lution and labors on doggedly until he achieves 
his goal! There is a complication concerning a 
manuscript by an outstanding Soviet scientist 
who had been killed by the Germans, attempt- 
ing to steal his discoveries. David finds the manu- 
script and completes the experiment, realizing 
the dream of the martyred Soviet genius. 


Tuis selection is representative of the Jewish 
quality of all the other stories and poems in the 
collection. But one additional piece deserves spe- 
cial attention. The author, Itzik Kipnis, is ex- 
ceptional in that he was charged a while ago 
with chauvinism, and this story evidently rep- 
resents an attempt at self-rehabilitation. He 
tells of Herschel Mechanik and his wife, Idde, 
who decide to adopt an orphan—“The govern- 
ment will not neglect them, but aren’t we also 
under an obligation?” says Herschel. In the or- 





24 


phanage, their enthusiasm rises and the childless 
couple return with two children. As to the 
little girl, it is not certain whether she is Jewish 
or Christian—her name is Zoya—but the boy’s 
name is Kostya, and his father was called Kon- 
stantin Pavlovitch Netchiporuk. And the direc- 
tress of the orphanage who entrusted these chil- 
dren to the Jewish couple is named Anna Anto- 
novna. It is no doubt praiseworthy that a Jewish 
couple should extend its parental care to Soviet 
orphans without discrimination as to religion or 
nationality, but should not one of the parties 
involved be concerned as to the education of the 
children? Obviously not. They will be educated 
in an international spirit—to put it more con- 
cretely, in a Russian or even Ukrainian milieu. 
Herschel Mechanik’s house preserves none of 
the atmosphere of Jewish tradition, has no traces 


JEWISH FRONTIER 


of Jewish individuality, no sign that it is not a 
Russian or Ukrainian home. Thus, Anna Anto- 
novna, whose sentiments and loyalties are sure- 
ly, if not those of Christian religion, at least 
those of Russian nationality, doesn’t even think 
it necessary to raise the question how Kostya, 
the son of Konstantin Pavlovitch Netchiporuk, 
will be brought up in the home of Herschel Me- 
chanik. 

The light this story casts on the depletion and 
lifelessness of Jewish culture in the USSR needs 
no further commentary. It is worth noting, 
however, that Netchiporuk is very closely re- 
lated indeed to the bloody Bogdan Khmielnit- 
zky of seventeenth century fame, and the pos- 
terity of that notorious ancestor demonstrated 
very plainly only a few years ago how true they 
remain to the traditions of their national hero... 


Sketches of a Heroic Era 


by Moshe Prager 


In the Streets of Paris 
HE MAN WITH WHOM I was talking, 


a doctor by profession, a talented writer, and 
a katzetnik* to the core, suddenly halted in 
mid-stride amid the swirling throngs of Huys- 
mans Boulevard in the heart of bustling Paris 
and let the words pour like a torrent from his 
lips: 

“Do you see this raging sea of humanity 
around us, these thousands, millions of people? 
All of them present a fine external appearance. 
Every inch of them proclaims the regard and the 
respect they entertain for the individual and for 
themselves. They regard themselves, somehow, 
with a certain pride, a certain air of self-satis- 
faction, as if to say, we are upright, we are 
strong of character, regard our nobility. Yet 
who could guarantee just how many of them 
would be capable of standing up under the acid 
‘test of the human being that went on continu- 
ously inside the Nazi concentration camps? I 
am not ashamed to admit that many of the men 
of culture we had among us—highly intelligent 
persons, men with fine scholarly backgrounds 
and attainments, men charged with a high spi- 
ritual potential—collapsed and became as nothing 
at all. Quite simply, they atrophied and chang- 
ed into human rags, without an iota of will- 
power, without the faintest spark of hope or 
ambition, without any stomach for the least re- 
sistance. And the curious part of the whole thing 


* Veterans of the concentration camps. 


is that the strangest and most peculiar group in 
the entire torture camp—that is, a handful of 
yeshivah students who from the first day had 
banded themselves together literally for life or 
death—were the ones who astounded us all by the 
strength of their stand and their manly comport- 
ment. It was this group which demonstrated to 
us at every turn that they had the backbone of 
true men. In other words, that their strong, 
pure faith, a faith that ignored completely the 
realities of their existence, was the thing that 
put steel into their stiff-necked determination to 
resist and endure. 


“I was drawn to them. Among them I sought 
for some solid footing to keep from sinking com- 
pletely into the terrible morass. I clung to them 
as to a life-belt to keep from being swept down 
into the yawning chasm of utter despair, which, 
in the conditions of life under which we lived, 
meant complete physical apathy and loss of bodi- 
ly powers. Nor was I alone in this. Many others 
in camp fled from the spiritual strangulation of 
the camp to a yeshivah bokher of this type and 


begged him: ‘Please tell us that you still have 


faith in future victory, tell us that we shall live 
and some day find release from our suffering, tell 
us that in spite of everything it is still worthwhile 
to cling to this abominable, sordid life, please 
tell us.” And when we heard the fiery words of 
his response, ‘I believe implicitly, I have complete 
faith in it. All of us, with the help of God, will 
live to see the day of vengeance and consolation, 
with the help of God,’ we were heartened and 











_ eet fA Mm 1. 











DECEMBER, 1948 


revivified, as if fresh oil had been poured into a 
guttering lamp... . 

“In this way I grew attached to them and they 
accepted me in their midst as one of them. And 
I confess that I was highly susceptible to their 
influence. I was warmed by the flame of their 
faith. And more than once it happened that I 
did something for them, and one thing in par- 
ticular I shall remember forever. It was the eve 
of Yom Kippur. These yeshivah bokherim care- 
fully kept track of the dates of the Jewish calen- 
dar, and on this night they passed around the 
word that the Kol Nidre prayer would be con- 
ducted clandestinely in the middle of the night 
in one of the barracks. 


“And to me personally they added pleadingly, 
‘If only you were able to find a prayer shawl for 
the cantor... . How can we conduct Kol Nidre 
services without a single prayer shawl, at least for 
the cantor?’ They addressed this plea to me be- 
cause, as a professional physician, I had been 
selected by the Nazi sadists to clean up the lat- 
rines in the camp, and this privilege enabled me 
to wander about among the camp buildings with 
a certain amout of freedom. And I will confess 
further that the tense air of spiritual preparation 
for the Yom Kippur prayers that pervaded the 
entire camp infected me and inspired me to carry 
out an incomparably daring and dangerous deed. 
I stole into the warehouse where our confiscated 
possessions were stored under the surveillance of 
the SS. guards in order to take a prayer shawl for 
the services, and once inside the warehouse I took 
the opportunity of purloining a number of 
prayer books which the SS. men had also placed 
in the warehouse. 


“T will not attempt to describe the Kol Nidre 
prayer that took place that night in the darkness 
of our camp of horrors. My vocabulary would 
be inadequate to do it justice, and a mere routine 
description would be a profanation of the sub- 
limity of our emotions. And the prayer shawl, 
in which the cantor of the yeshivah bokherim 
wrapped himself during the services, added to 
the sanctity of the prayer. In addition, brief 
texts from the prayer books I had stolen were 
copied on specially prepared scraps of paper. As 
a result, the inmates of the camp envied me for 
my daring, while my friends, the yeshivah bokhe- 
rim, were bursting with pride. But I confess that 
I myself did not regard myself as a hero, for the 
entire theft had only taken a few minutes, and 
what man is unable to withstand the test of a few 
moments of time? But the real ordeal set in only 
on the day following Yom Kippur. We were 
suddenly terrified by the problem of how to dis- 
pose of the prayer shawl. Should we return it 
unseen to the warehouse or keep it concealed 


25 


among us? And if we decided to conceal it, 
where and how should it be done? I undertook 
to shoulder the problem myself. 

“From Yom Kippur on I guarded the prayer 
shawl as if it were the Holy of Holies. I con- 
cealed it among my belongings and took it with 
me on my peregrinations from one camp to an- 
other. Once we passed through a forest, and I 
had a good chance to discard the prayer shawl 
and drop it out of sight among the bushes, but 
I refrained from doing so, as I felt that this ob- 
ject had lent a meaning to my life and given the 
wretched existence I was leading a sublime new 
value, and how could I throw away the very con- 
tent of life? The end was that my prank was 
discovered. During one of their stringent search- 
es of our belongings they found the prayer shawl 
on me, and the head of the camp, the hangman- 
in-chief, fell on me and beat me with the sadism 
of a lunatic: ‘Where did you get it? You, of all 
people?’ But I endured the blows and insults 
without uttering a syllable or making the faintest 
outcry, and at that moment it seemed to me that 
I was savoring that sublime taste the secret of 
which is buried deep in the soul of every Jew, I 
was tasting the sweetness of the sensation of 
sanctifying His name.... ” 


My companion fell silent, as if he regretted 
having revealed to a stranger, a secret buried deep 
in the innermost recesses of his soul, but almost 
immediately he remembered something else and 
added in a voice full of sorrow: 

“T confess that I have just remembered some- 
thing for a moment that fills me with shame and 
remorse. I once became ill in that camp of tor- 
tures, and was on the verge of death. One of the 
yeshivah bokherim, the one who had acted as the 
cantor, came to me and whispered consolingly 
in my ear: ‘Don’t worry, brother, if anything 
should happen to you, God forbid, I promise you 
that I will recite the kaddish for you faithfully 
and remember to observe your yabrzeit.’ Lo and 
behold, fate reversed itself—I recovered com- 
pletely from my sickness, while he, the yeshivah 
bokher, succumbed to a plague that swept 
through the camp. And to this day I have never 
remembered to say kaddish for his soul. 

“This is treachery on my part—I have been a 
traitor to the faith of a man of faith,” said my 
friend. ‘““Where is there a synagogue in this neigh- 
borhood? I must run at once to the synagogue.” 


In the Antwerp Synagogue 

I was standing before the pillar that served 
as a bulletin board in the Great Synagogue of 
the resuscitated Jewish community of Antwerp, 
reading the batches of announcements that were 
pasted there for the information of the commu- 





26 


nity, and before my eyes there took shape the 
whole sad, touching picture of the inner struggle 
of the Jewish remnant and their fight to preserve 
Jewish tradition among those islets of Jewry left 
in Europe after the flood. 


Antwerp today is perhaps the sole Jewish com- 
munity in Europe where one may still literally 
“feel” yiddishkeit, as one could before the war, 
in the streets of the city. It is the only city today 
where Jews walk through the streets with a feel- 
ing of freedom, carelessly, with their beards un- 
mangled and uncropped. It is the only city 
where the vast majority of Jewish shops are shut 
tight on Saturday. It is the only city where large 
signs in the Yiddish language can be discerned 
in the streets. Certainly no vestige of this exists 
today in Warsaw (alas for the Nalewkis) , and in 
Lodz (alas for Pietrkover Street) , and in Cracow 
(alas, the Kozin market). But even in the 

.“Pletzel” of Paris and Whitechapel of London 
and Meisels Street in Prague and the Dovozeh 
of Budapest, these characteristic signs of public 
and open Jewish existence are vanishing. 


And in spite of the fact that Jewish Antwerp 
has shrunk tremendously from its previous pop- 
ulation of 50,000 Jews, it still contains a total 
of close to 10,000. This after a considerable 
number of Jewish refugees have been absorbed. 
For the holocaust swept over this community 
also, and the bloody storm destroyed almost 
everything. A total of twenty or thirty Jews 
crept from their hiding places for the first pray- 
ers of thanksgiving for the liberation of the city 
from the Nazi yoke on Rosh Hashanah of 1944. 
Gradually a sorry remnant of about four thou- 
sand of the former inhabitants collected in the 
city, but none of the others ever came back from 
their banishment to unknown destinations. Jew- 
ish Antwerp was decimated, and a great part of 
the sections that had formerly belonged to the 
Jews passed into the hands of strangers without 
payment of any kind. But despite all this, Ant- 
werp is again struggling to recreate its complete 
Jewish life. The two formerly divided groups, 
the Orthodox and Reform Synagogues, have 
joined forces, and the pulse of Jewish life still 
beats strongly. A complete system of traditional 
Jewish education has again been established, the 
study of the Torah is again openly conducted, 
the dietary laws have again been put into effect, 
warm and cordial care is again extended to the 
refugees who stream to the city—in brief, there 
is a Jewish community. 


AND I was standing in the synagogue reading 
the announcements plastered on the bulletin 
board, announcements that laid bare their way 
of life and the difficulties they were having: 


JEwiIsH FRONTIER 


Announcement One: “The Rabbinical Coun- 
cil announces that the free zone for Jews has 
been extended to include the entire city, and 
there is no danger.” 

Announcement Two: “Lessons have been in- 
augurated for children of kindergarten age in 
Prayers and Blessings, the Hebrew Language, and 
the Bible.” 

Announcement Three: “Kosher milk is now 
available under the auspices of the Rabbinical 
Council.” 

So everything is in order, there is a watchful 
eye, someone who is worrying about the entire 
list of 613 commandments. . 

Announcement Four: “The trustees are re- 
quested not to overlook the donations of Khan- 
nukah money and Rosh Khodesh money for the 
sexton of the synagogue, as he has no other source 
of income.” 

This is somewhat peculiar—why has he no 
other source of income? And why is no salary 
paid him by the trustees? Why doesn’t the com- 
munity see to it? Or perhaps this is only another 
one of those well-known devices of beadles since 
time immemorial? Indeed a holy community 
faithful to tradition. ... 

Announcement Five: “Wanted: Twelve or- 
dained slaughterers, twelve trimmers, and twelve 
supervisors for three months’ employment in 
connection with the offer of the Irish Govern- 
ment to supply a million pounds of kosher beef 
to Jews in D.P. camps.” 

Meaning, evidently, that there is a shortage of 
shokhtim and all the other personnel of the 
machinery of. kosher meat supplies. Shokhtim 
in Europe? There had always been enough and 
to spare. No mention was made, God forbid, of 
any shortage of ecclesiastical objects. But the 
Nazis had waged a terrible war against the Jew- 
ish religion and had rooted out, as thoroughly as 
they could, all vestiges of the Jewish tradition 
and those who perpetuated it. And many of the 
shokhtim who had risked their lives in disobey- 
ing the Nazi law not to slaughter meat or poultry 
according to the Jewish tradition had paid for 
their transgression with their lives. 

Announcement Six: “The Community Coun- 
cil has received a report that the Belgian Gov- 
ernment is dispatching special envoys to occupied 
Germany to search for libraries that have been 
stolen by the Nazis. Please notify us of any holy 
books or ecclesiastical articles that have been 
looted.” 


An honorable deed on the part of the govern- 
ment, which is so concerned about the welfare of 
its Jewish citizens as to attempt to return the 
volumes of the Talmud, etc. that were looted 
from the Jews by the Nazis. 


























DECEMBER, 1948 


Announcement Seven: “All Jews who have not 
yet received satisfaction for claims lodged with 
the government for the return of Jewish proper- 
ty transferred by the Nazi occupation authori- 
ties to other owners are requested to register once 
again.” 

In other words, the mechanism for the return 
of stolen property, literally all of which is now 
held by local non-Jews, is not working very sat- 
isfactorily. Neither the esteemed government 
nor the good neighbors in the vicinity evince any 
excess of zeal to return the purloined property. 
Only the scant handful who returned in person 
from the valley of murder, and with whom it was 
probably impossible to argue, finally recovered 
their stolen property, but the vast majority of the 
Jews of Antwerp had been exterminated, and 
who should inherit their property if not the Jew- 
ish community? 

Announcement Eight: “Since the petitions 
for the return of Jewish children rescued by the 
Church and by Gentile families have been placed 
in the hands of the governmental court assigned 
to deal with the matter, all those knowing the 
whereabouts of Jewish orphans of this kind are 
requested to give details to the Committee for 
the Rescue of Children.” 

In other words, Christianity, compassionate 
and all-merciful, was even desirous of gulping 
up the souls of the Jewish children of this large 
community. Six hundred Jewish orphans of the 
community survived, and the children had been 
placed under the care of Christians on condition 
that they would protect them until the storm 
had abated, and lo and behold, the storm finally 
did abate and the community came back to life, 
but the Christians, the charitable Christians, de- 
vised various pretexts to rob the community of 
its orphans . . . thus did Christianity spread its 
merciful wings. 

Announcement Nine: “A shipment of phylac- 
teries, mezuzahs, prayer-shawls, prayer-books, 
and other holy books has arrived from Palestine: 
First come, first served.” 

This tells the whole story. In the epicenter of 
Jewish life in all Europe there is a shortage of re- 
ligious objects. These are the depths of impover- 
ishment to which Jewish life in Europe has de- 
scended today. 


What Kept Them Going? 


THIs is not a portrait drawn from reality, 
God forbid. It is merely a product of the imagin- 
ation. It is a sort of set-piece, a kind of décor 
that was most likely painted specially for the 
filming of some kind of superhorror-film: 

A large hall with tall windows on all sides. 
The hall is packed with beds—tier after tier of 














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28 


beds; an upper layer of beds and a lower layer 
of beds; beds ranged alongside each other to the 
farthest corners of the hall, row on row, with 
only a narrow aisle between the rows. And each 
bed is the home and domicile, the recreation room 
and the sanctuary, of an entire family. Spread 
through the halls are a hundred or more beds, 
a total of one hundred or more individual dwell- 
ing places, a hundred or more families. 


And the hall is a Noah’s Ark of a place: a con- 
glomeration of types live there, each stranger 
than the other. Each one is master of his bed, 
and there he can do just as he likes. One person 
sits on his bed blowing a trumpet, apparently 
a former member of a jazz band, trying not to 
forget his mastery of his art, keeping in practice. 
Across from him sits an old, dignified Jew mum- 
bling aloud tunes from the Psalms, and apparent- 
ly his heartfelt chant helps him to keep going 
along his monotonous road without stumbling. 
And here is a group of adolescents, clustering 
around one of the upper bunks to enjoy a game 
of cards, their play catching fire as it proceeds 
and throwing out sparks to all sides. In a corner 
at one side of the room two persons in neighbor- 
ing beds are having a quarrel, the bed-dweller 
of the upper tier having come to words with the 
occupant of the lower bed. On one bed high in 
the air a mother is nursing her baby, and across 
from her a group of children push their way 
along the narrow aisles between the beds, while 
opposite her in the adjacent bed sits a man crack- 
ing nuts, strewing the shells, with complete care- 
lessness and abandon, in all directions. And there 
are others catching a noonday nap, and others 
with their noses buried in newspapers, and others 
singing at the top of their voices, and others 
chewing on something with their mouths 
crammed full—everybody sitting or lying on his 
bed, for they have no choice in the matter. What 
dramatic genius would be clever enough to stage 
such a mass scene, such a powerful picture of 
humanity? 





Compliments of .. . 


WM. HORDESS 


605 FOX BUILDING 
DETROIT, MICH. 














JEwiIsH FRONTIER 


This is a transit camp on one of the borders 
crossed by the refugees in their perambulations. 
across Europe. Here, youths and old people have 
chanced together; intellectuals and people of the 
masses, men from every possible land of origin 
and people fleeing from the boundaries of every 
possible land. Here every tribe of Israel that may 
be found in the crumbling Diaspora is represen- 
ted, and if the languages that flow so freely from 
their lips were counted, a fair estimate could be 
made of the total number of languages of Europe. 
Here, mingling freely in a common company, are 
oppressed members of the poorer classes, and men 
of wealth and property, literally holding their 
entire fortunes in the palms of their hands. Here 
are wee embers just snatched from the flames, or- 
phans whose appearance alone is sufficient to lay 
bare the full depth of the Jewish tragedy, and 
here are family men, men who by a chain of mir- 
acles have succeeded in rescuing their precious 
ones and who have now already managed to re- 
build the family nest that had been destroyed 
by the Nazis and to give birth to a new genera- 
tion here in the course of their wanderings—all, 
all crowded into a single camp. The camp is the 
melting pot of Jewish fate, which makes all Jews 
equal and welds them all into a single unit. The 
camp is like a cement binding the human dust 
and the fragments of the people into a single 
solid mass, motivated by one desire and one goal: 
to emigrate and come to Palestine. 


Wuart is the nature of this grim singleness of 
purpose: What is the secret of its strength? 
What is its historical significance? 

I examined this amazing phenomenon of Jew- 
ish migration at first hand. I observed the masses 
as they moved along, I watched them trudging 
along the borders, I saw them caged in the border 
prisons for the crime of attempting to cross, I 
studied them during their protracted periods of 
endless waiting in the transit points, I saw them 
eventually in the final burst of expectation that 
swept them on the joyous nights of their embar- 
cation for Palestine—I saw them, I watched 
them, and I tried to puzzle out the riddle of how 
and why they kept on. I attempted to discover 
the motives for this determined, obstinate jour- 
ney and of their readiness to subject themselves 
to this terrible suffering. Without a great deal of 
delicacy I probed to the heart of the problem, 
trying to fathom the current to its source, and 
again and again I interrogated the refugees with 
penetrating and searching questions: 

“Why, in all sincerity, won’t you agree to go 
to America, to your rich uncle, to the land flow- 
ing with gold and every imaginable comfort?” 
I asked a boy of about ten during a visit to the 











+ 





DECEMBER, 1948 


school in one of the camps, after he had con- 
fided to me his secret that he had a step-mother 
who had a brother in Brazil and who wished to 
take him there with her, but that he had strongly 
opposed this proposal. 

“I will not go with her to America,” replied 
the boy staunchly. “I know how to go about it 
and what I must do to get out of it. I will jump 
off the train. I know that under the Nazis many 
Jews jumped from the trains and remained alive. 
I do not want America, I only want to live 
among Jews.” 

“Perhaps all this trouble is hardly worthwhile, 
perhaps all this suffering for years on end is use- 
less?” I put the naive question to a young Jewish 
mother who was wandering with her two small 
children from one camp to another through the 
underground railway. 

“Everything is worthwhile, and I can lovingly 
accept anything that fate may hold in store for 
the sake of these small children of mine,” she 
answered quietly and confidently. ‘For their 
sake I am prepared to wait indefinitely on the 
roads. I do not want them to experience the evil 
ways of the Gentiles again. And I am certain 
that they will eventually reach their goal and that 
they will live happily and contentedly, that they 
will be masters in their own land and that they 
will be fully compensated for everything that we 
have endured. Yes, they, these small children of 
mine.” 

“To consider the problem in a completely ob- 
jective manner, after all, it should be possible to 
find a way out by emigrating to any other coun- 
try under the sun that may be available,” I re- 
marked to a venerable Jew with a dignified look, 
who had certainly also known the bitter taste of 
spiritual torment in the camp. 

“The whole thing is as simple as can be,” he 
replied in the calm, quiet manner of an account- 
ant balancing his books, “There are already more 
than enough Jews in any country in the world 
that you may choose. The Gentiles say so openly, 
and in their hearts the Jewish inhabitants also 
think so. And in fact they are right, in every 
country in the world there are too many Jews. 
But in Palestine, of all countries, there is actually 
a shortage of Jews, and the Jews already there 
long to bring in more Jews, demand greater and 
greater numbers of immigrants, more and more 
newcomers, more and more ships, more refugees 
and more fugitives, without the least sign of 
ever becoming satiated. So it is this country that 
common sense and cold logic choose as the goal 
too.” 

“And you, who have witnessed everything, 
don’t you at least look at the situation realistic- 
ally?” I said to a fiery young partisan soldier who 


29 


thirsted for peace from the ceaseless struggle with 
every fiber of his battle-weary body. “After all, 
the whole affair is too complicated, there are too 
many obstacles in the way, too many difficulties 
to be overcome, and the cup of suffering of every 
one of you has already been filled to the brim.” 

“Apparently you have not yet grasped the true 
significance of our struggle, which is that it is 
the very substance of life itself to every one of 
the refugees,” he replied, in an aroused tone. 
“We have lost everything. We having nothing 
more to lose. And now we are playing our last 
card. Everything or nothing. We have seen the 
Jew in the deepest hell of humiliation and shame. 
The word ‘Jew’ rings like the most terrible curse 
imaginable in the ears of the Gentiles, as well as 
our own, and the Shield of David served as a 
death sentence. It is precisely for this reason that 
we long to see that shield as the emblem of the 
Jewish state. We will fight for this with our last 
ounce of strength. 

“And perhaps this will help you grasp the 
secret of the strength of the refugee movement, 
of this determined onward motion,” he repeated 
for emphasis. “For our migration is our fighting 
front. It is our migration to Palestine that lends 
purpose to our struggle, gives us both the possi- 
bility of struggling and the prospect of emerging 
victoriously from the struggle.” 





Compliments of .. . 


CLINTON WATCH CO. 


CHICAGO, ILL. 
29 EAST MADISON STREET 














30 


BOOKS 


Messianism in Jewish Paintings 


THE Messianic THEME IN THE 
PAINTINGS OF THE Dura SyNa- 
cocuE, by Rachel Wischnitzer, 
University of Chicago Press, 135 
pp. + 50 plates, $6.00. 

The discovery of the synagogue of 
Dura-Europos has cast new light not 
only on the history of Jewish paint- 
ing, but also on the origins of Chris- 
tian art. The frescoes of this syna- 
gogue are the earliest monumental pic- 
tures of biblical scenes, a theme whose 
development culminated in the Ren- 
aissance. Rachel Wischnitzer, in her 
new book, has now made evident that 
this ancient synagogue art also illumi- 
nates an interesting phase in the his- 
tory of Jewish religious feelings and 
national hopes. 


The synagogue was excavated from 
1932 to 1935 under the direction of 
scholars of Yale University and the 
French Académie des Inscriptions. its 
walls were covered by an ornamental 
frieze and by figure scenes, thirty of 
which are preserved in more or less 
good condition. The originals are 
now in the New Museum of Damas- 
cus. Inscriptions in Aramaic, Greek, 
and Pehlevi (Parthian script) were 
also found in the synagogue. One of 
them reports that the building was 
erected in 245 C.E. during the lead- 
ership of Samuel, the Cohen, son of 
Yaddi. It had replaced a smaller syna- 
gogue, which had been probably built 
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worship. The history of the Jewish 
community of Dura therefore may 
go back to the beginnings of the 
Christian Era. There is clear evidence 
of a growth in number and impor- 
tance. 

The remains of Dura-Europos are 
situated on the right bank of the 
Euphrates, on the ancient road be- 
tween Bagdad and Damascus. The 
town, founded about 300 B.C.E., had 
been a Seleucid fortress, then a Par- 
thian caravan city which in 165 C.E., 
was incorporated into the Roman em- 
pire, and, in 256 C.E., was captured 
by the Sassanid king Sapur I. At a 
later time, King Sapur boasted that in 
all his campaigns he had never shed 
Jewish blood, except in the case of 
the Cappadocian Jews who had fought 
against him. By beleaguering Dura, 
however, he unintentionally deprived 
the Jews of their newly completed 
synagogue, because the Roman de- 
fenders covered up this building with 
a mud brick embankment, to strength- 
en the fortification of the town. But 
what had been a tragic calamity for 
the Jews of ancient Dura, allowed 
posterity about seventeen centuries 
later to admire the resurrected syna- 
gogue art which, without that cover, 
would have been completely destroy- 
ed in the Middle Ages. 


After the synagogue was excavated, 
there was general agreement among 
the scholars that the pictures illus- 
trate several events related in the Bi- 
ble. But no consensus could be ob- 
tained about the episodes which were 
illustrated by the artist’s work. One 
panel was interpreted as ‘‘Noah’s 
Drunkenness” by one scholar, as “‘Ab- 
raham Frightening the Fowls from 
the Sacrifice” by another, as “Elijah 
Fed by the Ravens” by a third. It 
could not be established with any 
certainty whether the wall decoration 
followed a conscious plan at all. 

Vivid intuition, supported and de- 
veloped by careful research, enabled 
Rachel Wischnitzer, noted historian 
of art and former curator of the Jew- 
ish Museum of Berlin, to demonstrate 
that a very distinct ideological con- 
cept was the organizing principle that 
regulated the choice of the episodes 
and their sequence. With this concept 
in mind, every scene can be interpret- 
ed as part of a cycle which impresses 
the spectator with the messianic idea 
of Return, Restoration, and Salvation. 

Whoever tries to interpret the 
paintings of Dura artistically or ideo- 
logically, soon becomes aware that the 
Septuagint (the Greek translation of 




















DECEMBER, 1948 


the Bible) or the Targum, the Ara- 
maic version, is not sufficient to give 
an understanding of some figures and 
symbols. One has to resort to Talmu- 
dic and Midrashic literatures to grasp 
the intention of the artist. This ex- 
perience confirms that the rabbinic 
point of view guided those who were 
responsible for the decoration of the 
synagogue. The Jewish community 
of Dura was not as great as those of 
the neighboring cities of Nisibis or 
Nehardea, but it also contributed to 
the maintenance of Jewish culture and 
the development of the Jewish ideals 
in accordance with the teachings of 
the Talmud. When the Jews of Dura 
built their new synagogue, they lived 
in obscurity and prosperity but they 
did not give up their hope to return 
to the Holy Land. They evidently 
sympathized with the Persian king 
who struggled against the Romans. 
But bevond all political and economi- 
cal considerations they regarded him, 
like his predecessor Cyrus, the con- 
queror of Babylon, as an agent who 
unconsciously worked in pursuance 
of the Messianic plan of salvation to 
restore the tribes of Jacob and to es- 
tablish the reign of universal peace 
and geod-will. 


This background makes Rachel 
Wischnitzer’s interpretation all the 
more plausible. With convincing pre- 
cision she explains that the pictures 
represent the prophets and witnesses 
of the Messianic Promise and the trials 
and sufferings which are regarded as 
necessary phases on the road to Salva- 
tion by Midrashic philosophy of his- 
tory. Combining penetrating analysis 
of the artistic form with broad his- 
torical and theological studies, Rachel 
Witschnitzer has obtained results of 
general Jewish interest. She will not 
be contradicted in regarding the 
paintings of Dura as a manifestation 
of 2 growing sense of Jewish freedom 
of expression, and not as an isolated 
phenomenon. Furthermore, she has 
changed a simple reference in an in- 
scription on a tile into the name of 
an important personality. For there 
cannot be any doubt that Samuel the 
Cohen, the leader of the Jewish com- 
munity of Dura, influenced and di- 
rected the artist. He must have been 
a man of unusual rabbinical learning 


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and of broad vision, of piety and artis- BONI & GAER, Dept. JF li 
. 7 ||| 133 West 44th Street ih 
tic sense. We do not know what hap- N York 18, N. Y | 
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