To the Editor:
Earl Raab’s jeremiad [“The Deadly Innocences of American Jews,” December 1970], or at least that portion of it wherein he posits the notion that America’s political environment is generally becoming more hostile to Jews, seems unwarranted by the present reality. Hostile when Ottinger in New York, Grossman in Arizona, Gross in New Jersey, and Metzenbaum in Ohio all ran for the U.S. Senate in the 1970 elections? Hostile when Goldberg in New York, Mandel in Maryland, Licht in Rhode Island, Levin in Michigan, and Schapp in Pennsylvania were major party candidates for Governor in their respective states and when three of them won? Hostile when more Jews (almost 20) ran for the U.S. House of Representatives than ever before in American history? Hostile when the first Jew ever was elected to the Supreme Court of Illinois? Hostile when, despite the unprecedented number of Jewish candidates, the use of anti-Semitism as a campaign tool or tactic was virtually nonexistent?
Similarly with Raab’s notion that Jews are now feeling a “sense of unexpected impotence in America.” Impotence when in June 1970—before there was a clear identification in the minds of the general electorate between American and Israeli interests in the Middle East—some 77 Senators and 221 Congressmen of all shades of political opinion and diverse geographical bases of political power publicly requested Secretary of State Rogers to give immediate consideration to Israel’s then-pending request for planes and other military hardware? Political impotence when during the course of the recently concluded campaign in which the crisis in the Middle East was raised as an issue, the question most often put before the electorate was not the desirability of support for Israel but rather which candidate would do more?
To the Editor:
Earl Raab has presented us with a picture of the position of American Jewry which forces a restudy of many accepted slogans. However, Mr. Raab’s views of our “deadly innocences” should not prevent American Jews from doing all they can, within the framework of law and reason, to influence our government to aid our brethren in Israel and Russia. As Mr. Raab points out, “some more, if still relatively few, Jews” might have been saved by more forceful action by the American-Jewish community during World War II. We once again face such a situation, but such chances are seldom offered twice. Who knows if it is not for this that we have been raised to our present position—which still is that of the most comfortable and numerous Jewish community in the world.
Rabbi Philip Zimmerman
Long Beach, New York
To the Editor:
Earl Raab’s article carefully and properly lists caveats for Jewish Americans. . . . But what does Mr. Raab suggest as alternatives? Greater militancy—or more subdued pressure? Should the Jews in America follow a cloistered, introverted pattern—or should they maintain determined expressions of positive justice and morality? Should they bring forth their mighty men . . . or?
A troubled Jewish American who is also an American Jew, reared in the New York City of the 20′s and now enjoying the suburbs, earnestly seeks guidance—positive guidance.
Max E. Lewis
Great Neck, New York
To the Editor:
Without presuming to evaluate the article by Earl Raab as a whole, I should like to comment only on its last page.
That page contains a reference to “a classic American-Council-for-Judaism ‘dual loyalty’ panic.” The concept of “dual loyalty,” or at any rate, the loyalty of American Jews to Israel, has always been a basic tenet of organized Zionism. It was bluntly enunciated in 1957 by the then president of the World Zionist Organization, Dr. Nahum Goldmann, as follows:
Diaspora Jewry must have the courage to proclaim and defend its relationship of partnership and responsibility vis-à-vis Israel. It has to overcome the conscious or subconscious fear of so-called double loyalty. It has to be convinced that it is fully justified in tying up its destiny with Israel’s. It has to have the courage to reject the idea that Jewish communities owe loyalty only to the states where they live.
Again in 1959 he was quoted in the New York Times as saying:
. . . Dr. Goldmann challenged the Jews of America and of other countries to gather courage and declare openly that they entertain a double loyalty, one to the land in which they live and one to Israel. Jews should not succumb to patriotic talk that they owe allegiance only to the country in which they live. . . . They should live not only as patriots of the countries of their domicile, but also as patriots of Israel.
In 1961 Premier Ben-Gurion stated that Zionists in the United States are expected to exhibit a fundamental difference from other Americans in this matter of complete attachment to the United States. Said Ben-Gurion of American Zionists who do not act like good Zionists, “They are reluctant to say that they are not Americans and not part of the American homeland like any other Americans.” These declarations were augmented by the statement of a former president of the American Jewish Congress, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, who, according to the July 23, 1969 issue of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Daily News Bulletin, said: “I have dual allegiance. My loyalty to Israel is part of me and there are many Jews who think and feel likewise.”
Surely it would require the most acrobatic sophistry to deny that these declarations spell out a deliberate intention to divide if not compromise the national commitments of Jews who are citizens of other countries.
It is inconceivable that such pronouncements and many to the same effect by other leaders did not cause grave misgivings among a great many American Jews who had never heard of the much-maligned (and much-suppressed) American Council for Judaism. It is an irrefutable fact that the Council has never raised the issue of “dual loyalty,” either for itself or for any other American of Jewish faith. The Council does not believe that support of the State of Israel is necessarily in conflict with our national responsibilities as American citizens.
By the very logic of its position and principles, the Council is unable to raise the “dual loyalty” question. It has been the Council—and no one else—which has consistently denied the existence of a nationality common to all Jews. The Council has repeatedly affirmed the conviction that the bond of unity among Jews is religion—not nationality. The question of dual nationality has indeed concerned the Council, but that is quite another matter.
Mr. Raab goes on to say: “The uncertainty of the Jews in America today coincides with their highest point of preoccupation with the security of Israel. It is precisely at this point that it becomes critical to develop a clearer consciousness of American-Jewish identity, of the relationship between being Jewish and being American.”
The Council does not presume to have solved all the problems of Jewish life in the United States. But it does believe that long ago it successfully—and generally along the lines Mr. Raab seems to suggest—removed the “uncertainty” in the relationship of American Jewry with the State of Israel.
Let the Council be opposed, if it must be, for what it really advocates or opposes, and not for views erroneously ascribed to it.
The American Council for Judaism
New York City
To the Editor:
The hard-headed and eminently sensible article by Earl Raab was most pertinent and worthwhile. But I think that there are two significant aspects of this problem which Mr. Raab has overlooked. One is demographic, the other cultural, but they are so closely related that they must be examined together. According to the latest statistics, roughly 40 per cent of American Jewry lives in the greater New York metropolitan area, and this is saying a good deal. Nowhere outside New York could American Jews conjure up any inflated notions of the effectiveness of their political clout. Jews in Wheeling, West Virginia, Omaha, Nebraska, or even San Francisco—from where Mr. Raab writes—are all too conscious of the realities of their minority status and the limits beyond which high Jewish visibility in politics becomes unwise. Such knowledge in itself, in a purely practical way, serves to disabuse them of the naiveté of which Mr. Raab complains.
The Jewish capacity for illusion and self-delusion is a recurrent motif in Jewish history. But in our own time, perhaps the greatest illusion of all is for American Jews to confuse intellectual and cultural prominence with real integration into the political and social structures of this country, to mistake literary eminence and artistic distinction (and even growing social acceptance) for political status and real power. In New York City, of course, this illusion has reached a point where myopia has set in and many New York Jews (and even numerous Gentiles) have come to think that all of America is Jewish. . . . New York City is indeed the center of American culture . . . but, I need hardly add, to be indispensable to culture is not to be indispensable. . . .
Jews have been physically more secure in the United States than perhaps in any other modern country, and although—as Mr. Raab points out—anti-Semitism still exists, it has never become an instrument of official public policy. Unlike Europe, the United States has never seen the growth of anti-Semitic political parties. Yet what everything really comes down to is the fact that the ultimate fate of American Jews depends on how one sees the ultimate fate of the entire country. It is certainly in the Jewish interest to see that radical polarization does not take place, even though a great many young Jews want exactly that. . . .
Earl Raab writes:
If Jews are to come to maturity in America, they must look beyond the anachronistic “defense-agency” arithmetic of Jewish security: how many Americans think Jews are shrewd and tricky; how many individuals of Jewish name are elected to office; or even how many public officials are willing to sign a non-determinative letter of support for Israel or Soviet Jewry at some given time. My article indicated that an increased number of individual Jews might well be elected to office—and indeed some instances were cited—but it questioned whether those individuals or their election would be seriously related to special political and ethnic needs of the Jewish community. It is particularly significant that these special political and ethnic needs are more and more divorced from the conventional “liberal” political agenda, with which Jews have traditionally been allied; at the same time, of course, other Jewish needs remain separated from the conventional “illiberal” political agenda with which Jews cannot become allied.
This new contretemps requires a kind of fierce independence of course for a Jewish community which is conscious of its own needs. It is not a course that can be easily encapsulated by Mr. Lewis’s “alternative” phrases. “Militancy” has become such an absurdly-used word. Militancy on behalf of world Jewry? Of course. The article points out that there are margins within which we can make a difference on occasion—and, as Rabbi Zimmerman points out, we must push those margins as far as possible. And I think we will. American Jews have generally cleared their heads, in different fashions, about the fact that they have a prime stake in loyalty to, responsibility for, shared destiny with Israel and world Jewry. Without panic, they can live with that and with their prime stake in, loyalty to, responsibility for, shared destiny with America—a dual “whatever” that the American Council for Judaism always had difficulty accepting. What many Jews have not cleared their heads about is the nature of the America in which they have that stake.
As in the case of world Jewry, Jewish—by all means—militancy on behalf of a better and more equitable America must flow out of a more introverted sense of their own needs and values. And it is America’s politically open society, as defined, which the Jewish community must, above all, pursue and protect; this is the guideline around which all “determined expressions of positive justice” should turn. Militancy is not a guideline but a flag which can be marched in any direction.