Commentary Magazine

Freud's Jewishness

To the Editor:

In “The Judaism of History” [March] Chaim Raphael remarks: “The Jewishness I mean is no ‘literature.’ It can be grasped through neither the writing nor the reading of books. . . . It is only lived—and perhaps not even that. One is it.” Here is what Sigmund Freud wrote on the same topic. . . . Freud always felt and expressed pride in being Jewish, as in the following excerpt from his preface to the Hebrew translation of Totem and Taboo (1913):

No reader of [the Hebrew version of] this book will find it easy to put himself in the emotional position of an author who is ignorant of the language of holy writ, who is; completely estranged from the religion of his fathers—as well as from every other religion—and who cannot take a share in nationalist ideas, but who has yet never repudiated his people who feels that he is in his essential nature a Jew, and who has no desire to alter that nature. If the question were put to him: “Since you have abandoned all these common characteristics of your countrymen, what is there left to you that is Jewish?” he would reply: “A very great deal, and probably its very essence.” He could not now express that essence clearly in words; but some day, no doubt, it will become accessible to the scientific mind. Thus it is an experience of a quite special kind for such an author when a book of his is translated into the Hebrew language and put into the hands of readers for whom the historic idiom is a living tongue; a book, moreover, which deals with the origin of religion and morality, though it adopts no Jewish standpoint and makes no exceptions in favor of Jewry. This author hopes, however, that he will be at one with his readers in the conviction that unprejudiced science cannot remain a stranger to the spirit of the new Jewry.

[Dr.] Roy R. Grinkfr, Sr.
Department of Psychiatry
Michael Reese Medical Center
Chicago, Illinois

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