To the Editor:
I read Jonathan D. Sarna’s review of Arthur Kurzweil’s book, From Generation to Generation [Books in Review, August], with disbelief. Mr. Sarna distorts Kurzweil’s views on Jewish genealogy and substitutes his own for the author’s. . . .
The purpose of searching for information about one’s family has nothing to do with nostalgia or self-congratulation; it is to investigate one’s historical connection with the Jewish community. These projects stimulate interest in Jewish history, the geography of the dispersion, the evolution of Jewish culture, the cultures with which the Jews were surrounded, Yiddish, Hebrew, and numerous other subjects. The rapidly growing Jewish genealogy movement is part of the revival of Jewish studies. Mr. Sarna and other Jewish historians should be delighted with this lively development and do all they can to aid it. . . .
A Jewish family history society is being formed in the Washington area. Let us hope that similar societies will be established in every Jewish community in the United States.
American Friends of the Israel Exploration Society
Jonathan D. Sarna writes:
I am pleased to learn that a family history society is being formed in Washington, and I gladly second Benjamin Adelman’s call for more. I encourage all forms of Jewish identity. The theory that narcissistic interest in personal roots will magically stimulate interest in Jewish history, however, remains to be proved. For the moment, I am more impressed by contrary evidence, particularly since Mr. Adelman is not working within the existing confines of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, but seems rather to find a need for a far more narrowly conceived organization.