Commentary Magazine


Jewish Survival

To the Editor:

In his articles on the “Future of American Jewry” (May and June) Herbert J. Gans predicts the end of Jewish culture, the almost complete extinction of the Jewish community in the United States within the lifetime of another generation. What four thousand years could not do, a score or two more years will accomplish—in this free country of ours. Is a free society detrimental to ethnic identities? History does not warrant our saying so. . . . Freedom of movement and expression inevitably brings to fruition the best characteristics of a given ethnic group.

The fact that the present culture of the great majority of American Jews is so much different from the “traditional” one of the past only substantiates the above. . . . The “traditional” culture of the Jews never had a secular character. From the dawn of his history the mode of life of the Jew in all its details has been prescribed to him in the name of God. From cradle to grave, in all his waking hours, the Jew was busy fulfilling the ordained 613 commandments, the taryag mitzvot. Today this kind of Judaism is just about gone. The dynamic force of the Jewish people will, in the future, just as in the past, adapt itself to the best that the time and the surroundings have to offer. . . .

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In adopting a higher secular culture the Jew does not cease to be a Jew. . . . It is true that at present our American Jewry is at the crossroads, or rather at the inroads, of the American way of life as against the still persisting past. And, naturally, the old religious leaders are up in arms. They beat the drums of fear, lest the Jews as a group go under. Again, some of the old intellectuals (the Yiddishisten) maintain that the Jews can survive as a distinct body only by and through the use of the Yiddish language. . . . I visualize a strong and healthy community of Jews in the United States, a community loyal to their country and proud of . . . their historical heritage, whatever the role the shul or Temple may play in the future.

According to Mr. Gans’s classification, I am one of the first generation of immigrants to this country. And when I am confronted with our present-day Jewish youth (the third generation) . . . I see a healthy specimen, loyal and proud of his ancestry, conscious of the great humanitarian service rendered by his people in propounding the idea of monotheism and its moral precepts. . . . My humble opinion is that we should stop wasting time and resources in trying to revive the dying past. We should combine all our efforts to educate our younger generation to the old idea of carrying on our great prophetic mission of peace and brotherhood among the peoples of the world.

Samuel Freidin
Los Angeles, California

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