Jewishness & Institutions
To the Editor:
Myron Kolatch’s revealing article, “The Yeshiva and the Medical School” [May], evoked from the Editor of COMMENTARY some sangui?e observations that especially interested me.
The Editor thought it possible that the development of such a school reflects American Jewry’s feeling sufficiently secure “to turn its attention to general problems. . . .” He wondered, “can . . . the Einstein College . . . be called Jewish,” but added that—in any case—he found it “heartening that Jews, acting as Jews, and in the name of their Jewishness (however they may wish to define Jewishness), have come more and more to devote themselves to seeking ‘the welfare of the city wherein they live.’”
May I enter a demurrer?
That American Jews are increasingly concerned with general American problems may be true and would be laudable. But the development of institutions like Einstein School is hardly a result of Jewish “attention to general problems.” What problems? The predicted shortage of physicians? The anti-Jewish admission policies of medical schools?
As for calling the school “Jewish”—Mr. Kolatch’s article did convey that for Einstein College, as for so many other institutions, agencies, and activities, the Word “Jewish” functions rather as a claim for special support from Jewry than as a symbol of the commitments of that Which asks Jewry for support. Any institution, any group may call itself Jewish, define its own Jewishness, and judge the Jewishness of others. This is inevitable and as it should be.
Hopefully not inevitable and certainly not as it should be, is the propensity of some institutions or groups to muddle, dilute, and even adulterate their form and meaning under the seductive attraction of mere institutional aggrandizement. True, such things are done “in the name of their Jewishness (however they may wish to define Jewishness),” but this only illustrates the capacity of some people for either Self-deception or cynical manipulation of uncritical “supporters.” . . .
(Rabbi) Mordecai Podet
Salt Lake City, Utah