Jews and the Community
To the Editor:
Evelyn N. Rossman’s “The Community and I” (November 1954) describes some aspects of the small-town relations of Jews and non-Jews not dissimilar to those which exist in the larger metropolitan areas.
Both my husband and I came out of conservative homes. Both of us lost our religious beliefs before we had finished college. We are both independent liberals who think they have more in common with Gentiles interested in politics, literature, the theater, and other intellectual” pursuits than with the average Jew in our community who plays canasta or poker and goes to Florida every winter. We have children who are fully aware of our religious attitudes, or rather our lack of them. Unlike so many of our friends, we have always tried to be honest with them. The problem some of Evelyn Rossman’s friends also have, “How can I teach my child to believe things he knows I don’t believe?” we have never had to face. We assume that most intelligent parents nowadays answer their children’s questions honestly, be they concerned with people, sex, or anything else. Why then so often a hypocritical approach to religious matters?
Despite our lack of convictions we are sending our children to Sunday school. Despite our “universal” interests most of our friends are Jewish. As to the latter statement, we are not sure why this is so. I belong to the League of Women Voters, yet even in this organization of intelligent, progressive women it is the Jewish ones with whom I have become most friendly. At the children’s public school, in an upper middle class neighborhood, about a fourth of the pupils are Jewish. Their parents are active in various school activities, mixing with those of the non-Jewish children at committee meetings and other school functions. Yet when they ask friends over to their homes, it is usually their Jewish acquaintances who are invited. One will hear the remark that “we have lots of Gentile friends,” but somehow, on the many occasions of social get-togethers with people from different circles, these Gentile friends are absent. Little wonder, then, whether it be cause or effect, that many of us have joined Jewish organizations, although there may be little interest in Jewish affairs per se. Little wonder, also, that we send our children to Sunday school: to have them learn of their historical background, but also to help assure their social integration in the Jewish community.
Often we ask ourselves to what extent our social ghetto is self-imposed. At the present time our children accept others and are accepted by them without regard to religious or ethnic ties. Would this mutual acceptance not continue, at least among the children of “enlightened” parents, if we did not try to bequeath to ours a heritage of segregation?
Washington, D. C.