Commentary Magazine


Orthodoxy And Yiddish Culture

To the Editor:

Rabbi de Sola Pool (in his September letter of reply to my article on liberal Judaism, July 1952) did well to remind us of the non-Ashkenazic Judaism which does not fit into the social and cultural pattern I was describing. I am certainly aware of his historic Spanish Portuguese Synagogue: as a matter of fact, I was married there. But Sephardic Judaism is not, after all, representative of the mainstream of American Jewish life and it was the mainstream that Mr. Daiches attacked under the undiscriminating name of American Judaism, and that I at least distinguished as liberal Judaism.

I am also aware that Orthodox Judaism is not to be equated with Yiddish culture. I tried to point out that it has been so equated by Yiddish Orthodoxy itself, and by those who rejected Yiddish Orthodoxy for liberal Judaism. My aim was to show the error of that equation, and to suggest that Jewish piety remains possible within the new cultural setting of the United States.

In criticizing as “factually indefensible” my generalization that “The American Jews who rejected Orthodoxy were first of all rejecting a slum culture; they were rejecting an immigrant status . . .” Rabbi de Sola Pool must have been thinking again of his congregation, which is Orthodox and yet made up of families who have occupied a proud position in American life for “more than two centuries.” Yet the fact that the Jews who did not have a slum culture to reject, did not feel compelled to reject Orthodoxy either, would seem to be a point in favor of my generalization.

Rosert Langbaum
Ithaca, New York

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