Commentary Magazine


Pepys and Jewish Decorum

To the Editor:

Your August 1953 issue contains a review by Jacob Sloan (“The Beard Is Not the Jew”) in which it is parenthetically stated: “Thus an outsider like Pepys, visiting a 17th-century synagogue in England, marveled to observe the lack of decorum during the religious services. He described the worshipers as talking and moving about freely—just as they do nowadays in all but the High, Gentile-like synagogues.”

In The Jew in English Literature by Albert F. Modder, the author credits Dr. Solomon Grayzel, the editor of the Jewish Publication Society of America, with the acute observation that Samuel Pepys happened to visit the synagogue when the Simchat Torah service was in progress. This is the one service during the year when informality is the order of the day and solemn decorum is abandoned for the celebration that accompanies reading the final words of the Old Testament and beginning Genesis once again. It is too bad that the great diarist did not visit the synagogue on any other occasion when worshipping took place. . . .

Mr. Sloan’s view that “anyone at all familiar with the Jews recognizes a definite strain of individualism in our group that crops up time and again, in the unlikeliest of places” might have been supported by a different example.

Bernard J. Meislin
New York City

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Correction

To the Editor:

In rereading Mr. Justice Frankfurter’s opinion in Knauff v. Shaughnessy, I notice to my chagrin that the reference to this case in my review of Milton Konvitz’s book (January 1954) carries the wrong page number. The correct citation should be: Knauff v. Shaughnessy (338 U.S. 537 [1950]).

Herbert B. Ehrmann
Boston, Massachusetts

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