Commentary Magazine


Suburban Ghetto?

To the Editor:

I have belatedly read Alan Wood’s “I Sell My House” (November 1958). “To tell/or not to tell” really does not seem to require an apparatus consisting of, potentially, two rabbis, the Ethical Culture Society, and the Ministers’ Board. Any old-fashioned, non-introspective person could have found the answer for himself in two minutes flat. . . .

Obviously, Mr. Wood was aware immediately, just as the reader is, that the high concentration of Jews in the area would be of interest to the Wilsons. He felt, however, that volunteering this information might result in inconvenience to himself. . . . In law, he was under no compulsion to make such a voluntary declaration; as his friend quoted to him appropriately: caveat emptor. For people who want to protect their self-interests, it should be sufficient to know that they are not misrepresenting, defrauding, cheating, or committing any other heinous offense.

But Mr. Wood wants to eat his cake and have it too—he wants to feel completely virtuous, although he is not ready to make what is, after all, a very slight sacrifice (the article makes it appear that the possibility of pecuniary loss is more illusory than real). He is searching frantically for somebody willing to pronounce the magic words: te absolvo. . . . If I remember correctly, every Jew has a large area of elbow-room even in religious matters, i.e., in certain areas he can make Halachah for himself. Moreover, once he is over thirteen, he makes his own moral choices and is responsible for them only to his Creator. No rabbi, no minister, no tribunal can fumigate his actions and cleanse him, if fumigation or cleansing is what he needs. . . .

Mr. Wood’s article . . . appears to be typical of a genre that finds its way not infrequently into the pages of COMMENTARY. That is to say, it makes a mountain out of a molehill. It deals with situations which involve protracted soul-searching and mental torment, but which the generations of our parents or our grandparents would have disposed of without flagellation and with promptness; partly because they were too busy with weightier matters . . . and partly because they were rooted in a tradition, Jewish, German, French, etc., which prefabricated the foundation, at least, for many decisions, so that they had to add only the superstructure. . . .

Was Mr. Wood really naive enough to be in doubt about the outcome? Given the choice, wasn’t it natural for the Wilsons to pick a residence in a part of Long Island which is not 90-95 per cent Jewish? On the other hand, Mr. Wood may really have been on tenterhooks until the very end. . . .

Hans Morgenthau in the same issue (“The New United Nations”) looks at the UN without colored glasses, parabolic mirrors, or other gadgets distorting reality. Just the sober, rational attitude I would recommend to Mr. Wood.

Leo Starch
Los Angeles, California

_____________

 

Mr. Wood writes:

It takes two, in America at least, to make a ghetto. Readers such as Mr. Starch apparently know about some of the Christians who move out. What Mr. Starch may fail to realize, however, is that he offers scant inducement for other non-Jews to take their place when he regards it a foregone conclusion that no Christian would choose to live in an attractive, modern community, which was once mixed but is now heavily Jewish. This attitude is shared by many in North Shore Community Homes, which may be one of the reasons for its unbalanced composition. Happily, not all NSC’ers feel so cynical. Some of my former neighbors who read the article told me how friendly they and their children are with the Christians still living in the community, and how they deplored the fact that the Wilsons had not bought our house.

_____________

 

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