The Jewish Heritage, edited by Ephraim Levine; Midcentury, edited by Harold U. Ribalow; Jewish Life in America, edited by Theodo
These three anthologies, two American and one British, contrast strikingly. The British volume, The Jewish Heritage, is well organized, well mannered, and well tempered by a tone of apology and reasonableness; it is an effort to convince indirectly, in mellow voice and precise diction, that Judaism is a Good Thing. The two American anthologies, though of varying quality—Midcentury being formless and pointless, and Jewish Life in America serious and thoughtful—are intense books, full of self-criticism and soul-searching. On the whole, they are more deeply concerned with examining the meaning of “Jewishness” than with representing Judaism to the non-Jewish world—which is to say that they tend to be decidedly less apologetic than the British book.
While in America Jewish apologetics tend to be very sharply divorced from Jewish scholarship, in England it is almost impossible to distinguish between the two. Like Aristeas of Alexandria, the “best minds” of British Jewry never tire of demonstrating that the Jews are more Greek than the Greeks. Thus the Jewish Heritage’s eight essays propose to “show the various forms of the heritage and to prove that their value for our modern civilization has enhanced our responsibility to cherish them and in turn to imbue posterity with appreciation of a similar sense of duty.”
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