“A Pulpit in the South”
To the Editor:
I was distressed to read the so-called “fictional” article “A Pulpit in the South” by Harry L. Golden, in the December 1953 issue.
While I am not a member of the congregation referred to in such a thinly veiled manner, nevertheless I feel that some harm has been done. . . . Your readers in other parts of the country will form an opinion of the South that would be to an extent false, and we, in turn, have no way of redressing whatever harm might have been done.
It would be rather foolish to pat ourselves on the back and say that “back is white,” whereas we all know that there is a certain amount of “gray” in every situation. But Mr. Golden, instead of giving us a piece of literature, has written what citizens of the various communities here in the Southeast feel is an accusation of “Babbittry.” Actually, we are not quite as bad as he pictures us. The pattern of social behavior has been thrust upon us by the established mores of this part of the country, a section which has been known loosely as “the Bible Belt.” As a result, most visitors will find that the social life of every member of the community is monopolized to a very great degree by church and related activities. We, on the other hand, while not ghettoizing ourselves, at the same time find our social life rather circumscribed because of this fact. . . . [But] I have already seen a difference in the contacts our children have made with neighbors and schoolmates. There is with them a much greater amount of integration socially, as well as in other ways, than there is on the part of our generation.
This letter started out as a rebuttal, but is apparently ending up as an apology or explanation, which is a rather weak way of settling the question. The entire situation should be considered not quite so much in the focus that brother Golden wishes it to be, but rather as a blurred picture of what is common in the daily situation of individuals or communities all over the country.
Personally, I believe that the position of a rabbi in the South holds more promise for the future of the rabbinate, of Judaism, as well as of the congregation, than in other parts of the country-primarily because of the type of people with whom the rabbi has to work. These are usually younger and more positive-minded Jews, and Jews to whom their congregational life is of vital importance.
I am sorry that Mr. Golden’s article was printed without somewhat more careful research on the scene.