Reader Letters April 1955

The New Jewish Center
TO THE EDITOR OF COMMENTARY:
I found the subtitle to Morris Freedman’s
article, "New Jewish Community in Forma- tion: A Conservative Center Catering [!] to Present-Day Needs" (January), rather appropri- ate. It is sad that a center should rely on cater- ing fees for almost one-third of its budget.
In spite of his doubts, the rabbi offers his flock ‘familiar, easy to swallow things," hoping for better things in the future. He does not realize that "Gresham’s Law" applies in re- ligion as well. Bad religion drives good religion out of circulation. Ritual and appetite leave little room for ethics and self-control.
The religion that came out of the hills of Judea would have us give up civilized society in order to achieve brotherhood. "You shall
drink no wine, neither you nor your sons for- ever; and you shall build no house, nor sow seed, nor plant or own a vineyard, but shall live in tents all your days, so that you may live long in the land where you pass your days"
(Jer. 35:6). It is a travesty of terrible propor- tions if that ancient ethical faith has degener- ated into catering to stomachs and egos. RoGER FEINSTEIN
Minneapolis, Minnesota
To THE EDITOR OF COMMENTARY:
As an appreciative reader of COMMENTARY for many years, I am puzzled by Morris Freed- man’s "New Jewish Community in Formation."
Was this written with tongue in cheek, or does it contain some deeper, serious level which I failed to discern?
In the prefacing note hope is expressed by the editor that readers "may see concrete mani- festations bearing on some widely mooted ques- tions concerning American Jews today." Alas, had there only been a little less concern with the "manifestations" and at least some small
concern with the "widely mooted questions."
A multitude of details are meticulously as- sembled and scrupulously reported but, in the best tradition of cool, deadpan reporting a Ia
the New Yorker, Mr. Freedman is neither en- thused nor offended; he remains supremely
unmoved, favorably or unfavorably, by what he sees. A community is carefully described,
but any concern with or interest in questions of meaning or significance or quality is ex- cluded.
COMMENTARY’S customary tone of modera-
tion and temperance is laudable until such instances when it appears to verge on indiffer-
ence. Mere reportage, however adroitly pre- sented, is abundantly available elsewhere, but
from a journal which names itself COMMEN- TARY more may reasonably be expected.
Cheapness, vulgarity, organized irreverence (mockingly palmed off as its opposite)-all this is water off Mr. Freedman’s back. How
any of this, moreover, is supposed to be related to any aspect of Judaism I fail to discern-ex-
cept as a general description of a style of life,
or "Fun Through Judaism." (Mrs.) BEss UDELL Prairie Village, Kansas
To THE EDITOR OF COMMENTARY:
New York City is the last place to look for typical examples of American culture. Here we
do it better or worse, but never typically. So to equate Conservative Judaism with the Hill- crest Jewish Center in Queens ("New Jewish
Community in Formation") is surely ques- tionable; to suggest that the architecture and decoration of this building represent the gen- eral taste is inaccurate.
Our people, whether Orthodox, Conserva-
tive, or Reform, do want, as Rabbi Mowshowitz is reported as saying, "the finest we can get." It’s true they often don’t get it, but when they do they are grateful. And, to me, this wanting is a wonderfully hopeful thing. My own ex- perience has shown that a taste for "pink formica" and "WPA art" does exist but can be
changed. This is one of the jobs of the archi- tect and artist.
The large Park Synagogue in Cleveland was designed by the late Erich Mendelsohn and is accepted by architects as a lasting contribution to American building. Here we have a struc- ture by an architect who is famous for the virility, the originality, and the beauty of his visions.
The more moderate-sized Temple Beth El of Springfield, Mass., and the smaller B’nai Israel of Millburn, N. J., both of which I designed, contain works by what are called "artists’
LETTERS FROM READERS
> 2~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~rLETTERS FROM READERS
artists." The sculptures by Ferber and Lassaw,
the Ark curtains by Gottlieb and murals by
Motherwell in these synagogues have been
cited as important modern collaborations be-
tween architect and artist….
Anyone’ familiar with the art world will
agree that acceptance of works by these men
shows a high level of art appreciation. Yet the congregations involved are typical. What perhaps is atypical is that the architect and artists were willing, on the one hand, to edu- cate the members, and on the other, dedicated, in Kafka’s phrase, to "making their work a prayer."
By a quirk of history the best art of today is non-representational; and these men were selected by me, not for their piety in observing the Second Commandment, but for their genius….
New York City
PERCIVAL GOODMAN, F.A.I.A.
Social Mobility: America vs. Europe
To TBE EDITOR op CoMMENrARY:
I read with great interest the article "Class and Opportunity in Europe and the U.S." by S. M. Lipset and Natalie Rogoff (December). They have performed a real service in making available comparative statistics on occupational
mobility, some of which have never been pub- lished before while others were little known even to professional students of class structure and social mobility.
However, their interpretations of these in- teresting statistics are, in part, seriously mis- leading. This is due to the ambiguous and inconsistent way in which the authors employ the term social mobility. In Table 1 they pre- sent statistical comparisons of the occupational "destinations" of men of similar origins in the U.S., France, and Germany. Noting the sim- ilarity in the shifts from manual fathers to non-manual sons in all three countries, they equate social mobility with occupational mobil- ity and draw the following conclusion: "There can be no doubt that the data from these three studies refute any claim that social mobility in the U.S. is on the whole markedly greater than in Europe, where family status allegedly limits
positions open to son." Yet when they discuss the significant differ- ence in the occupational movement of farmers’ sons revealed by the same table-it is much greater in the U.S. than in either France or Germany-our authors insist that this is no evidence of social mobility at all but ought to be explained by changes in the occupational structure of this country: the proportion of the population engaged in agriculture has declined
more rapidly in the U.S. than in other countries.
What has happened here is that suddenly, and without saying so, Lipset and Rogoff have changed their definition of social mobility to mean not all changes in occupational status from father to son, but only those which occur over and above changes in the occupational structure itself….
Turning next from the examination of the different social "destinations" of men of the same social origins to a consideration of the different social origins of the men who have arrived at the same destination, Lipset and Rogoff report: "We find that there is more movement from the manual worker and farm class into clerical, managerial, and professional jobs in the U.S. than abroad. A larger propor- tion (52 per cent) of American non-manual workers have manual or farm backgrounds than do their French and German counterparts (35 per cent and 30 per cent respectively). But this is only the other side of the above-mentioned decline of the proportion of Americans engaged in agriculture. The larger movement of Amer- icans into the class of non-manual workers is due, again, not to a higher rate of social mobil- ity as such, but to a greater increase in the pro- portion of non-manual ‘opportunities’ in the U.S., which have expanded at a faster rate than in Europe." I submit that this is sheer word play. If 52 out of every 100 American non-manual workers have moved up from manual or farm back- grounds while only 35 of their French and 30 of their German counterparts have done so, this is unmistakable evidence of a significantly
higher rate of occupational mobility in this country. To be sure, it is quite valuable to know
whether occupational movement from farming and manual labor to non-manual jobs depends merely upon the individual’s freedom of access to non-manual occupations, or whether it de- pends also upon the number of non-manual jobs available in the economy as a whole. Lipset and Rogoff deserve credit for having pointed out that the smaller movement into non-manual occupations in Europe is caused not by greater
difficulties of access, i.e., greater inherited socio-economic privilege and more snobbery, but primarily by slower economic development.
But this distinction is entirely irrelevant when it comes to the explanation of political behavior. Lipset and Rogoff claim that their findings suggest "a need to modify the long held assumption that a large socialist movement and class-conscious proletariat have not devel- oped in the U.S. because of the high rate of American social mobility as compared with the presumed low European rate." This conclusion
is entirely unwarranted. The individual with
mobility aspirations does not care one iota
whether he can move up into a non-manual job
because there is no barrier of privilege or be-
cause the occupational structure is changing:
all that matters to him is that he has 52 chances
out of 100 in the U.S., but only 35 in France
and merely 30 in Germany.
KtUr B. MAYBR
Associate Professor of Sociology
Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island
National Committee
for an Effective Congress
To THE EDITOR OP COMMENTARY:
Without taking issue with anything else in
the article "What Price McCarthy Now?" by James Rorty (January 1955), I should like to correct an impression that may have been created by his reference to "the pressure and propaganda batteries" of the National Com- mittee for an Effective Congress. The National Committee for an Effective Congress is neither a pressure nor a propaganda organization … We raise money for responsible and qualified candidates of both major parties during cam- paigns; we perform research and other tech- nical services for members of Congress on re- quest; and we supply our own supporters with information as to Congressional developments. Shortly after Senator Flanders introduced his first resolution for the removal of Senator McCarthy from chairmanship of the Govem- ment Operations Committee, he asked for our help. This help, which we gave to the limit of our resources, consisted of research, legal studies and opinion, provision of clerical services, and contact with interested individuals and public organizations …
Earlier in his article, Mr. Rorty said that the National Committee for an Effective Congress is "headed by General Telford Tay- lor." Mr. Sidney H. Scheuer is acting Chairman of the Committee. Mr. Taylor is an active and invaluable member of our Executive Board…. GEORGE E. AGREE
Executive Secretary National Committee
for an Effective Congress
New York City
WEVD Maligned?
To TH EDrrTon or COMMENTARY: As a charter reader of COMMENTARY, I have not yet missed a single issue of your fine magazine…. And that is why I was particu-
larly shocked by "The World of Station WEVD" by Ruth Glazer (February). An article on Yiddish radio, where WEVD occupies almost the entire field, has long been overdue-one telling in an objective way about its outstanding achievements as well as its painful shortcomings. But the story by Mrs. Glazer has fallen miserably short of the mark. … Anyone taking her report as an evaluation of Jewish radio, and WEVD in particular, will
get a very distorted picture. Mrs. Glazer is guilty mainly of acts of omis- sion. To start with, she disqualifies herself as an unbiased reporter by the fact that she writes only about the programs of one day out of seven. And even in that limited report she shows much bias. Although supposedly report- ing on the Friday programs only, she men- tions the "New Talent" program not heard on Fridays . . . but knows nothing about such a really fine artistic program as "All Star Theatre of the Air" that is heard on Friday. Mrs. Glazer does say something about the Sunday "Forward Hour," which truly deserves all the praise in the world. But then why omit such a fine Sun- day program as "Songs of the Synagogue," or the school children quiz? Since Mrs. Glazer admits by implication that she has been tuning in on WEVD also on other days of the week, how could she have missed such outstanding programs as Melvina Rappel’s "A Woman’s World," or Zvi Scooler’s "Our New York," both of which would do honor to any radio station?
I fully agree with Ruth Glazer that WEVD has, and not probably, "the most talented and versatile staff of announcers in all radio." And her praise for Zvi Scooler, Nachum Stutchkoff, and, to a lesser degree, for Ben Basenko, is well merited. Why did she omit the names of two other equally fine and outstanding announcers, who are heard on Friday, namely David Opa- toshu and Michel Goldstein? . . . Mrs. Glazer also takes a pot-shot at the Yid- dish commercials. I hold no brief for them, though they are by and large much better than their counterparts in English . . . but when Mrs. Glazer becomes an authority on Yiddish, she should be asked to halt. She pokes fun at the phrase "Kvel oon fun Vel" and remarks about "using a verb normally reserved to de- scribed the way a doting grandfather will look at a grandchild." Anyone who knows Yiddish will tell you that a cook will "kvel" to see a roast turning out the way she wanted it, or a baalebosta will "kvel" over her shining floors. Turning ignorance into authoritative iat is a little too much….
WEVD, its several hundred thousand listen- ers, and COMMENTARY readers deserve to be
given a much better and fairer report than the
one by Ruth Glazer.
NAT DAVIDSON
New York City
The Bolshevik Further
Psychoanalyzed
To THE EDIToR OF COMMENTARY:
"Bolshevik Man, His Motivations" (Febru-
ary), Daniel Bell’s appreciative yet critical study
of Nathan Leites’s book on the subject, leads
me to offer a few observations…. Bell states
that Leites’s conception of Bolshevik character
is a static one, unable to throw light on Soviet
developments after Lenin’s death, and con-
cludes that this is a necessary limitation to psy-
chology as applied to social history. It would
seem more correct, however, to hold that this
limitation stems . . . from the inadequacies of
Leites’s Freudian theory. From a broader, an-
thropologically sounder psychological viewpoint,
the father-son complex about which the analysis
revolves could well serve to illuminate just
those aspects of Russian character transforma-
tion which, according to Bell, are left unex-
plained in Leites’s work.
Beginning with the past, how did the "father
complex" and "death complex" as manifest in
19th-century Russian intellectual character
arise? Behind these traits-as clearly shown by
Russian cultural history-was a deeply-ingrained
psychic relation to God the Father. And wher-
ever this exists, it is always prone to be con-
taminated by the psychic relation of the son to
his actual human father…. In the 19th cen-
tury those individuals whose image of God the
Father was markedly contaminated … and for
whom religion could only be false and distorted,
now seized upon secular, rationalistic ideas to
support their own inner truth, that God the
Father doesn’t exist. They then proceeded to
live this out in the only way possible . . . by
becoming infantile, passive, father-bound sons;
viz the Karamazovs, Raskolnikovs, Oblomovs,
etc. It is at this point in Russian cultural history
that Leites’s analysis has brilliant relevance.
Lenin, to be sure, was a father-bound de-
fensively ascetic, "homosexual" character who,
if he had lived at an earlier time, could well
have become a Calvin or Cromwell. He re-
mained in the role of the Son-Redeemer, obedi-
ent to the Sacred Doctrine and ready to sacri-
fice his life for it.
As long as the individual remains a "son,"
he cannot be fully egocentric, but projects his
total-itarian claims to power on the Father.
Stalin, however, himself took on the role of
"God the Father." But this shift was still within
the father-son complex….
Now for the present and future. Malenkov
was linked . . . with the promise of an easier
life, i.e., a trend away from the Father to the
loving, bounteous Mother. (Malenkov even
looks like a "Mama’s boy"!) . . . And now it
seems that the father image is returning in a
new form suggestive of conservatism and tradi-
tion: the impressively uniformed and be-
medaled generals.
This development is a favorable one. In the
first place, it should further rationality because
the generals-leaving out Bulganin of course-
also symbolize technical competence and ad-
ministrative achievement. Secondly, conserva-
tive, traditional paternal rule allows more room
for the expansion of the Mother principle. This
development in time would bring greater social
stability, production of "maternal" consumer
goods, and ease of life-and perhaps even the
gradual rehabilitation of the image of God
the Father. The danger, of course, lies with
the party leaders. They doubtless still have the
upper hand and take care to keep the generals
within their circumscribed spheres of influence.
HENRY ELKIN
Zurich, Switzerland
The "Puerto Rican Problem"
To THE EDITOR OF COMMENTARY:
I have read with considerable interest Mr.
Charles Abrams’s "How to Remedy Our ‘Puerto
Rican Problem"’ (February 1955)…. When
Puerto Ricans generally speak the English
language and learn the benefits of better living
conditions, they will not be exploited and
will not create slum conditions. The govern-
ment of Puerto Rico is making great progress
in the teaching of English to children and in
New York the Department of Education con-
ducts classes in English for adult Puerto Ricans.
To prevent the shortage of low-rent housing
so much needed by Puerto Ricans from becom-
ing progressively more acute, a realistic, intel-
ligent program is needed for keeping in use as
many good (relatively) tenements as possible;
we should not enact retroactive laws the en-
forcement of which will make their continuance
an economic impossibility.
Mr. Abrams’s article is constructive and in-
formed and in general I concur in his findings.
BERNARD J. GILLROY
Commissioner
Department of Housing
and Buildings
New York City

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Reader Letters April 1955

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