To the Editor:
I am writing, not to take issue with Ruth R. Wisse’s thoughtful review of my book, The Refusers [“Jewish Dreams,” March], but to clear up a possible confusion.
The book’s third section, of which the reviewer writes with generous praise, concerns my father, whose name Mrs. Wisse gives, correctly, as Ludwig Bernstein. In the book, however, in order to stress the fact that my father’s life was an emblem, a symbol, a paradigm of the modern liberated Jew, he is not named except by the words that people used in addressing him: Ludwig, The Doctor. He is not a historical figure as was Moses or Uriel da Costa, to whom the other two sections of the book are devoted, nor did I make him one. (My own name was changed at my childless British uncle’s request who was christened Burnshaw by His Majesty’s government in World War I.)
I should add a word about Mrs. Wisse’s remarks on the work of “the father of the Yiddish stage.” Any similarity between my treatment of Uriel da Costa and that of Abraham Goldfaden lies past my power of explaining: of all the numerous scholars who offered me their guidance—from Salo Baron to Rena and Henry Fuks of Amsterdam—none so much as mentioned the playwright’s name. My main historical sources were Uriel’s autobiography (London, 1740), Carl Gebhardt’s Die Schriften des Uriel da Costa, scholarly journals in French and English, and the records of the city of Amsterdam.
Key Biscayne, Florida