To the Editor:
I shall be obliged if you will permit me to comment on Mr. Morris Freedman’s review of my book Travels in Jewry (November 1953). It was surprising to find that he judged it from the point of view of “the modern, free-thinking Jew,” but although this candid avowal explained his lack of sympathy with its contents, it cannot in any way excuse his misrepresentation, inaccuracy, and inconsistency. He mentions only nine of the Jewish communities in Europe which I describe, leaving the reader to conclude that I do not deal with any others, whereas in fact those nine occupy only about a fifth of the book and the major part is devoted to an account of twenty-one others. One could not expect him to mention them all, but he could at least have indicated that the greater part of the book comprises impressions and recollections of cities in Germany and Austria, in Greece and Turkey, in Italy and the Provence, in Spain and Portugal.
Mr. Freedman states: “We only get timetable statistics most of the time.” The fact is that in only one of the forty-five chapters and sub-chapters are such particulars given, namely in my “Diary of a Mission to Poland (1918-1919),” where, as it is a diary, I considered it necessary to show that I had to change five times in an all-night journey in the winter from Cracow to Vienna. He also states that I conclude my account of the Karaite community in Poland “with an irrelevant touch of Zionist propaganda.” There is absolutely not the least allusion to Zionism either at the end or in any part of that chapter. It is a flagrant travesty of my book to misrepresent it as “a series of lectures . . . on modern anti-Semitism and Zionism.” I should be the last to apologize for referring to either of these movements, but in fact I could easily list over a dozen chapters in which there is no mention to be found of either. . . .
Mr. Freedman began his review by saying that “the modern, free-thinking Jew” would not regret his loss of a “sense of Jewish continuity” after reading my book, which surely meant after reading my accounts of the life of a number of Jewish communities once famous. Yet in a later passage he reproaches me with “the failure of the text to handle life.” Apart from this manifest inconsistency, I am not aware of what experience he has to pass judgment on the matter. He considers it “bad taste” for me to remark that the fervor of a monk who engaged in Zionist propaganda in London some fifty years ago “would have been more fittingly, and perhaps more fruitfully, spent in launching a philippic against Christendom to Christianize itself.” It may interest him to know that my book has been reviewed by more than a score of non-Jewish critics on both sides of the Atlantic, and not a single one took any exception to that sentiment. . . .
Finally, your reviewer refers to my comment on the compulsory Sunday rest law enacted by the old Lithuanian government and asks me what I have to say “about American or British Sunday rest laws.” It will interest him to know that in Great Britain a Jewish shopkeeper who closes his business on the Sabbath is permitted by law to open his shop on Sunday.