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The American Jewish world. [volume] (Minneapolis ;) 1915-current, December 10, 1915, Image 3

Image and text provided by Minnesota Historical Society; Saint Paul, MN

Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn78004468/1915-12-10/ed-1/seq-3/

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I have a friend-—I don't know
whether I can really call him a
friend, the relationship is so one
sided and he may turn against me
any moment—who illustrates very
pointedly a group of psychological
laws which it is very important for
us Jews to comprehend and ap
This friend, a gentleman by dint
of social rearing and intellectual cul
ture, is descended from an eminent
family of Portuguese Jews, but, his
father having become converted to
Unitarianism, he himself has never
been a Jew in faith. A European by
birth and education, he has travelled
in almost all continents, speaks with
correct fluency a number of modern
languages, but has become natural
ized in this country, of which he
is an ardent, though a rather criti
cal admirer. He is an expert of rare
competency iiij a certain branch of
business but he copes with increas
ing difficulties in finding employ
ment, partly because he has high
standards of honesty which fre
quently conflict with prevailing busi
ness practices, largely also because
he is what people call conceited and
overbearing which, in his case,
means that he always knows better,
delivers opinions with an air of final
authority and becomes very bitter
in his personal denunciations. Worst
of all, by reviling' and exposing the
methods of past employers, he
creates an impression of disloyalty
and a fear of similar experience, so
that people hesitate to take him into
their employ besides, very natural
ly, the influential enemies he has
made are not backward in caution
ing people against him. With all
this he is the soul of honor, a clean,
upright, independent man, brave
and perservering in the presence of
constant discouragement, grateful
and appreciative for friendly offices.
I have a constant fear that he will
end in suicide, when once his last
hope is cut off.
His attitude towards his coracial-
1 By a Prominent Rabbi.
A Weekly Journal of Modern Jewish Life and Labors
VOL. II. St. Paul and Minneapolis—December 10, 1915. No. 14
ists—that is all the Jews can be to
him—forms an interesting, though
not always a pleasant study. From
his parental home he knows all the
conversational Jewish phrases
which, when with Jews, he uses
lavishly and with gusto and is so
thoroughly acquainted with Jewish
customs that one would be inclined
to doubt his native Christianity, if
his truthfulness were not clearly
above suspicion he also seems to
feel a special shame and indigna
tion against Jewish vice and Jewish
failings which really bespeaks an
unconscious sense of responsibility
and brotherhood yet he has, at
times, come very near to losing my
friendship, when he has expressed
open aversion to associating with
Jews, and I have often felt that he
is peculiarly disposed to blame the
lapses of individual Jews on their
Judaism so much so that I have
been made- to understand better,
how thin a wall really separates
wounded Jewish pride from actual
Antisemitism. When a man's Jew
ish vanity hast been hurt innumer
able times by the unrepresentative
ness of unworthy Jewish brothers,
lie finally falls victim to a chronic
disease, to that hatred and contempt
of Jew for fellow-Jew, of the man
of Jewish temperament and habit
for all that flows from Jewish tem
perament and habit, a phenomenon
which to me stands for the final
tragedy of a people losing its own
Despite all this he probably has
no other father-confessor than me,
the rabbi Christian ministers have
either been unsympathetic as to his
many troubles or they have kept
him at a distance by a cold air of
reserve or they have been "too
busy" to listen to his tales and trials.
I have always felt, without telling
him so, that I had before me an
unhappy scion of Israel, a small
facet of the infinite tragedy of dis
persion, an adult waif that needed
fathering-, a drifted bit of human
wreckage on a shore of pathless
But as a student of the human
spul and as a searcher into the in
wardness of Jewish history and
Jewish psychology I am profoundly
interested in the impressive lessons
conveyed by the sterility and de
feat of this promising life. It is to
me a most lucid illustration of the
supreme need, for every full-blown
spiritual unfoldment, of being root
ed firmly and loyally in a definite
soil. There is a certain justice in
the contempt with which the pres
ent-day German philosophers, his
torians, economic and social writers
regard the "cosmopolitan" and "cos
mopolitanism," and it is just the
futility, the homelessness, the dis
integrating, critical temper of such
a wanderer as my friend, which
show the dangers of what I might
call spiritual rootlessness, of that
inhuman, unloyal detachment which
suffers from having either no true
fatherland or too many of them.
The "man without a country" is
a pathetic moral cripple 'but even
a sadder figure is the man whose
heart has cut itself loose from all
rootage in its natural soil. "He
says of his father and his mother
I have not seen them his brothers
he does not recognize, his children
he does not know." Compare him
with the man who feels completely
at home in the environment to
which Providence has assigned him
such a man need not be uncritical
of the shortcomings of his people,
his country but he accepts these
faults as more or less inevitable, he
has a certain forbearance, almost
an affection for them, feeling them
to be, in a sense, part and parcel of
himself. Objectiveness and detach
ment will serve well enough in the
realms of critical investigation and
scientific research they are disturb
ing and upsetting in the cozy at
mosphere of home where one has
a right, almost a duty to be his own,
unconscious, uncritical self.
It has been claimed by various
writers, Leo Reich, for instance,
that the Jew, like all immigrants,
aliens, wanderers, foreigners, has, in
competitions of every sort, the ad
vantage of the outsider, the ob
server, of the man with more than

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