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Jews, Blacks and the Cold War at the Top

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 September 2018

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That Bernard Malamud passes as a Jewish author is a commentary on the cultural and theological illiteracy of our times. Jewish by descent, his literary themes and values are Christian, echt Christian, sometimes nauseatingly so. "Malamud's themes," Stanley Edgar Hyman informed us long ago in The New Leader, "are the typical themes of the New Testament: charity, compassion, sacrifice, redemption…." He added: "these Christian themes are thoroughly secularized." Malamud's central theme, with variations, is not merely redemption, but redemption through love, through sacrificial, universal, altruistic, agapic, Christian love. His heroes are Christ figures. But the d£cor of his novels and their characters are largely Jewish. And that's where the confusion begins.

Research Article
Copyright © Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs 1972

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* The painter Rouault played the same role for Catholics like Maritain and for Neo-Thomism that Chagall does in the Neo-Hasidism that descends from Buber. Both are wildly over-praised for extra-painterly reasons.

Asa Leventhal of Bellow's The Victim and Tommy Wilhelm of Seize the Day put up considerable resistance to this metaphorical manipulation. Yet, in the end, they too are inflated into mythical “significance.” They succumb to “literature.“

* The policy proposed that in 1970 half of CCNY's freshman class be recruited from eleven black and Puerto Rican areas (in Harlem and the Bronx) while the other half would be chosen according to traditional academic criteria. This meant that a number of academically qualified Jewish students would be refused admittance. Lindsay and the other mayoral candidates denounced the plan as a “quota” system, “a word“—says Joe Flaherty in Managing Mailer—“with dark roots in Jewish history

T. S. Eliot on Henry James: “He had a mind so fine no idea could violate it.“

1. Alter, Robert, After the Tradition: Essays on Modern Jetpish Writing (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1969)Google Scholar.

2. I owe this expression, but not the context of its use, to Sidney Morgenbesser.

3. Sklare, Marshall, Conservative Judaism: An American Religious Movement (Glencoe, III.: Free Press, 1955 Google Scholar).

4. Cf. Peacock, James L., Rites of Modernization, Symbolic and Social Aspects of Indonesian Proletarian Drama (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968 Google Scholar).

5. Cf. author's note in his The Opposing Self: Nine Essays in Criticism (New York: Viking Press, 1955), p. 231. On p. 128 he refers to “the pensee of Akiba which I have quoted….“

6. An earlier version of this essay—which first appeared in the September, 1965 Commentary—was delivered at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on Jewish Social Studies, held at the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, May 18, 1965. The conference topic was “Jewish Writers and the New American Literary Establishment."

7. Cf. Liben, Meyer, Justice Hunger. A Short Novel and Nine Stories (New York: Dial Press, 1967 Google Scholar).

8. Cf. Ozick, Cynthia, “Envy; or, Yiddish in America,” in her book The Pagan Rabbi and Other Stories (New York: Knopf, 1971 Google Scholar).

9. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1971).

10. Midstream (March, 1969).

11. See a subsequent battle in this status-war in James Baldwin and Shlomo Katz, “Of Angela Davis and ‘the Jewish Housewife Headed for Dachau': An Exchange” in Midstream (June/July, 1971), with letters in comment.

12. “Man's Increasing Entry into Religious Mystery,” in Bloch, Ernest, Man On His Own: Essays in the Philosophy of Religion (New York: Herder and Herder, 1971 Google Scholar). Bloch's indebtedness to Anders Nygren's Eros and Agape is patent.

13. Cf. Cohen's, Leonard novel, Beautiful Losers (New York: Bantam Books, 1967 Google Scholar).

14. Galtting, John, “Rank and Social Integration: A Multidimensional Approach,” in Berger, Joseph, Zeldich, Morris Jr, Anderson, Bo, eds., Sociological Theories in Progress (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966 Google Scholar).

15. “Questions for Thinking Jews” (A Symposium), Jewish Heritage (Summer, 1965).

16. Miller, Alan W., “Black Anti-Semitism-Jewish Racism,” in Nat Hen toff, ed., Black Anti-Semitism and Jewish Racism (New York: Schocken Books, 1970 Google Scholar).

17. Harold Cruse, “My Jewish Problem and Theirs,” in Hen toff, op. cit. This essay is, of course, the black intellectual retort to Norman Podhoretz's well-known “My Negro Problem—and Ours,” which first appeared in Commentary and has since been reprinted in Podhoretz's Doings and Undoings.

18. “The Dispossessed (1962),” in Bell, Daniel, ed., The Radical Right. “The New American Right," Expanded and Updated (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1963), pp. 1-38 Google Scholar.

19. Trilling, Lionel, “Dreiser and the Liberal Mind,” The Nation (April 20, 1946), reprinted in The Liberal Imagination (New York: Viking Press, 1951)Google Scholar.

20. “The Hyphenate Writer and American Letters,” Smith Alumnae Quarterly (July, 1964).

21. Cf. The World and the Jug,” Ellison's reply, in Shadow and Act (New York: Random House, 1964 Google Scholar). In the next decade, Howe was to make a complete aboutface, repeating in the ‘60's with authority all the things Trillirrg had been at pains to tell him in the ‘50's.

22. “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (1919), in Selected Essays (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1950), p. 7.

23. Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage, rev. ed. (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1950), p. 591.

24. Jews and Blacks: The Classic American Minorities (New York: Herder and Herder, 1971), p. 77.

25. The Structure of Social Action: A Study in Social Theory With Special References to a Group of Recent European Writers, 2nd Edition (Glencoe, III.: Free Press, 1949).