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THE DILEMMA OF THE MODERN JEW 1962

To be a Jew means to have chosen to be part of a specific group. The association with that group is a voluntary and therefore a moral act. There is no governmental decree, no law, no Pale of Settlement that might make such a decision or such choice necessary. ..As the "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" of the American Constitution suffers some loss of luster in the translation of these "eternal" values into the reality of daily life, so is the "freedom" under which the decision to be a Jew is made a qualified freedom. ..Were it even closer to the great concept of "justice and liberty for all, " the voluntary decision of the majority of American Jews would be for the group to which they belong because they like it.  

"Because they like it" is perhaps not a very glorious affirmation. But it is infinitely more honest than the approach of those who try to "justify" their Jewish allegiance with their pride of belonging to a people who wrote the Bible and produced so many Einsteins. It is an affirmation of one's self, and there is no firmer and more wholesome identification than this.

...Present conditions seem to speak against Jewish survival: the watering down of the Jewish heritage, the provincial mentality of the Jewish organized religion, the laziness, the rebellion of many against any inference with comfort and convenience, the lack of the kind of heroism and stubborn- ness that are required for conscious survival. In spite of all this, I believe that there will be a new kind of Jewish survival. Not one born of night- mares and fears. Not one born of dreams and illusions. But one born of a new twentieth-century understanding of man as he is, of all the factors, complexities, memories, drives and hopes that make of a human being something living, something so unbelievably rich and unique, so unlimited in desire and potential. For those to whom the collective memory of being a Jew is part of their personal possession, Jewish survival will become a matter of personal concern. They will want to understand and know themselves through the experience of Jewish history and even the Hebrew language. Without knowledge, the new Jewish generation will understand, there can be no Jewish survival. Those to whom Judaism is a way of believing and  praying will find a faith which requires no com- promise of intellectual honesty. Organized Jewish religion, if its leaders have any sense and under- standing of the needs of the people, will begin to liberate itself from those kindergarten approaches which call for chocolate-flavored and sugar-coated Judaism, for easy-to-digest sermons and social hustle and bustle, and will yet come into its own. Judaism must divest itself of the sense of inferiority which has bedeviled and belittled it. As a minority religion, it must act and think and preach with the dignity and wisdom of the mother religion that it is. The Jews must celebrate their Hanukkah, not in the shadow of the Christmas tree, but with the knowledge that without the Maccabees there would have been neither Jesus nor Paul nor Christianity. They must not stare at the Easter celebration with envy, but sit around their Seder tables and sing of freedom knowing that without the Exodus from Egypt which they celebrate, there would be no Ten Commandments, no Sabbath and no Sermon on the Mount. Judaism must and can -after so many centuries of blood and tears - become a proud and mature way of life.

HIGH HOLIDAY PRAYER BOOK 1951

Created for Temple B'nai Abraham's High Holiday services, it contains English readings that often interpretive rather than literal translations of the Hebrew text.  The responsive reading We Repent is an example.

We are human and frail. None among us is perfect. With all our good intentions we fail. Willfully and deliberately we sometimes violate the laws of goodness and righteousness.

We stand before thee, O God, and with all our hearts do we beseech thee to forgive our sins.

We know that forgiveness can only be found in our return to righteousness. To live in decency and honesty is the commandment of our God. Yet we can only return to the ways of righteousness if we know where we sinned.

We have sinned with our lips; we have sinned with our hearts; we have sinned openly and unashamedly, we have sinned secretly and deceitfully.

We do not live alone. Nobody has a right to live in accordance with his selfish interests. We are part of the community of men, each of them, of whatever race and creed, of whatever station in life, created equal in the image of God.

We have sinned against our neighbors. When some- body needed our help, we did not respond. When we saw misery, we closed our eyes. When we heard the cry of anxiety, we shut our ears.

We live in a world of strife We live in a world of envy. We know that each of us bears the responsibility for it. In our every day life, we sin against the basic precept of human dignity.

We have sinned against the unwritten laws of man- kind: respect for human life, humility in the face of adversity, love for the humble and poor. 

We are mindful that religion is meant to be a force for good in our life. We know that the Torah of the human heart is as important as the letter of the law. We remember that we often forgot what God wants us to do and not to do.  

We have sinned against the spirit. We have preferred material gains to the satisfaction and happiness. We took where we should have given. We chased after vanity and forgot the true value of life.

We shall not live forever. Nothing will we carry with us to the grave. We sometimes act as thou we had eternal life. We forget that we are mortals.  

We have sinned against the meaning of life. We have taken unto ourselves more than we can use. We have sinned against the meaning of death. We forgot that life is but a gift from God. 

We have lost the sense of value, We have forgotten to know how to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil. We have distorted the goal of human existence.

We have sinned by breach of trust, by groundless hatred, by stubbornness and envy. We have sinned by greed and arrogance, by evil thoughts and by the hardening of our hearts.  

Nobody can name all the sins that we have committed. But everyone of us can give account in his heart for that in which he failed. Nor are the words we speak enough or the prayers which we recite sufficient. Help us then, O God, to repent with all our hearts. Help us to be strong and determined in making amends and living the kind of life lived in accordance with the tradition of our people. Help us to understand the real values in life so that our lives become less shallow, less empty, but instead filled with the meaningfulness that makes for human happiness and contentment, a life lived with the knowledge of goodness and honesty. Then, indeed will our confession be more than the utterance of our lips. Then, indeed, will we know that thou, O Merciful God, hast forgiven our sins.

 


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WIR JUDEN (WE JEWS) 1934

WE JEWS have been wandering in the world for more than three thousand years. Tall, wild Bedouins.. tanned and strong.. fought against desert and danger. Heroes struggled with giants. Kings ruled over princes and peoples. David's company raised a strong wall around Jerusalem . Love songs and psalms were born on his harp. To Solomon's Temple the great ones of his age came on Pilgrimage. Prophets raised flaming torches of The Word high over the world. Laws shone forth from tables of rock. The upward path of every nation has wound over the strong bridges of the Ten Jewish Commandments.

WE JEWS have traversed every land of the earth. From the islands of Asia Minor to Spain, Africa, Greece, Italy, the reaches of the German Rhine, to the Russian steppes.. the valleys of Champagne .. far into India and China . We have lost our own land. The vultures of trouble and disaster circled over the holy city of Jerusalem . Yet our journey from the homeland was proud and strong: within us there still lived the manly self sufficiency of our Bedouin ancestors.. the strength of the heroes.. the courage of the adventurers. Within us there lived the faith of the fathers.. and it gave us the power to resist. And our march among nations and countries was by far the most hazardous way that a people ever went.

WE JEWS through the hard destiny of our history have become petty traders, merchants, usurers, scholars, physicians, astrologers, poets, actors, men of letters, old clothes dealers, scientists. In all walks of our lives we were broken whenever we forgot our identity. Our life surrendered us as often as we surrendered our history. Our life was a failure when we failed our Jewishness. Out of that failure arose the hatred of Jews against their own people. Others may have stopped hating us, but we still hated ourselves. Our ancient, sacred, strong tree bent low and struck its own far-spread roots as if wholly extinct.

WE JEWS, Bedouins, heroes, kings, prophets, poets of old, forgot ourselves, our being and our. belief, were crushed through this oblivion, and became the great, aching question of the nations. Our warm, often yearning and tragic love for the nations did not soothe the wound.

WE JEWS seek our freedom.  


THE SECRET JEWS 1973

An open, recognized Judaism is beyond the Marrano's experience.  To him, Judaism is the skeleton in his closet.  He is not necessarily ashamed of it, but he is frightened by its consequences.  Long after the Inquisition was dead, the fear of discovery was very much alive.

To many scholars, Marranism is only a peculiar aspect of Jewish history. To me, it is an important factor in what one might call the "Jewish condition." How else explain those modern Jews who know that their ancestors were Marranos but who have no other links with either Judaism or the Jewish people?  The reasons they have not forgotten may be; a psychiatric or even a mystical problem, beyond ordinary logic. There are today, through- out the world, but particularly in Spain, Portugal and Latin America, many such people. Their "historic memory" no longer constitutes a personal burden. On the contrary, it is often, as in the case of many present-day Spanish intellectuals, a source of great pride and a proof of their ancestral uniqueness. Whatever it is, it exists.  

A very large number of young Jewish people throughout the world have only tenuous ties with their Jewishness. But -and this is the problem which reminds us so much of the Marranos can Jewishness be forgotten?

As the fate of the Jew is unique, illogical, alarming and vexing, so is the very fact of the existence of an ancient people in the modern world a great riddle.  Theologians weigh the question of a divinely ordained continuity of Jewish history. Christian theology has sometimes claimed that the very existence of the Jews was God's punishment for collective sins.  Like Cain, we wander from country la to country into the arms of merciless persecution ill which, according to these theologians, we richly deserve. 

But such persecutions are no longer in vogue. it' The Jews exist even in a more peaceful world. Is M there an unseen, an invisible hand that guides the se destinies of the only ancient people still around? of Are we to be the living witnesses of Hebrew antiquity, the great and the tragic experiences of Egypt , Babylon and Palestine ?  So some people believe. Yet all these are speculations with little expectation of sound and same analysis.  There is only one clear fact: Jews are.  

Yet, as religious values evaporate, as the number of intermarriages grows, as we come closer to Jewish integration into the general community, we have to face what Jews will be like fifty or a hundred years hence: many synagogues will no doubt have closed. Much of the battle for Jewish identity and the creative continuity of Jewish civilization will have been lost, and then we will be faced with the real problem of the new Marranos. Though a small, deeply committed Jewish community will continue to exist, the "Marrano community" will be larger. A few customs may be remembered. Some memories, anecdotes, jokes, little sentimentalities -but probably not much more.  

Yet, Marranism is also the story of Jewish tenacity, the Jew's incredible talent for survival. As the Marranos of the fifteenth century, in a very deep sense, helped the Jewish people to survive in spite of indescribable cruelties, so will there be left in the Marranos of the year 2030 some residue of "Jewishness, " which may, perhaps, be enough to preserve for the Jewish spirit the glorious reputation of invincibility.