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The Other New York Jewish Intellectuals

Copyright Date: 1994
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 394
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  • Book Info
    The Other New York Jewish Intellectuals
    Book Description:

    Irving Howe. Saul Bellow. Lionel Trilling. These are names that immediately come to mind when one thinks of the New York Jewish intellectuals of the late thirties and forties. And yet the New York Jewish intellectual community was far larger and more diverse than is commonly thought. In The Other New York Jewish Intellectuals we find a group of thinkers who may not have had widespread celebrity status but who fostered a real sense of community within the Jewish world in these troubled times. What unified these men and women was their commitment and allegiance to the Jewish people. Here we find Hayim Greenberg, Henry Hurwitz, Marie Syrkin, Maurice Samuel, Ben Halperin, Trude Weiss-Rosmarin, Morris Raphael Cohen, Ludwig Lewisohn, Milton Steinberg, Will Herberg, A. M. Klein, and Mordecai Kaplan, and many others. Divided into 3 sections--Opinion Makers, Men of Letters, and Spiritual Leaders--the book will be of particular interest to students and others interested in Jewish studies, American intellectual history, as well as history of the 30s and 40s.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-4852-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Carole S. Kessner
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)
    Carole S. Kessner

    Everyone knows the New York Jewish Intellectuals; but this book is not about them. This is about another group of intellectual Jews who lived and worked mainly in New York, men and women who were in no way ambivalent about their Jewishness. Although there is much that the two groups have in common, it is the role that Jewishness played in their identities, their ideas, and their activities that set them upon divergent paths which were to meet up only after 1967.

    Recently, considerable attention has been lavished on the adventures and achievements of the New York Jewish Intellectuals. In...

  6. PART ONE Opinion Makers
    • CHAPTER 1 Hayim Greenberg, Jewish Intellectual
      (pp. 25-50)
      Robert M. Seltzer

      If an intellectual is a person who lives in the world of ideas, Hayim Greenberg represents the twentieth-century intellectual most at home in Jewish ideas. Caught up in the world of action, Greenberg thought about the destiny of the Jews, about Judaism in history, about the spiritual element in human life, and spoke and wrote of these ideas all his life. Like many intellectuals, he had liberated himself early on from the constraints of tradition. But he drew on the inner resources of having been raised in a coherent world so that there was no agonizing crisis to overcome a...

    • CHAPTER 2 Marie Syrkin: An Exemplary Life
      (pp. 51-70)
      Carole S. Kessner

      At the end of her life, Marie Syrkin said, “Today I can write with as much passion about old age as I once could about love.”¹ The following verse, from a poem entitled “Of Age,” written when she was nearly eighty, is, however, about both love and age:

      Women live longer than men;

      The few that I loved are dead.

      Had I the power to summon,

      Whom would I bring to my bed?²

      Her question goes unanswered, although there were indeed a few good candidates for the position. But more to the point is the fact that since Marie Syrkin...

    • CHAPTER 3 Ben Halpern: “At Home in Exile”
      (pp. 71-100)
      Arthur A. Goren

      From 1936, when he entered Jewish “communal civil service,” as Halpern himself put it, until his death in 1990, an emeritus professor of modern Jewish history at Brandeis University, Ben Halpern devoted a major part of his intellectual energies to examining the American Jewish condition. He approached the task with the skills of the professional historian and sociologist. But he was no less the socialist Zionist ideologue, duty-bound to link intellectualism with activism: ideological discourse, conducted with rigor and intellectual integrity, was a requisite for furthering the cause. Analysis was meant to lead to deeds.¹ From 1943 to 1949, he...

    • CHAPTER 4 Trude Weiss-Rosmarin and the Jewish Spectator
      (pp. 101-122)
      Deborah Dash Moore

      Trude Weiss-Rosmarin arrived in New York City in 1931. In her early twenties and recently married, she already possessed considerable intellectual credentials: academic, educational, and political. She came from Germany hoping to launch a career in semitics; instead she became an independent intellectual, intimately associated with the equally independent monthly, theJewish Spectator. She founded theJewish Spectatorand edited it until her death in June 1989. For four decades beginning in the mid-1930s, Trude Weiss-Rosmarin participated actively in New York’s Jewish cultural life. An intellectual with fierce opinions and a biting pen, she carved for herself a niche as...

  7. PART TWO Men of Letters
    • CHAPTER 5 Morris Raphael Cohen
      (pp. 125-143)
      Milton R. Konvitz

      Morris Raphael Cohen and Horace M. Kallen were, I submit, the two most intensely Jewish thinkers, not only of their time, but in the entire sweep of American history. One difference between them is that Kallen began his Jewish activity early in life and early in the twentieth century, while Cohen, two years his senior, began his Jewish activity in the early 1930s. Each of them was a professor of philosophy in a non-Jewish institution of higher learning at a time when very few Jews had appointments on college or university faculties, and each identified himself with Jewish interests and...

    • CHAPTER 6 Horace M. Kallen
      (pp. 144-159)
      Milton R. Konvitz

      For about a half-century, Horace Kallen occupied a special—for many of these years, a unique—place on the Jewish scene in the United States. For he was not a professional Jew, not a rabbi, not a professor in a rabbinical seminary, not a scholar who made a specialty of Judaic study, not eminent among Jews by reason of the high office he held in a Jewish organization. He was the first Jewish professor of a non-Jewish subject in a non-Jewish college or university who was intimately and prominently identified with Jewish interests, Jewish concerns, Jewish organizations.¹ While widely recognized...

    • All illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 7 Ludwig Lewisohn: A Life in Zionism
      (pp. 160-190)
      Stanley F. Chyet

      Ludwig Lewisohn, Berlin–born, South Carolina-raised, was at most twenty-one when he came to New York in the fall of 1903 to study literature at Columbia University. His years in the city—interrupted by lengthy sojourns elsewhere in the United States and in Europe—saw him undertake a long, difficult journey back to his German and Jewish origins, fall in and out of love with three or four women, father a son, achieve fame as a literary and drama critic, as a translator and even as a novelist, become the apostle of Goethe and Hauptmann and Rilke, of Herzl and...

    • CHAPTER 8 Henry Hurwitz: Editor, Gadfly, Dreamer
      (pp. 191-205)
      Ira Eisenstein

      The tens of thousands of Jews who reached these shores at the beginning of this century, “yearning to breathe free,” did not find agoldene medinah. The adults struggled to make a living; and the children were aware of the fact that, in the eyes of their peers, they were strangers, who came without culture or knowledge of the civilized canons of behavior. The young people, to be sure, soon made their way in this land, and many of them, Henry Hurwitz included, made it to colleges and universities. (He had arrived in the Boston area, with his parents and...

    • CHAPTER 9 “Not the Recovery of a Grave, but of a Cradle”: The Zionist Life of Marvin Lowenthal
      (pp. 206-227)
      Susanne Klingenstein

      To contemporaries, the year 1917 had an almost messianic quality. The outbreak of the Russian Revolution promising in its wake the establishment of a just society, the disintegration of the multinational empires releasing their subjected peoples into independence, and the declaration of the “Fourteen Points” by President Wilson aimed at preserving the world peace raised in Europeans extraordinary expectations. Although Jews have always had reason to be cautious when the world felt the birth pangs of the Messiah, the events of that remarkable year suffused with new vigor those who concentrated their hopes on a sliver of land on the...

    • CHAPTER 10 The Education of Maurice Samuel
      (pp. 228-246)
      Emanuel S. Goldsmith

      Maurice Samuel occupies a singular position among the ranks of American Jewish intellectuals. He played a major role in the emergence of the American Jew’s sense of Jewish identity and in the evolution of the American Jew’s definition of Jewishness. He was the leading spokesman of Jewish rejuvenation and creative survival in America for half a century, beginning his work in the 1920s when first-generation American Jews scrambled to divorce themselves from their immigrant forbears. Yet in large measure because of his own contributions, he lived to witness the dawn of an American Jewish intellectual and cultural renaissance, both academic...

    • CHAPTER 11 Charles Reznikoff
      (pp. 247-267)
      Milton Hindus

      When it comes to literary recognition, it might be said that the first hundred years are always the hardest. I mean, of course, true and lasting recognition, not an ephemeral simulacrum of it, which may be produced by mere publicity or even occasionally by the enthusiasm of a whole generation. We continually witness the sort of newspaper fame which goes up like a rocket and comes down like a stick. And if we live long enough, we see fashions that are more lasting but also fade and perish. Then there is the kind of recognition that may be very slow...

    • CHAPTER 12 A. M. Klein: The Intellectual As a True Ohev Israel
      (pp. 268-288)
      Rachel Feldhay Brenner

      An examination of A. M. Klein’s stature as a Canadian and Zionist intellectual against the coterie of the New York Jewish Intellectuals reveals the irony of inverse symmetry. Despite their two-decades-long conscious endeavours to discard their Jewishness, the New York Intellectuals of the 1930s and the 1940s owe their name and distinctness, as a group, to their Jewish origins. Years later, in the sixties, Irving Howe, an eminent member of the New York group, reached the conclusion that “the main literary contribution of the New York milieu has been to legitimate a subject and tone we mustuneasilycall American...

  8. PART THREE Spiritual Leaders
    • CHAPTER 13 Mordecai M. Kaplan
      (pp. 291-312)
      Jack J. Cohen

      In a life that spanned over a century (1881–1983), Mordecai M. Kaplan frequently anticipated the decades to come. His mind was always on the future, but he never lost sight of the fact that the future is hewn out of the past and present. Consequently, his thought paid careful attention to the demands of history and to the possibilities and dangers that inhere in the decisions of today.

      Kaplan’s perspective on time enabled him to avoid much of the surrender to intellectual faddism that characterizes less careful thinkers. He was, of course, no less a product of his time...

    • CHAPTER 14 Milton Steinberg
      (pp. 313-352)
      Simon Noveck

      Among the rabbis who preached in American synagogues and were active in Jewish organizational life during the 1930s and 1940s, none was more gifted intellectually than Milton Steinberg. His brilliant sermons were based not only on Bible and Midrash but on philosophical and literary sources. The lucidity of his thinking and his skill in putting his thoughts into systematic discourse, his historical novelAs a Driven Leaf, which made such a profound impact on numerous readers, his series of popular books on Jewish survival, on contemporary Jewish problems, and on basic Judaism, his polemical articles on Zionism, Conservative Judaism, and...

    • CHAPTER 15 Will Herberg
      (pp. 353-366)
      David Dalin

      When Will Herberg died in March of 1977, American Judaism lost one of its most provocative religious thinkers of the post–World War II generation. Like Herman Cohen and Franz Rosenzweig before him, Herberg came to Judaism from the outside. A Marxist and atheist through much of his young adulthood who had received no education or religious training in his youth, Herberg turned to the study of Judaism only after his romance with Marxism ended. A prolific and influential Jewish theologian and sociologist of religion, beginning in the late 1940s his spiritual journey from Marxism to Judaism was unique in...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 367-370)
  10. Index
    (pp. 371-382)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 383-383)