Judaism and Memories


Judaisms and Memories:

Systemic Representations of the Holocaust

by Tzvee Zahavy

                                                                                                                                               

 "In every generation they rise against us to exterminate us." -- the Passover Haggadah

For the historian of Judaism the Holocaust was not a "unique event" and should not be subjected now to a special brand of critical analysis. The multiple and complex events and representations of the Holocaust or Shoah, from this academic standpoint, ought to be studied and understood within the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences just as any other analogous set of data out of the Jewish historical experience.

That is so because, unfortunately, from the perspective of the study of the Jews, the demented and massive persecutions and killings of the Holocaust era were not singular severe ruptures of history. Jewish history teaches to the contrary. For millennia, institutionalized oppression in the form of anti-semitism has been a conspicuous fact of the Jew's struggle for existence. Indeed, its ostensible absence or decrease in one or another setting, such as the present context in America, marks a conspicuously atypical era of Jewish life. Given the lessons of history, that historians of the Jews and of Judaism may fittingly resist objectivizing or theorizing one epoch of destruction as a unique event.

Self-constrained by such suppositions, the consequences of the Holocaust for Jewish studies as a proper subset of the liberal arts are still quantitatively substantial if not qualitatively remarkable. The disciplines have to come to grips with the immense body of historical data preserved in our recent past with a high level of technological thoroughness. These diverse data are material, statistical, documentary, literary, poetic, artistic and in other modes.

The contributions to this volume share the conviction that the Holocaust as an epoch and a set of issues for contemplation ought to be subjected to more extensive and rigorous criticism. The Holocaust and its representations have to be dealt with and explained by serious Humanists concerned with understanding the philosophical traditions of Western Culture since the Enlightenment and especially by critics involved in the analysis of modes of symbolic representations of the human experience in the West.

Within Jewish Studies then, to interpret conscientiously that history and each of the multiple forms of narrative and representation of the survivor and successor generations responding to the events of the Holocaust, we ought to use the active discourses of its various types of disciplinary inquiry.

1) Disciplinary basis: vertical literary studies

When the interpretation of the Holocaust and its representations is carried out according to the accepted standards of academic interpretation in our fields, such as that of religious studies in general, and the history of Judaism in particular, we posit that literary representations that pertain to experiences in the context of a religious tradition and its social manifestations cannot be pulled out and thrown together with other data for an indistinct form of universal analysis. They must be understood as components within a "Judaism," a coherent cultural system.

It appears conventional to maintain that literary representations and ritual articulations pertaining to a Judaism are comprehended best when interpreted in relation to the religion of the Jews as it developed through history. So, for example, Alan Mintz's, Hurban: Responses to Catastrophe in Hebrew Literature,[1] presents for us studies of classical Hebrew and modern Israeli literary representations of the Holocaust and other catastrophes in Jewish history.  Mintz utilizes a vertical cultural approach based on his examination of Judaic precedents over a span of more than two thousand years.

David Roskies, in a complementary study, Against the Apocalypse: Responses to Catastrophe in Modern Jewish Culture,[2] presents and interprets Yiddish literary expressions of the dritten Hurban, the third destruction, the Holocaust, against the backdrop of the Shtetl, the Ghetto and, as in the previous instance, in the context of selected vertical sections of the classical modes of Judaic discourse of over two millennia.

Both of these representative inquiries accept as their suppositions that when we examine literary representations it is essential to specify whose past, which subset of human memory, whose special narratives, we treat. They posit implicitly that generalized statements about "memory" lack vitality, and that the less exact we make our parameters of cultural inquiry, the less precision do we achieve in our conclusions.

These two studies are based on a vertical model of literary analysis, and thereby firmly anchored in a widely accepted methods of the disciplines of Judaic Studies. But the age of sentimental a-cultural criticism has not yet passed. A recent book by James Young[3] uses weaker forms of vague universalism in its attempt at critical analysis and represents a brand of assailable and perhaps methodologically capricious inquiry. He examines representations of the Holocaust by removing them from a discourse-specific investigation. As he openly declares, "Historical memory and ritual commemoration are nothing if not a refiguring of present lives in light of a remembered past."  "Jewish memory and tradition," he says, "depend explicitly on the capacity of figurative language to remember the past."[4] An historian of Judaism might object and demand to know, as I have suggested: Whose history? What view of ritual? What mode of language?[5]

Young studies the literary representation of the Holocaust, as a new, independent and isolated phenomenon, "How historical memory, understanding and meaning are constructed in Holocaust narrative (p. vii)." In this latter artificial category he ventures to encompass discourses out of a multiplicity of contexts that had spawned such accounts. But his chaotic account intermixes numerous genres and data, from a broad and diverse span of time and space, from the Holocaust era itself, to the present, from the setting of Europe, to our North American continent. He much too quickly glosses over the particulars of the linguistic, cultural, religious or artistic systems of their origins.

To be fair, Young cautioned that we constrain those aspects of deconstruction and semeiotic analysis that divert attention from historical realities and that we recognize the inter-penetration of history into literature (p. 3). But stating the premise does not exempt Mr. Young from accounting for whose history and whose literature. Young does refer to a "perspective ridden" analytical framework (p. 5) just making a connotative allusion to concerns that might need to be explored. However, he tries to survey too broad a landscape and his aerial view eloquently misses the point of cultural specificity.

Confining one's criticism to a single context does not guarantee methodological sophistication or success. Looking at Holocaust literature specifically within Judaic culture, Mintz and Roskies covered far less territory and achieved greater sophistication and rigor. Yet they still managed to conceive of an artificially broad setting for their investigations because they glossed over the details of systemic development within Judaism. Proper method is essential to correct analysis.

2) The need for a systemic analysis

A systemic analysis is the study of the representations of a religion based on the premise that religions, like culture in general develop not along a simple linear progression, but as a series of separate, sometimes overlapping, systems. The theory of the applied systemic analysis of a religion was recently articulated and developed by Jacob Neusner in his studies of the history of Judaism.

Neusner uses a systemic approach for the interpretation of official Judaic legal and hermeneutical texts and narrative.  He deals mainly with the literary criticism of texts of late antique Judaism within their proper systemic framework. In this view, to engage in the construction of the broader history of Judaism, one must consider independently each Judaic system and its data considering its metaphoric social personification, its "Israel."[6] "Given the diversity of Judaisms past and present," Neusner says,

we cannot find it astonishing that the name for the social entity constituted by Jews, the name "Israel," has carried a variety of meanings, and . . . each of these served not as concrete description of real people living in the here and now, a merely factual statement of how things are, but as a metaphor. The metaphor might take genealogical or political or supernatural or taxonomical and hierarchical or ontological or epistemological character, as systems varied (p. 39).

The vitality of Neusner's inquiry rests in its insistence on placing primacy for description on the social group. "A Judaic system derives from and focuses upon a social entity, a group of Jews who (in their minds at least) constitute not an Israel but Israel (p. 13)." A strength of the approach is the clarity of the definition of a system: a "Judaism" articulates a distinct world-view and a well-defined way of life for its society. "I understand by a religious system three things that are one," Neusner says:

[1] a world-view, which by reference to the intersection of the supernatural and the natural worlds accounts for how things are and puts them together into a cogent and harmonious picture;

[2] a way of life, which expresses in concrete actions the world-view and which is explained by that world-view;

[3] and a social group, for which the world-view accounts, which is defined in concrete terms by the way of life, and therefore which gives expression in the everyday world to the world-view and is defined as an entity by that way of life.

In further defining his concepts, he adds:

A religious system is one that appeals to God as the principal power, and a Judaic system is a religious system that identifies the Hebrew Scriptures or "Old Testament" as a principal component of its canon. A Judaism, then, comprises not merely a theory -- a book -- distinct from social reality but an explanation for the group (again: Israel) that gives social form to the system and an account of the distinctive way of life of that group. A Judaism is not a book, and no social group took shape because people read a book and agreed that God had revealed what the book said they should do.

The recovery of the details of systemopoesis, the making of Judaic systems, constitutes one important element of the task of the historian of Judaism in tracing the development of the religion.

Systemic analysis studies religions as ecological systems, ordered and closed cultural entities. Neusner's systemic view originates in large part in Geertz's definition of religion as a cultural system,[7] and derives in the main without question from the classical Weberian vision of social structures.

Systemic analysis rests on two premises:

[1] No religious system recapitulates any other.

[2] All religious systems within a given social and political setting recapitulate the same resentments.[8]

Neusner ultimately aims to compare systems one to another. This enterprise requires, he says, study of the setting, the literary and material evidence of the system and, "the consequent system and its definition of urgent questions and self-evidently true answers." Because each system stands ecologically distinct from another we can ask about the particular "resentment" confronting the vision of a certain group and how it, through the representations of its system, "responded to that inescapable question."[9]

It seems counter-intuitive that in order to reconstruct the history of Judaism of a distant age through the investigation of far fewer and less eclectic writings of late antique Hebrew and Aramaic texts, scholars, like Neusner, utilize an apparently more complex agenda, than others employ to study critically the near contemporary and current representations of the Holocaust of the past generation.

It is quite obviously fruitful to bring the methodols of the history of religions into conversation with literary critical, philosophical modes of thought. By insisting on greater heuristic sophistication we may dissuade contemporary critics from throwing together the data of many diverse Judaisms and their respective representations when they speak of religious categories and employ its metaphors.[10]

3) Multiple Judaisms and discursive spheres

Historians of Judaism, following the prevailing systemic paradigm of analysis, work with a multiplicity of Judaisms. The classical Judaism of the dual Torah, rabbinic Judaism, took shape after a catastrophe in 70 C.E., the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and loss of independence to the Roman Empire. It persists in one or another configuration through the middle ages to the present day where spokesmen claim it is approximated as one or another form of contemporary Orthodoxy or Conservative Judaism.

Jews in Nineteenth century Europe formulated several new Judaisms. Dominant among these were utopian and messianic movements leading to Reform and Zionism, and other forces giving rise to Conservative Judaism and Yiddishism. They also participated in and helped shape a variety European secular cultural alternatives, like socialism, anarchism and communism, all movements conceived of and articulated in significant measure by Jews.

Undoubtedly, as the Holocaust ruptured the whole fabric of European Jewish life, representations of its events emerged within each Judaism of the time. Accordingly, one may argue, only within each system can they in turn be fully understood.

The various systems we call Judaisms employ a multiplicity of modes of thought and expression, or as some might prefer, of discourses and discursive practices. Some may argue that the Holocaust engendered its own realm of discourse. This supposition gives rise to a crucial set of questions. How can literary critics defend the notion of representations that wholly transcend social context and systemic origins? How can they be implying that we can discover a form of human articulation transcending social roots? How can we justify employing a procedure devoid of systemic social specificity to assess critically the texts of the Holocaust?

To frame this in post-modern terms consider that society presents us with various forms of discourse and discursive practices that continuously overlap. Our modern world produces fragments of discourse as well. Some posit that the heritage of the enlightenment is just another discourse, following Lyotard[11] and that its aftermath releases politics from the bonds of cultural systems, from the vessels that contain and separate them. Such a claim may prove more tenable in the future. For now those bonds remain.

If one is to argue that legitimation ensues through encoding of discourse, then the alleged image of Nazis with a book -- Kant's Critique --protruding from their pockets, while they kill babies, encapsulates the philosophical challenge of events to reason and its discursive expression.[12]

Further, if the Holocaust has broken the vessels of religion, culture and discourse, can the historians and sociologists of the Holocaust be comfortable with the notion of a single Holocaust? Is not the adoption of the term more than a mere convenience of reference but an act of transforming events both complex and historical into symbols both simple and philosophical?

Such questions raise major philosophical roadblocks for those who insist on a Holocaust-specific model of discursive representation. We ought to better approach the data for critical study through the concept of multiple modern Judaisms and examine their respective representations of the Holocaust.

4) Multiple discursive representations of the Holocaust

The second half of the twentieth century has witnessed the renewed development of systems of Judaisms, as I have said. Among them we find: an American communal Judaism, a state-sponsored Zionist Judaism in Israel, popular counter-cultural Judaic expressions in America (ostensibly non-systemic), and serious modifications of the synagogue-connected official Judaisms of Conservative, Reform and Orthodox Jews.

Accordingly, within the wide range of possibilities of how the Holocaust (whatever that category may include) becomes embedded in the memories of several systems, we consider two sharp contrasts:

• the Holocaust as represented within two ranges of North American discourse: the coherent communal American Judaic civil system and, by contrast, popular non-systemic (counterculture) American folk and literary representations.

• the Holocaust as represented in ordinarily disjoint discursive systems: as represented in official state-sponsored Zionism in Israel compared with one of its embodiments in the Conservative Judaism of the American synagogue.

5) The Holocaust in the Discourse of the Organized American Jewish Community

North American Jews have created two systemic worlds of Judaic expression. The Judaism of the synagogue and home is expressed in the officially stated beliefs and practices of the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements. A second "Judaism" takes its shape within the realm of the civic, mainly secular, public life of the community. Neusner calls this official communal system in America, "the Judaism of Holocaust and Redemption, with its interest in the destruction of European Jewry as paradigm of evil, then the creation of the State of Israel, as compensation renewal after the ultimate catastrophe (p. 119)."

American Jews form, "a shared corporate experience of polity (p. 120)," and thus constitute a differentiated social unit, an "Israel." Their interests are expressed by such bureaucratic structures as Federations for Jewish Service, fund-raising groups with a self-interest in actively propounding an ideology of distinctiveness. Organizations like those preach the public doctrines of the Judaism of Holocaust and Redemption. Though some argue the motivation is manipulative, the result nevertheless is substantive and the system has taken definitive form.

Neusner expands on the meanings imputed to the murder of the six million and the creation of the State of Israel:

The world-view of the Judaism of Holocaust and Redemption stresses the unique character of the murders of European Jews, the providential and redemptive meaning of the creation of the State of Israel. The way of life of the Judaism of Holocaust and Redemption requires active work in raising money and political support for the State of Israel (p. 122).

He is openly critical of the value of this systemic expression and, characteristically, does not hesitate to spell out his view. This Judaism, "offers as a world of nightmares made of words." He goes on:

First, the message of Holocaust and Redemption is that difference is not destiny but disaster -- if one trusts the gentiles. Second, the media of Holocaust and Redemption leaves the life of the individual and family untouched and unchanged . . . [It] turns on its head the wise policy of the reformers and enlightened of the early nineteenth century: a Jew at home, a citizen out there. Now it is an undifferentiated American at home, a Jew in public policy (p. 128).

Lapsing theological, he concludes that the enduring Judaism of the dual Torah has the power to transform the inner life of the Jew, this other Judaism does not. Thus one historian of Judaism has rendered his analytic judgment and, in addition, expressed his personal preference.

6) The Holocaust in the Discourse of Popular American Jewish Culture

The role of the Holocaust in the civil discourse of American Jews comes more sharply into focus through critiques in contemporary imaginative fiction. It plays an important role in popular Judaic non-systemic (counterculture) folk representations. Consider the blunt example of the writings and experiences of Philip Roth.[13]

Roth in The Facts: A Novelist's Autobiography[14] recounts an anecdote that he calls his "excommunication" at a Yeshiva University symposium on fiction he participated in New York in 1962. At this "trial" he tells us he was grilled mercilessly by a moderator and audience who began after him with the question: "Mr. Roth, would you write the same stories you've written if you were living in Nazi Germany?" As framed, the query was merely a cloak for a dagger aimed at the heart of Roth's literary expressions. The questioner transparently meant, "Are you not a self-hating Jew?" Roth was so shaken by the attack, he could not respond at the time. Instead, he says, he has given his answer many times over in the fiction he has published, in his discourse, since that incident.

Of course, Roth could have answered easily and obviously. He was a product of Jewish cultural processes over several generations in an American democracy. He wrote for an American non-racist audience. He was nurtured on the great achievements of English literature. Jews within German society had no such nurture and faced an openly hostile racist culture. Roth could only have written his oeuvre for us. We read him, understand him, despise him or laugh with him and respond to his characters and caricatures.

Through his fiction he challenges the basic discursive truths of Judaic life and, in my view, allows us to better judge their cultural value and purpose. Roth's recent parody of Holocaust memory within American Judaism and the Zionist setting was also one of his most radical. In The Counterlife he developed the following.

The book's protagonist Nathan Zuckerman finds himself on a jet flight from Israel sitting next to Jimmy Lustig, of the West Orange Lustigs. Jimmy is a psychotic reversioner returning from study in the Diaspora Yeshiva. He plans to hijack the plane to Germany and issue a press release aimed at "regeneration for the Jews,"[15]

                                                                                         FORGET REMEMBERING

I demand of the Israeli Government the immediate closing and dismantling of Yad Vashem, Jerusalem's Museum and Remembrance Hall of the Holocaust. I demand this in the name of the Jewish future. THE JEWISH FUTURE IS NOW. We must put persecution behind us forever. Never must we utter the name "Nazi" again, but instead strike it from our memory forever. No longer are we a people with an agonizing wound and a hideous scar. We have wandered nearly forty years in the wilderness of our great grief. Now is the time to stop paying tribute to that monster's memory with our Halls of Remembrance! Henceforth and forever his name shall cease to be associated with the unscarred and unscarable Land of Israel!

                                                                       ISRAEL NEEDS NO HITLERS FOR THE RIGHT TO

                                                                                                   BE ISRAEL!

                                                                      JEWS NEED NO NAZIS TO BE THE REMARKABLE

                                                                                              JEWISH PEOPLE!

                                                                                    ZIONISM WITHOUT AUSCHWITZ!

                                                                                      JUDAISM WITHOUT VICTIMS!

                                                                                      THE PAST IS PAST! WE LIVE!

In the novel, but a few pages later, Jimmy backs off. The press-release was just an irrepressible, offensive Jewish joke. As Jimmy says, "Come on, you think I'd be crazy enough to f--k around with the Holocaust? I was just curious, that was all. See what you'd do. How it developed. You know. The novelist in me."[16]

Roth's artifice is an inversion of remembrance. He casts the scene in terms of the most visible contemporary context of political violence - airline hijacking. Roth pits recent reversionary forms of Judaism against accepted American communal forms, and against State-sponsored monumental discourse. These fictive memories have undoubtedly been shaped and cultivated under the repression of the corporate personality of the system of civic American Judaism. Roth's characters express as their response a fierce struggle over the acceptance or rejection of the central belief system.[17]

7) The Holocaust in the Discourse of the Zionist State

Zionist representation in the State of Israel postulates that the Holocaust was not a complete rupture of the Jews' cultural context. It posits that in effect Zionism adumbrated the Holocaust, was waiting for it, and knew it was coming. The Holocaust is proof of the validity of the essential Zionist enterprise and in the destined failure of diaspora Judaism.

The official Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, is one main discursive representation of the Holocaust within that secular state-sponsored system. It stands as a testimonial to martyrdom and resistance.[18] Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel, Yom Hashoah, promotes the ideology of the State as it perpetuates the memory of the victims. It does so in public civil ceremonies, decidedly disassociated from the "religious" rituals of Israeli Orthodoxy.

The rituals, shrines and commemorations as "texts," and literary narratives of the Zionist system are comprehensible as components of that state-bound ecology of culture. Those, like Young, who discuss aspects of such representations without accounting for their systemic foundations cannot reach a competent level of interpretation or explanation.

8) The Holocaust in the Ritual Discourse of the American Synagogue

Official synagogue representation of the Holocaust in text or ritual has been rare and just now beginning to become more prevalent. The official Judaisms of the synagogue have for the most part chosen not to deal with the Holocaust. At best, official attitudes towards memorializing its victims in the past have been superficial.

One may contrast this with how synagogue members today frequently associate Judaism solely with the commemoration of death. Alan Mintz explains that this association began in the middle ages as a popular representation of a "cult of the dead" grew up as a subset of Judaic practice:

In the generations immediately following the First Crusade the ceremony of remembering the dead began to be practiced not only in the case of renowned rabbinical martyrs of public persecution but also simply for all who died natural deaths, entirely irrespective of the conditions of persecution. A bereaved son would recite the Kaddish, an Aramaic doxology, for the memory of his recently departed father or mother, in the conviction that such recitation had the power to save the deceased's soul from tortures beyond the grave. The practice gained headway in the thirteenth century and by the fifteenth a new custom emerged: the Yorzeit, the recitation of the Kaddish on the anniversary of the death of a relative. And soon there was further established the Yizkor or Hazkarat neshamot, the Kaddish together with various supplications for the souls of the departed, recited on the Day of Atonement and the last days of the Pilgrimage Festivals. Taken together, this amounts of a kind of cult of the dead that began in medieval Ashkenaz and later spread to all of world Jewry.[19]

Mintz comments further,

The astounding tenacity of this outlook is observable in the simple sociological fact, known to all, that in the process of secularization, and especially in the acculturation of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe to America, the recitation of the mourner's Kaddish with its attendant rites is the very last particle of tradition to be given up.

Recently American Conservative Judaism developed a Kaddish for death camps. Based in part on the last passages of Andre Schwarz-Bart's novel, The Last of the Just,[20] this ritual representation and text is a perfect logical cultural extension of Conservative Judaic systemic values. The rite was originally incorporated into the Martyrology of the 1972, Mahzor for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, of the Rabbinical Assembly. Rabbi Jules Harlow, editor of the Mahzor describes the impetus for the innovation as follows:

The text of the martyrology incorporates Rabbinic narratives about some of the martyred rabbis as well as words from the Psalms and from modern authors, including Bialik, Hillel Bavli, Nelly Sachs, A.M. Klein and Soma Morgenstern. At the conclusion of the narrative recalling martyrs of various times, we wanted to articulate the tension between faith on the one hand and, on the other, the questioning doubt which arises out of our confrontation with even the recollection of the murder of those Jews. And we did not want to articulate that tension in an essay or in a footnote .  .  . We chose the statement of faith par excellence in Jewish tradition, the Mourner's Kaddish. After the death of a family member, when a Jew has perhaps the strongest reasons to question God, he or she is obliged to stand in public to utter words in praise of God.

Harlow explains the motives of the liturgy:

We interrupt these words, this statement of faith, with the names of places where Jews were slaughtered, places which therefore cause us to raise questions, to have doubts. The tension is resolved, liturgically, by the last four lines, whose words are uninterrupted by the names which give rise to questioning, thus concluding in a framework of faith.[21]

The original Aramaic text alternates with a register of sites of extermination in the new liturgy:[22]

We rise

Yitgadal

Auschwitz

ve'yitkadash

Lodz

Sh'mei raba

Ponar

b'alma di v'ra khir'utei,

Babi Yar

v'yamlikh malkhutei

Maidanek

b'hayeikhon u-v'yomeikhon

Birkenau

u-v'hayei d'khol beit yisrael,

Kovno

ba-agala u-vi-z'man kariv,

Janowska

v'imru amen.

Y'hei sh'mei raba m'vorakh l'alam u-l'almei almaya.

Yitbarakh v'yishtabah

Theresienstadt

v'yitpa'ar v'yitromam

Buchenwald

v'yitnasei v'yit-hadar

Treblinka

v'yit'aleh v'yit-halal

Vilna

sh'mei d'kudsha,

Bergen-Belsen

brikh hu l'ela

Mauthausen

min kol birkhata v'shirata,

Dachau

tushb'hata v'nehemata

Minsk

da-amiran b'alma,

Warsaw

v'imru amen.

Y'hei sh'lama raba min sh'maya v'hayim aleinu v'al kol yisrael,

v'imru amen.

Oseh shalom b-m'romav, hu ya'aseh shalom aleinu v'al kol yisrael,

v'imru amen.

The new Kaddish is a text with no narrative. It creates an intrusion into the death-liturgy, thus depicting the disruption of death within the historical reality of the people. It is a violent representation. Names of locations of destruction, in language read from left to right, confront the doxology of praise, in the liturgy recited from right to left.

The new powerful ritual sustains the particularity of violence. Unlike many other forms of ritual, it resolves nothing. The new Kaddish confuses and traumatizes the soothing cadence of the expected traditional prayer. This unconventional form of the prayer breaks the somber beat of the chant of the Kaddish, one of the only sure rhythms and universally recognized prayers of this American Judaic system.

9) Ideology and the Holocaust

The Holocaust finds expression in the discourses of Judaic systemic alternatives according to the needs and expectations of each. For the differing Judaisms, we expect and find divergent memories.

Of these we must ask what is the role of a representation in a particular systemic cultural setting? What is the function of a depiction of a Holocaust in a Judaism? What is the meaning a social metaphor or entity called an "Israel" imputes to an historical or ritual account of a catastrophe, destruction or Holocaust?

Those who claim uniqueness and universality for the Holocaust, who insist on transcending individual cultural perspectives and contexts, perhaps in effect wish to profess an ideological basis for the Humanities, an essential element in an emergent mythic structure of the liberal arts.

What this means must be the subject of self-discovery for the current academic generation much as it was for one lonely poet a generation ago. John Berryman concludes as follows his story, "The Imaginary Jew," where he, an Irishman engaged in a street-corner political debate, was mistaken for a Jew:

In the days following, as my resentment died, I saw that I had not been a victim altogether unjustly. My persecutors were right: I was a Jew. The imaginary Jew I was was as real as the imaginary Jew hunted down, on other nights and days, in a real Jew. Every murderer strikes the mirror, the lash of the torturer falls on the mirror and cuts the real image, and the real and the imaginary blood flow down together.[23]

To this I add my own postscript:

The Poet may represent

the quintessence of the Humanities.

The Holocaust may be

that historical rupture

now symbolic of all that disquiets

the effects of rational discourse.

The Jew then may be

the representation of us all.

Now we must write our own Haggadah,

a hermeneutic of slavery and redemption.

And we must recite our Kaddish,

a representation of memory.

For our kin, the victims we mourn,

for the demise of rationality, philosophy, enlightenment.

And we, by so doing, glorify and sanctify

the life we have been given.



     [1]New York, 1984.

     [2]Cambridge, 1984.

     [3]Writing and Rewriting the Holocaust, Bloomington, Indiana, 1988.

     [4]Young, p. 84.

     [5]When Young resorts to undefined terms, like "tradition," he must expect that, no matter what his intent, he conjures images of Sholom Aleichem's dancing Tevye.

     [6]Jacob Neusner, First Principles of Systemic Analysis: The Case of Judaism Within the History of Religion, Lanham, MD, 1987, pp. 35-36.

     [7]See Clifford Geertz, "Religion as a Cultural System," in Michael Banton, ed., Anthropological Approaches tot he Study of Religion, London, 1966, pp. 1-46 and the references assembled there on pp. 44-46.

     [8]P. 19.

     [9]P. 20.

     [10]Some recent books by Neusner related to the description of systems include, From Description to Conviction: Essays on the History and Theology of Judaism, Atlanta, 1987, The Systemic Analysis of Judaism, Atlanta, 1988, Canon and Connection: Intertextuality in Judaism, Lanham, 1987, Midrash as Literature: The Primacy of Documentary Discourse, Lanham, 1987, Ancient Judaism and Modern Category Formation: "Judaism," "Midrash," "Messianism," and Canon in the Past Quarter-Century, Lanham, 1986.

 

     [11]See Lyotard, La condition postmoderne, Paris, 1979 (The Postmodern Condition, Minneapolis, 1984).

     [12]See A. Rosenberg and G. E. Myers, editors, Echoes from the Holocaust: Philosophical Reflections from a Dark Time, Philadelphia, 1988, p. ix.

     [13]Cf. Young, pp. 109-112, for further discussion of Roth.

     [14]New York, 1988, pp. 127-130.

     [15]Philip Roth, The Counterlife, New York, 1988, pp. 188-9.

     [16]Ibid., p. 193.

     [17]Roth has consistently shown an unwillingness to accept the classical representation in Judaism of the book of Lamentations, historical interpretation based on the notion of desecration. He has little sensitivity for that concept.

     [18]See Young's discussion (pp. 27-28) of two diaries, the one of Anne Frank, secular and assimilated, and the other of a Zionist youth, Moshe Flinker, for a sharp contrast of memories molded by varying systemic forces.

     [19]Mintz, op. cit., pp. 100-101.

     [20]New York, 1960.

     [21]Jules Harlow, personal communication, March 2, 1989. He adds that there are intentionally seventeen places named, signifying that life, represented by the Hebrew Chai, numerically eighteen," can never be complete, can never be the same, after such slaughter." This is not noted in the prayer book.

     [22]I cite the Kaddish of the Siddur Sim Shalom, ed. Jules Harlow, 1985, pp. 841-843. The more extensive Kaddish of the Martyrology of the Day of Atonement is not limited to communities and camps where the Jews were killed during the Second World War. It includes Kishinev, Hebron, Mayence, Usha and Jerusalem, places where Jews were slaughtered in other historical eras.

     [23]John Berryman, "The Imaginary Jew," in Recovery, New York, 1973, p. 252.