Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Clearing the air.

It was supposed to flurry here today, but it hasn't and it won't. I'm ready for snow, so I'm hoping Mother Nature will take the time to dust off those snow shoes and bring it on. Last night I went by Borders, despite my knowing that I have several books that I have yet to pick up that are gathering dust on my shelves at home, to browse. I was immediately caught by Bernice Eisenstein's "I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors," which happens to not only be a textual work, but also an illustrated work. It isn't quite on par with Maus I and II by Art Spiegelman in the abundance of artistry, but it's appropriate and almost whimsical in its form. So far it is a very quick read, and I'm finding it hard to put down. I also picked up "Jewish Life in the Middle Ages," because there just aren't enough Medieval scholars, by golly. That is, I'm trying to narrow my focus a little. Will that make me more marketable?

On a separate, albeit more pressing, note, I'd like to say a little more about my poorly planned out and perhaps not very eloquently written blurb about Emma Lazarus. I'll note that I have my reasons for doing this, but I thought I'd just go ahead and get out with it here, since this is my outlet for academic and Jewish rantings.

I'd gone off about Esther Schor's new book "Emma Lazarus" and the blurb about it in Reform Judaism's new issue. My reasons for this are that I spent some time studying Lazarus in my undergrad for one of my classes (I forget which), and I'd been mildly appalled at the makings of one of Judaism's great writers of the modern period. I wrote a 10-page paper (ooo, big doins there, folks), pulling from two books: Dan Vogel’s “Emma Lazarus” and Bette Roth Young’s “Emma Lazarus in her world: Life and Letters," as well as historical organization web sites and the like. My ultimate conclusion from my research was that Emma Lazarus identified as a Jew, of course, but only insomuch as that it was a race of people who it was necessary to assimilate to American life, culture and identity. Lazarus had MANY, we're talking many, works with Jewish themes -- no argument there. When her uncle died, she even wrote an elegy that alluded to the call of the Shofar and Rosh HaShanah. But there were peculiarities about her identity. It was as though Judaism was meant for books, not for practice, and most definitely not for the shtetl lifestyle. She sought a return for Jews to Israel, but only for those Jews not living in the U.S. I think that Lazarus was affected more by her class, perhaps, than being an assimilated Jew. She viewed the Jewish immigrants of the Pogroms as ill suited for American life (thus her approval of Zionism for those not in America).

But these are all *my* thoughts. These are my conclusions from the research I did. I'm not saying that Lazarus didn't identify as a Jew, but that her identification was with a nonexistent form of the "Jew." I'm not exactly sure what her idea of a Jew was, to be honest.

If you're interested in reading the 10-page paper, let me know and I'll ship it along to you. I'd post it freely on the web, but I don't want a snot-nosed freshman ripping off my magic :)