Certain Jewish type has a tough time
This article by scholar of American Jewish history Jenna Weissman Joselit shows why the rabbi was a goner. Brought from Europe to America in 1888 by New York Jews who wanted the rabbi to set things right, he immediately disappointed his Americanized sponsors. The old-world rabbi was more thinker than “wheeler-dealer,” writes Joselit.
That’s the kiss of death that’s still alive today.
Any article with the word “Failing” in the title is sure to make me think of Krim’s “For My Brothers and Sisters in the Failure Business,” but the topic is much bigger than Krim. Besides, at first glance Krim and the rabbi have nothing in common. The former had too little American in him. Krim claims he had too much. But they shared one key trait: they lacked the instinct for spotting practical advantages, a mind formed by business considerations.
Saul Bellow’s Ijah Brodsky in “Cousins” is the same way. “Ijah was not cut out for a team player, lacked the instincts of a go-getter.”
But the lines below are the ones that get to the heart of Rabbi Joseph’s problem, and Krim’s, and Bellow’s characters,
“Ijah was not passive. Ijah did have a life plan. But this plan was incomprehensible to his contemporaries. In fact, he didn’t appear to have any contemporaries. He had contacts with the living. Not quite the same thing.”
Rabbi Joseph, once arrived in America, had no contemporaries, just contacts with the living. And when Krim wrote in “Mario Puzo and Me” that he was a “deeper hermit than Mario will ever know,” he was writing as a person without contemporaries.
And that closes this meeting of the No Contemporaries Club.