JEWS WITHOUT MERCY: A Lament by Earl Shorris

JEWS WITHOUT MERCY: A Lament

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Less a lament than a bitter J'accuse, a scathing indictment of neo-conservative Jews for betraying age-old Jewish traditions of social justice: ""When Jews support policies that oppress the poor and the powerless, like those of the Reagan administration, it is the duty of other Jews to compare those policies to the Law, to lament the loss of their brothers from the timeless circle of Jewish ethics."" The ""brothers"" Shorris has in mind are Norman Podhoretz, Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, Midge Decter, Sidney Hook, Milton Himmelfarb, Mark Falcoff (who attempted to discredit Jacobo Timerman in the pages of Commentary), etc.--along with the people they speak for. But this latter group remains elusive. Shorris knows they're out there--counseling their fellow Jews to abandon blacks and Hispanics, cheering Begin's ruthlessness, voting Republican, and turning their backs on the socialist-labor heritage so richly evoked in World of Our Fathers. Still, compared to the well-published and well-known crowd of Podhoretz et al., they're quasi-anonymous, and Shorris--a prophet, not a sociologist--never clearly explains who they are. On the other hand, he gives us a very pungent sense of who he is: a warm, plucky, vulnerable, irascible character with a rich store of memories. Some of these readily fit into his anti-nco-conservative argument, some don't. When Shorris reminisces about his slumlord grandfather or Big Eddie, the brutal capitalist macher who had the synagogue's board of directors in his pocket, we're watching the evolution of his anger. But when he describes his near-fistfight with an anti-Semitic drunk in Moscow or his revulsion (and guilt for feeling it) from two bumptious, uncouth Hassidic clerks in a mid-Manhattan discount store, the connection to the central theme looks tenuous. There are other problems too--Shorris can be a sloppy historian, claiming, for example, that outraged Jews rather than scornful Christians coined the term marrano--hut the book, despite its messiness, is a powerful personal statement.

Pub Date: May 7th, 1982
Publisher: Doubleday