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JEWS IN THE AMERICAN ACADEMY, 1900-1940 by Susanne Klingenstein


The Dynamics of Intellectual Assimilation

by Susanne Klingenstein

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 1991
ISBN: 0-300-04941-2
Publisher: Yale Univ.

 An absorbing study of American Jews who first broke the ``color line'' at the humanities faculties of Ivy League colleges. The Jewish Jackie Robinsons of this ``league'' were foreigners hired at Harvard for their linguistic abilities. They included men like Judah Monis (1683-1764), who was appointed instructor of Hebrew (then celebrated as the ``Mother Tongue'') suspiciously close to his conversion to Christianity, and the talented polyglot Leo Wiener (1862-1939), a Russian agnostic. Klingenstein is herself a foreign-born instructor at Harvard (and this book was her doctoral dissertation at the Univ. of Heidelberg), but her command of Jewish thought and learning seems vastly superior to that of any of her subjects here. Her insightful preface on Jewish concepts of freedom would likely sound unfamiliar to C.C.N.Y. philosophy professors Horace Kallen and Morris Cohen, and to Columbia men-of- letters like Ludwig Lewisohn and Lionel Trilling. According to Klingenstein, Lewisohn was less self-hating than other Jewish academics of his generation, but he clearly stated that he was only Jewish by ``name and physiognomy.'' Where Klingenstein cannot offer an authentic clash of cultures, her subjects engage in spirited debates, such as the ``Zionism is tribalism'' issue. Well written and researched--though more about socioeconomic than intellectual Jewish gains. (Twelve illustrations--not seen.)