From February through July of 1950, the Jewish Frontier published a series of thematically related essays by writer and academic Ludwig Lewisohn (1882-1955) under the heading “Reflections on the Jewish Situation”. As mentioned in the July issue, the collection of essays was intended for inclusion in Lewisohn’s then forthcoming book, “The American Jew: Character and Destiny”, which was to be published in November of that year by Farrar, Strauss & Co.
Each essay approaches and addresses a specific aspect of the then historical condition of the Jewish people, particularly in light of the two central events of the just-ended decade: The shoah, and, the re-establishment – after a hiatus of approximately eighteen hundred years – of a – of the – Jewish nation-state of Israel, as an autonomous political and geographic entity.
In the context of a life denoted by marked (if not wild?!) and creative transitions in terms of self-identity, romantic relationships, literary expression, and career paths, Lewisohn’s series of articles might – in a psychological sense – be construed as a reflection on and recapitulation of the events of his own life, projected onto a wider historical, if not civilizational, canvas. Regardless, the intellectual and psychological “origins” of these essays do not diminish the validity of their analyses, observations, and conclusions, many of which remain strikingly relevant in 2017.
Though Lewisohn seemed to have passed into relative obscurity after his passing in 1955, his writings and thoughts about the “situation” of the Jews retain relevancy, despite the passage of time. The reason being, that while the world has changed; has always changed; will ever change – the “place” of the Jews in the world – a “place” neither bounded nor explained through a purely materialistic interpretation of reality – has not changed.
Because by definition and nature, it cannot change.
Each post in this series of blog posts comprises a verbatim transcript of a specific essay by Lewisohn, and for your convenience, includes a PDF version of the same document.
Information about Lewisohn’s life and work is readily; widely; easily available both in print and digital formats. For example, a search of Archive.org lists some 131 items to which Lewisohn was either a contributor or (less frequently) primary author. More importantly, Dr. Ralph Melnick, of the Judaic Studies Department at the University of Massachusetts, has chronicled Lewisohn’s life in two monographs under the major title “The Life and Work of Ludwig Lewisohn”. Published in 1998 by the Wayne State University Press, they are:
A Touch of Wilderness (covers 1882 through 1934)
ISBN 0814326927 9780814326923
This Dark and Desperate Age (covers Lewisohn’s life from 1934 through 1955)
I also highly recommend these essays about Lewisohn’s most interesting life and times:
Lambert, Josh, Comeback Kid, Tablet, November 3, 2008
Myers, D.G., Retrieving American-Jewish Fiction, Jewish Ideas Daily, September 2, 2011,
And of course, the Wikipedia page for Lewisohn…
Notable Books by Ludwig Lewisohn
The Island Within (1928)
Up Stream (1922)
The Creative Life (1924)
The Case of Mr. Crump (1926)
Expression in America (1931)
The Last Days of Shylock (1931) (Illustrated by Arthur Szyk)
Trumpet of Jubilee (1937)
The Broken Snare (1908)
A Night in Alexandria (1909)
German Style, An Introduction to the Study of German Prose (1910)
The Modern Drama (New York, 1914)
Rebirth, A Book of Modern Jewish Thought (New York, 1935)
Breathe Upon These (1944)