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ON THE MARGIN: Irving Howe Reconsidered

ON THE MARGIN: Irving Howe Reconsidered S y m p o s i u m : D e v a l u e d C u r r e n c y, P a r t 2 ON THE MARGIN Irving Howe Reconsidered William M. Chace When, shortly before his death in 1993, Irving Howe looked back on the achievement of his World of Our Fathers (1976), a magisterial history of the Eastern European Jews who had immigrated to the United States, his tone was elegiac. The book, he said, had been a “time to say goodbye.” He did not believe that the exhaustive research supporting the book revealed anything like a triumph of Jewishness or Judaism in the United States. The time about which he had written was, he noted, gone. Replacing it was now the long process of Jewish assimilation, one in which socialism and insurgent union struggles had given way to career professionalism and Jewish piety, and devout religious practice had ended up as marital assimilation and charitable giving to Israel. Yiddish, the language that had sustained immigrant Jews from European shtetl to New York tenement, survived only in bits and pieces — as taglines and fraternal talismans. While Howe’s labors http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Common Knowledge Duke University Press

ON THE MARGIN: Irving Howe Reconsidered

Common Knowledge , Volume 14 (2) – Apr 1, 2008

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
© 2008 by Duke University Press
ISSN
0961-754X
eISSN
0961-754X
DOI
10.1215/0961754X-2007-073
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

S y m p o s i u m : D e v a l u e d C u r r e n c y, P a r t 2 ON THE MARGIN Irving Howe Reconsidered William M. Chace When, shortly before his death in 1993, Irving Howe looked back on the achievement of his World of Our Fathers (1976), a magisterial history of the Eastern European Jews who had immigrated to the United States, his tone was elegiac. The book, he said, had been a “time to say goodbye.” He did not believe that the exhaustive research supporting the book revealed anything like a triumph of Jewishness or Judaism in the United States. The time about which he had written was, he noted, gone. Replacing it was now the long process of Jewish assimilation, one in which socialism and insurgent union struggles had given way to career professionalism and Jewish piety, and devout religious practice had ended up as marital assimilation and charitable giving to Israel. Yiddish, the language that had sustained immigrant Jews from European shtetl to New York tenement, survived only in bits and pieces — as taglines and fraternal talismans. While Howe’s labors

Journal

Common KnowledgeDuke University Press

Published: Apr 1, 2008

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