Judaism isn't going to disappear, but the "nice, white, Protestant, American Jew" will be increasingly evident, his life progressively "less difficult, and far less exciting," Harold Weisberg, Dean of the Brandeis Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, said last night.
In a discussion of American Jewish orientation with Oscar Handlin, Winthrop Professor of History, Weisberg pointed out that contemporary Jews cannot find an identity in historic reference.
Reviving the "folk people" of European Judaism as a basis for identification is not a "live option for most American Jews," Weisberg continued. "This is comparable to solving Harvard Square's traffic problems by going back to horse and buggy," he said.
Where distinctive cultural differences like Jewish food or dress are preserved, they are no longer regarded by Jews as divine commandments, but more often as "simple, picturesque ritual," Handlin commented. However, the Jew's changing identity has not been accompanied by actual conversion or less affiliation but instead a different interpretation of his Jewishness, he said.
Cites 'Edifice Complex'
The Jew's identity is no longer circumscribed as it was in previous generations, Handlin said. "Everybody must belong to something, a church or synagogue, but each man can essentially write his own ticket," he stated.
"The edifice complex" is another manifestation of the Jew's changing identity, Weisberg said. He referred to the partially imposed ghetto created by such institutions as the Jewish center, club, pool, golf course, and hospital.
Preceding the discussion, Alan H. Silver '64, regional president of the Student Zionist Organization, presented the findings of the questionnaire about Harvard students' attitudes toward their Judaism.
Silver noted that a majority of the 500 respondants felt that college had either not affected their Jewishness, or bad increased it. Many expressed a disinclination to express their Jewishness in theological terms, but did not feel that they had the proper educational background to substitute another context for identification.