Confessions of a Secular Jew

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9780765805997: Confessions of a Secular Jew
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What it means to be a Jew lies at the very heart of Confessions of a Secular Jew, a provocative memoir and a thoughtful speculation on the nature of Jewish identity and experience in an increasingly secular world.

The legacy bequeathed to Eugene Goodheart was a "progressive" secular Yiddish education which identified Jewish struggles against oppression with working class struggles against exploitation. In the vanguard was the Soviet Union. Goodheart's heroes were Moses, Bar Kochbah, Judah Maccabee, Karl Marx and that strange honorary Jew, Joseph Stalin, whose anti-Semitism would later become known to the world. Confessions of a Secular Jew is the story of Goodheart's disillusionment with the naive, even false, progressivism of that education. At the same time, it is an attempt to rescue and come to grips with the positive remains of that education and heritage.

In the introduction to the new Transaction edition of his memoir, Goodheart addresses the themes of social justice, Zionism, chosenness, messianism, and alienation from a secular Jewish perspective. The memoir takes the reader from Goodheart's coming of age in Brooklyn to his higher education at Columbia College in the early fifties and beyond to his varied career as university teacher and literary critic. The memoir provides memorable characterizations of writers whom he knew, among them Lionel Trilling (his teacher), Saul Bellow, Richard Wright (whom he met in Paris), Hannah Arendt, and Philip Rahv.

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About the Author:

Eugene Goodheart is Edytha Macy Gross Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Brandeis University. His books include Mostly Grave Thoughts and Holding the Center.



Eugene Goodheart is Edytha Macy Gross Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Brandeis University. His books include Mostly Grave Thoughts and Holding the Center.

From Publishers Weekly:

"Being Jewish for me is at once a given and a question," declares Goodheart (Pieces of Resistance, The Reign of Ideology), a nonbeliever who was immersed in Yiddish culture as a child of East European immigrants in Brooklyn. His well-wrought memoirmore meditative than confessionalevokes generational touchstones: a boyhood in a Yiddish synagogue committed not to God but to communism; studies at Columbia University under the influence of outsider Jew Lionel Trilling; acquaintance with Saul Bellow and Hannah Arendt. As an academic, Goodheart, a self-described liberal who inherited his father's aversion to fanaticism, finds himself resisting 1960s radicalism as well as conservatives like Boston University president John Silber. He takes pride in being described as a "humanist"finding the term "an intellectual vaccine against dogmatisms"though he prefers the modifier "unfashionable" to the pejorative "old-fashioned." Some of these interconnected essays may seem slightly out of placea chapter on his aged mother is more personal in tone than most of the bookyet they also echo the book's themes. Goodheart acknowledges his shame in not condemning casual anti-Semitism, observing that a questioning Jew like himself no longer exhibits instinctive responses. But just as Goodheart finds his place teaching humanities at Brandeisthe only secular Jewish university in the countryin this lively and accessible book he has admirably displayed the diaspora Jew's "anxious activity of... mind."

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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