The Jewish Experienceby Norman F. Cantor
Over 3,00 years of Jewish culture, history and thought are brought to life in Norman F Cantor's The Jewish Experience. Containing selections from more than 100 written texts as well as more than 50 illustrations -- this extraordinary collection includes short stories, essays, novels, biographies, memoirs and other first person accounts. In addition, the book includes Professor Cantor's insightful commentary that puts the selections into context. As such it assembles expressions and descriptions of Jewish feeling and reason, hope and despair, expectation and disappointment and ambition and love throughout history and throughout the world.
Each of the book's ten parts is devoted to a specific theme in Jewish culture and experience: "Living on the Edge", "Growing Up", "Maturing and Dying", "Divine Intoxication", "Victims and Martyrs", "Hoping and Coping", "Women", "Striking Back", "Icons" and "Alternative Intimations".
Here you will find both the familiar and the obscure -- everything from Maimonides on the difference between Judaism and Christianity to Philip Roth on sex and money in Newark, from Franz Kafka on the coming of the messiah to Letty Cotten Pogrebin on the Hollywood image of the American Jewish Woman, and from Primo Levi on Auschwitz to Irving Howe on New York's Lower East Side.
In short, The Jewish Experience is a unique evocation of Jewish voices expressing Jewish concerns, beliefs and ideas from the patriarchs to today.
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Read an Excerpt
Jerome Weidman's I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1937) is the finest novel ever written about the struggling small Jewish businessman who apes his successful Gentile competitor's lifestyles, doesn't quite make it, and lapses into bankruptcy. In the excerpt, the established world rejects the upstart Jewish intruder as wholly as he tries to belong to it. And as much as he identifies externally with this world, he lives intensely according to his own peculiar vision and hopes. He has his own agenda and methods.
"Hello? Hello, McKee?"
"This is Bogen, McKee. Bogen of Apex Modes."
"Oh, yes. How are you, Bogen?"
"Fine. Listen, McKee, what's this I hear about you not wanting to ship us? What is it, a gag?"
"No gag, Bogen. I'm sorry, but it's true."
"Your account has been slow for months, Bogen. And we've checked you way above your credit limit. I'm sorry, Bogen, but we can't send you another yard of goods until we get a check."
"Don't be like that, old man. We've got orders to fill. Send us the goods, and you'll get a check on the tenth. What do you say, McKee?"
"Sorry, Bogen, it's no dice."
"Look here, McKee. You can't do a thing like that to us. Why, we've done over seventy-five thousand dollars worth of business with you during the past year, haven't we? After doing business with you like that, don't tell me you're going to cut us out just because we're slow on one bill, are you, McKee?"
"It's not one bill, Bogen, and you know it. You've been slow with us for months. We've carried you, but we can't do it any longer. Your balance is too big right now, as it is."
"Oh, come, now, McKee. Be a sport, willyou?"
"Sorry, Bogen. With somebody else, maybe we would. But there's no room for fine feelings in the way you do business, Bogen, and you know it."
"Aah, now, McKee, listen. You"
"No go, Bogen. The way you wrote your contract, there's no room for that. You wrote the rules, Bogen, remember that. We're just playing your way, that's all."
"Oh, come on, McKee. Don't tell me you're still holding against me those allowances we took last year. I'll tell you what. I'll send you a check on account right away. I'll put a check for five hundred in the mail right away. What do you say?"
"Sorry, Bogen. That's all you've been giving us for months, just on-account payments. We want a check in full, to clean up your balance immediately, or we don't ship."
"Sorry, Bogen. Not an inch of goods till we get your check."
All of a sudden, while I was holding the phone in my hands, it occurred to me that here I was, begging, actually begging, a thick-headed Irish putz like that to sell me goods. The realization that I was crawling in front of anybody made me so sore, that for a few seconds I couldn't talk straight. But when I spoke, it was in a low, clear voice, so he shouldn't miss a word.
"You know what you can do, McKee?" I said.
"You can go right straight to hell," I said. "I'll get all the goods I want from some other place."
I wanted to say a lot more, but I didn't have time. I had to beat him to the punch. I slammed the receiver down on the hook. Nobody was going to slam receivers down on me.
As I got into the elevator, I had to laugh a little to myself. Not that I was in what you could call a happy frame of mind. But it was a little funny, the way the whole thing was working out, just like in a movie. I'd even gotten to the stage where I was buying her a diamond bracelet!
But that's as far as the similarity went. Because while I'd been willing to let her think I was a rummy and she'd been taking me over, I had my limits, too. The bracelet was the last payment. And as a payment it was going to be strictly C.O.D.
I knew that once I got my mind concentrated on this thing it would begin to work out. I should have done it long before, instead of wasting so much time. Now, if she wanted the bracelet, she knew what she had to do. I'd made that plain. No tickee, no shirtee.
I had to admit, though, that there was a little pleasure in that laugh, too. There was a certain satisfaction in knowing that you could actually afford to go out and buy a diamond bracelet. I liked milestones like that.
But even that little bit of pleasure was knocked out of me when I saw the elevator pass my floor.
"Twenty-nine!" I said sharply.
"Sorry, sir," the operator said, giving me a look out of the corner of his eye. "You have to call your floor, sir."
That was a nice way to start off a morning. You can always count on some eighteen-dollar-a-week punk to put you in a nice cheerful frame of mind. You pay ten thousand dollars a year for a loft, and the elevator operators don't even remember what floor you're on. But when Christmas comes around they're there with the gimme act. Well, wait till Christmas came. I'd get him a gift. A fur-lined jockstrap I'd get him. The little jerk.
"I'll stop on the way down, sir."
"Thanks," I said. "That's goddam nice of you."
I opened the door into the showroom and stopped. Half a dozen credit men were standing around Babushkin, all talking at the same time.
"Well, well, well," I said, grinning at them from the doorway. "Good morning, gentlemen. What is this, a convention?"
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This collection of essays, short stories, memoirs, and excerpts from novels ranges from subjects as diverse as theology, history, Jewish humor, and Holocaust survival to Erica Jong's reflections on sexual fulfillment. It is a book which should be owned by every family interested in studying the roots and multifaceted social contributions of a people whose religion emerged nearly four centuries before the birth of Joshua, "whom the Gentiles Jesus call."