The modern age


Salo Baron: “The Modern Age”
In the excerpts presented in Glatzer from Salo Baron’s essay, “The Modern Age,” Baron describes his vision for the future of American Jewry. He questions whether an outbreak of anti-semitism will ultimately bring an end to Jewish life in America or, whether the American political system is such that that would be difficult. He says that some argue that an economic depression would once again make American Jewry what they had been so many times before, a scapegoat. Yet, his answer to that claim is,”while it is possible that some cataclismic anti-Jewish upheaval might some day put an end to American Jewry, it does not appear likely,” (Baron, 735). He also dismantles the claim that such an “upheaval” would be the result of a low economic period, citing examples in American history where inspite of a recession, anti-Semitism did not become more prevalent.
He goes on to warn America’s Jews that assimilation will not free them of their Jewishness. Regardless of what they absorb fromt the surrounding culture or how devoted they are to their nation, ultimately others will still see them as Jews. He says that those who opt to ignore their past will not shed themselves of their Jewishness, but rather suffer all of its misfortunes, without benefiting from its “magnificent heritage,” (Baron, 736). For this too he cites examples from the Jewish past, the most obvious one, being that this essay was written in 1956, was German Jewry and the Holocaust.
Ultimately, Baron questions what American Jewry will have become in one century, being that neither complete assimilation, nor an anti-Semitic upheaval, are likely scenarios. He does not give an answer. What he says instead is that the Jewish community in America must focus on quality, not quantity. They must stop concentrating on material things and instead work to develop their Jewish culture which was so quickly deteriorating. Interestingly, Maimonides had argued precisely the same thing eight centuries earlier. Baron’s final contention is that American Jewry needs leadership. They need people to shape the cultural, social and religious future of Diaspora life.
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