Lionel Trilling’s prefatory remarks to the very influential collection of essays on literature, The Liberal Imagination (1950), is an excellent starting-point for an examination of continuity in Jewish literature of the post-war period, since liberalism had become by the time of its publication the sole intellectual tradition of America, and even more so of the modern Jewish intellectual tradition. From the dawn of emancipation, the cast of modern literacy culture in Yiddish, the European Jewish vernacular, moved away from what were perceived to be the conservative and reactionary impulses of European politics and the imposed discipline of the Halakhic way of life-towards liberalism, an atmospheric term that signified the emancipation of the individual from the collectivity: the substitution of empirical investigation for faith as the province of mind, of Man for God as the determinant of history; a belief in progressive brotherliness and equalization of society, in a future infinitely better than the past and appreciably better than the present. Politically, Jews who wished to advance in post-feudal societies had to align themselves with liberal and left-of-liberal parties since the conservative and nationalist actions frequently promoted their cause by trying to limit Jewish advancement. If liberalism gradually overtook parts of Western society, it virtually captured modern Jews. Consider Tevye the Dairyman, the most popular character in Jewish fiction, Sholem Aleichem’s representation of the conservative Jew who bends to the pressure of liberalizing ideas. The most powerful of these ideas and chief warrant of the emancipation of the individual from society is love, and the

monologues of this rural Ukrainian Jew, written over a period of twenty years, trace the impact of romantic love on two generations in tandem. Tevye’s daughters argue that a father’s child may marry according to the dictates of her heart rather than the dictates of her father because the heart is a truer moral guide. If acted upon, this idea is sufficient in itself to destroy any traditional society. ‘It’s beyond belief,’ says Chava to her father, ‘how you have a verse from the Bible for everything! Maybe you also have one that explains why human beings have to be divided into Jews and Christians, masters and slaves, beggars and millionaires…’.2 A liberal egalitarian universalist, she knows that the artificial boundaries established by her father’s tradition cannot be serviceable for children of the heart who recognize only the spontaneous brotherhood of humankind.