ABSTRACT

Of all the individuals invited to the dais, I probably have the least claim on your attention. For my personal knowledge of Max was slight and essentially confined to the final decade of his life. That said, I am honored to speak briefly on the meaning of Max Lerner’s life—as the “youngster” of this august group. Max was of the generation of my parents, and like them, was born in Russia. In his case, it was Minsk. Also like them, his family, prior to emigration, was close to the socialist Bund. Then again, Jews had a choice: orthodoxy and traditionalism, or radicalism and modernism. It is hardly unexpected that being only five years old when he arrived in the United States, he acquired a taste for the Western Enlightenment tradition. In some sense, the mix of family values and a new national outlook gave him a cosmopolitan outlook—one that embraced being liberal in ideology, anti-statist in politics, and deeply Jewish in religion.