Group 6: The Necessity for Autonomy in the Jewish Community

Upon its publication in the late 19th century, Reuben Sachs was denounced by the Jewish community and the mainstream press for its seemingly anti-Semitic themes. This is a criticism that Richa Dwor contends with in her essay “The Racial Romance of Amy Levy’s Reuben Sachs.” Dwor acknowledges the rather harsh way in which Levy frames her own community, which for many, paints her as a “self-hating Jew.” However, Dwor rejects the idea that Reuben Sachs is a self-loathing or even malicious story. Rather, it is a critique of the culture and religion; a call for change that Levy deems necessary in order to preserve the future of Judaism. In this, Levy does not reject the religion, she embraces it with an optimism and desire for “the continuity of Jewish life.” Dwor points to Levy’s heavy criticism of the repression that the Jewish community imposes on its own people. Levy illustrates this critique largely through the image she presents of marriage and opinions of women. Dwor claims that it is through this, particularly the depiction of marriage, that Levy makes the argument that the Jewish community will destroy itself if it continues in its competitive and controlling path.
Reuben Sachs is Levy’s attempt to encourage self-awareness in her community in order to correct its self-destructive behavior. Dwor believes that Reuben Sachs makes the argument that allowing greater agency within the religion and community will, in turn, secure its longevity. This is where the articles ultimate idea of “racial romance” comes in. Levy’s criticism of traditional Jewish marriage exemplifies the way in which greater independence, individualism, and open-mindedness can help a group on the brink of collapse. Dwor states that Levy, throughout Reuben Sachs, expresses an anger in Judith’s marriage that Judith herself cannot express because of the strictness of the culture’s inflexibility. It is in this that Levy makes that call for change; greater agency would allow for the reemergence of the racial romance Dwor focuses on. As a result, it will help to strengthen the community and protect its future.

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