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Reprinted with permission from American Jewish Fiction: A JPS Guide (Jewish Publication Society).
A dedicated reader of American Jewish literature, no matter how enthusiastic, will inevitably feel, at one point or another, that he or she would rather browse the tax code than read yet another book about intermarriage.
Perhaps that explains why Myron S. Kaufmann’s outstanding novel, Remember Me to God, is so rarely mentioned anymore; it is, after all, a book concerned with the question of whether Richard Amsterdam, a Harvard student, will marry a Christian girl. With that said, it is tragic that Kaufmann’s novel is not more widely read. As is the case with many authors, for Kaufmann intermarriage is a justification for exploring the feelings, frustrations, and philosophies of American Jews about their Jewishness. He takes this as his starting point and produces a fiction of extraordinary insight and emotional depth.
Richard’s love interest is Wimsy Talbot, a doltish blue-blooded Radcliffe student. Richard’s desire for her grows out of his enchantment with and envy of the wealthy, pedigreed Protestant community of Boston, who are known to Richard’s suburban Boston family as Yankees. Egged on by the sly and genteel anti-Semitism that dominates the most prestigious Harvard institutions (he gains acceptance to the Lampoon and the Hasty Pudding Club), as well as his own boyish insecurities, Richard imagines not only that he needs Wimsy but also that he should convert to Christianity.
His parents, as one might expect, throw a fit. The prominence accorded to Richard’s dilemmas should not obscure the book’s careful attention to his sister, Dorothy, a high school misfit-too smart and not confident enough to be popular-as well as his father, Adam, the son of immigrants, orphaned as a child, who has risen from an abattoir to become a judge, even though he still harbors doubts about his own intelligence.
While many of the book’s long speeches, rendered in the distinct voices of various characters, center on questions of Jewish distinctiveness and survival, the novel ultimately is a family story, in which the intricate psychologies of each member reflect their complicated relationships to the rest. Kaufmann’s massive novel has much to recommend it.
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