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The Jews of Barnow Stories   By:

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"The scoff, the curse his people's heritage Have left upon his shrunken face their sting; His eyes gleam like those of some hunted thing, Against whose life implacable war men wage. We read the Jew's face as one reads a page Of his own nation's history, for there cling About its lines, deep worn with suffering, The traces still of Israel's lordly age."

F. F. M.



Although the high literary art which Franzos possesses (the finer quality of which has been preserved in this translation) is fully admitted by intelligent Jews, the subject matter of his book itself, its raison d'ĂȘtre , they have by no means relished. In a review of "The Jews of Barnow," published some months ago in a leading New York journal, it was asserted by the writer that, from internal evidence, Franzos must be a Jew. This statement was directly controverted by a Jewish weekly of the highest standing. Still, we must believe that the acumen of the New York reviewer was not at fault, because in a late number of "Blackwood's Magazine," which contained an interesting criticism of Franzos and his book, it was asserted that the author is or was a Jew. No man not born a Jew, perfectly familiar with all the phases of Jewish life in Eastern Galicia, and in sympathy with them, could have created this book. Franzos may have clothed Jews and Jewesses with poetical raiment, given them melodramatic phrasings, but the gabardine, caftan, love locks, are visible the whine, the nasal twang audible.

This denial that Franzos was a Jew, though apparently insignificant in itself, and due, perhaps, to a want of acquaintance with the facts, is still peculiarly indicative of a natural travers of the Jewish mind. Any description of the inner life of Jews, when written by a Jew, unless it be laudatory, is particularly distasteful to Jews. No race cares to have its failings exposed. From one of another creed such strictures may be passed over with stolid indifference, but, from one of their own blood, any censure, direct or applied, is considered by Jews in the light of a sacrilege. With Jews it is ever a cry, "It is a dirty bird that fouls its own nest." Such acridity as a Goldwin Smith distills, Jews laugh at; but when one of their kinsmen, a Mr. Montefiore, finds fault with them, bidding them look for grace in another direction, then at once a holy horror pervades them.

What Franzos describes is Jewish life pent up within the narrow limits of some Galician town. Religious dislikes, racial hatreds kindled a thousand years ago, have never been quenched. Though to day in that town a Jew could not be murdered, because it would be against the law, the inclination to kill him, because he is a Jew, still exists. The simple fact, that every Jew had been taught to read and write, had quickened his brains. Through heredity he became, intellectually, superior to the illiterate peasant, or townsfolk, who hemmed him in. The mental phenomenon the Jew would present, under such conditions, would not be, after all, so peculiar. He had but two ends in life, to work and pray. Even his toil was restricted, for he could only engage in certain callings. His solace was his religion. He might pray to his Maker, but only in such set phrases as had been chosen for him. His God was by far too sublime for him, poor worm, to address in such homely words as might well up spontaneously from his own heart. A slave to tradition, bound down by rote, the Jew had been taught that the least divergence from a cut and dried ritual was heresy. Mental and physical isolation brought about arrested development. The only wonder about this all is, that the Jew in Eastern Europe, seeing a better chance for life beyond the pale of his religion, had not broken bounds, and, abjuring his creed, found outside of it an easier existence... Continue reading book >>

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