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T H E JE W I S H Q UA R T E R LY R E V I E W, Vol. 94, No. 4 (Fall 2004) 643–665 Greenville Diary A Northern Rabbi Confronts the Deep South, 1966–70 DAVID B . R UDERMAN With the exception of a few of us . . . most rabbis are not Southerners. . . . In addition to having a different outlook, they are, of course, labeled ‘‘Yankees.’’ They are also dreamers, perhaps as unrealistic and romantic in their own right as is the South itself. They want to change things; they perceive themselves in Protestant robes and prophetic roles. . . . They want to say that the black man must come out of the dungeons of oppression. . . . They want freedom and justice for all . . . but these damn rabbinic Yankees come to disturb the waters of unreality . They come to rudely transform the status quo—which is not really a status quo anyway, as the South is always changing. But who likes to be reminded of it constantly, especially by an unrealistic dreamer, the self-appointed or HUC-appointed, prophet? And especially if he has come from the North, where they think that they know everything and how to solve every problem and they can impose their standards on us in Dixie. Rabbi Jack D. Spiro, 19791 DESPITE MY LONG involvement in writing Jewish history, I never imagined that my late father, Rabbi Abraham Ruderman, might become the subject of my study of the past. This all changed some four years ago when he died in Jerusalem at the age of eighty-nine. Among his belongings was a filing cabinet filled with old sermons and a set of personal diaries that contained entries over a span of close to seventy years. I filled my suitcases with as much as I could carry, and since then, his writings, especially the worn diaries, composed in old fashioned hardcover school composition booklets, have been my constant companions. 1. Jack D. Spiro, ‘‘Rabbi in the South: A Personal View,’’ Turn to the South: Essays on Southern Jewry, ed. Nathan M. Kaganoff and Melvin I. Urofsky (Waltham , Mass., and Charlottesville, Va., 1979), 42. The Jewish Quarterly Review (Fall 2004) Copyright 䉷 2004 Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. All rights reserved. 644 JQR 94:4 (2004) I have often wondered what prompted my father to record his personal experiences over so long a time. He began during his college years at Boston University in the early 1930s; his last entry records his horrible suffering only two months before dying of cancer. As in the case of other diarists, it is not clear whether the author expected his entries to be read.2 I always had a vague recollection that these diaries existed but he never publicized their existence nor was there any special pleading on his part that I preserve them for posterity or share them with his grandchildren as a kind of ethical legacy. Instead, he seemed to be fulfilling an inner psychological need by writing to himself. He even seemed to fear, especially in the early years of his writing, that his private reflections might be perused by others, and thus, on several occasions, he chose to write in Hebrew, hoping that the privacy of his own personal space would not be violated. Given the fact that the diary was not written for public consumption , it appears to be a relatively honest appraisal of the self, to the extent than any text can be deemed as such. Abraham Ruderman was born in Malden, Massachusetts, in 1911, the youngest son of an Orthodox family of eight children. His older brother, Samuel Ruderman, pursued a career in the conservative rabbinate, serving as the rabbi of a successful congregation in Fall River, Massachusetts for over twenty-five years. Owing in part to the often tense relations between the two brothers, Abraham opted to study for the rabbinate at the Jewish Institute of Religion rather than follow his brother to the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He was ordained in 1941 and entered the army air force as a chaplain, serving posts in Texas and in Greenland and Labrador. Following the completion of his service in the armed forces...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1553-0604
Print ISSN
0021-6682
Pages
pp. 643-665
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
N

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