Mark Twain & the Jews

Mark Twain & the Jews

Some things I learned by reading Dan Vogel’s excellent book, “Mark Twain’s Jews” (KTAV Publishing House, Jersey City), 2006:

While Twain on rare occasions (especially before he matured) carried over the anti-Semitic culture he had absorbed in Hannibal, Mo., he was a philo-Semite in an age when anti-Semitism was rife.
He wrote: “The Jews have the best average brain of any people in the world. The Jews are the only race who work only with their brains and never with their hands. [No longer true, if it ever was.] There are no Jew beggars, no Jew tramps, no Jew ditchers, hod-carriers, day-laborers or followers of toilsome, mechanical trade. They are peculiarly and conspicuously the world’s intellectual aristocracy.”

He and Theodor Herzl became friends. They went to German-language plays together and became “fairly close.” Twain even wanted to produce a play that Herzl had written.

Freud skipped an important lecture to hear Mark Twain talk: “I treated myself to listening to our old friend Mark Twain in person, which was a sheer delight.”

Twain sided with Dreyfus-and praised Zola to the skies.

Sholom Aleichem was introduced to Mark Twain as “the Jewish Mark Twain.” Twain replied: “Please tell him that I am an American Sholom Aleichem.” (Twain certainly had not read any Sholom Aleichem, which hadn’t yet been translated into English.)

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