H. A. Wolfson arrived in the United States at 16 from the Lithuanian region of the Russian Empire and at Harvard as a freshman five years later. He remained at Harvard until his death in 1974, as Emeritus Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy. Among the most important historians of western religious philosophy, he published on contemporary issues only until 1925 and even then only rarely. Nevertheless, his 1918 article, “Pomegranates”, deserves attention. Wolfson clearly followed debates about the American ethnic future. He carved out an original and unexpected position on that issue, and on the American Jewish future within that context. He perceptively rejected Horace Kallen’s views of a “multi-national America”, and like Israel Zangwill’s Melting Pot
, he stressed that full cultural and political assimilation would occur in the United States. But unlike Zangwill, he argued that Jewish religious creativity would find a long-term place in American life, once freed of its national trappings. Strongly supporting a Hebraic renaissance and a Jewish homeland in Palestine, he also emphasized with great force that the “we”—the east-European Jewish intellectuals and the Zionists—had greatly misunderstood the promise of Reform Judaism for the diaspora.
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