Socially insecure Gentiles do not automatically rule out all Jews. Among them, the social penalty of being a Jew is not Jewishness. What is unforgivable is to be a poor and obscure Jew – or, even, a rich end obscure Jew. Consequently, a Lehman, a Schiff, a Warburg, a Baruch, who are neither poor nor obscure, are forgiven their lack of prenatal wisdom. The welcome extended to men of this kind is of fascinating interest to the cultural anthropologist – revealing, as it does, some of the magnificently absurd taboos of our society. While they may be "good" enough to marry a man's daughter, they are often not good enough for membership in his clubs, nor can they be permitted to swim in the miraculous waters of exclusive beaches.
So, too, socially insecure Gentiles may welcome Jews who are Famous Names – distinguished artists, musicians, playwrights, actors, movie producers. But the Names, by a tacit conspiracy of manners, are expected to sing for their supper while their hosts, whether or no they are bemused by the singing, enjoy the pleasures of vicarious association with the famous.
One also finds in this country "pet Jews" and their Gentile keepers. The latter derive from the association an exotic touch of the fashionable, as certain English families of the eighteenth century found it exotically fashionable to adorn their households with a liveried blackamoor or two. The former derive from the association, one assumes, a certain masochistic pleasure, knowing that the attitude of their keepers toward Jews in general is that of the Duke of Dorset (in Beerbohm's Ztdeika Dobson) toward Americans. The Duke granted that Americans had a right to live, but he wished that it had not been made so easy for them to live at Oxford.
These are worlds to which I might presumably gain access by changing my name. Do you blame me if I reject them?
There are, happily other worlds in this kindliest of countries. I was born and raised in a good world. It was far more Gentile than Jewish, but I never felt alien there, nor was any attempt made to make me feel alien. I have found that being a Jew has been no deterrent either to my happiness or to my career whether, as formerly, in business or, as latterly, in writing. My rewards, or lack of them, have been, I feel, in proportion to my merits except, embarrassingly, that I have been dowered with kindness quite beyond my deserts.
Shortly after the Civil War my relatives, European immigrants, became cotton planters in the Mississippi Delta, and my parents soon followed them to the then tiny pioneer town of Greenville. There they met with unaffected kindness in an atmosphere hostile to bigotry. There I was born and raised. For as long as I can remember, the Roman Catholic Church, the First Baptist Church, and the Synagogue have stood within a stone's throw of one another. Over them all was the benison of God and the grateful shade, in summer, of leafy oaks and magnolias. Living, their communicants got on well together. Dead, they were buried in adjoining grounds where weeping willows flow and mockingbirds make mimic song.