Confessions of a Secular Jew: A Memoir

Front Cover
Transaction Publishers - Biography & Autobiography - 262 pages
What it means to be a Jew lies at the very heart of Confessions of a Secular Jew , a provocative memoir and a thoughtful speculation on the nature of Jewish identity and experience in an increasingly secular world. The legacy bequeathed to Eugene Goodheart was a "progressive" secular Yiddish education which identified Jewish struggles against oppression with working class struggles against exploitation. In the vanguard was the Soviet Union. Goodheart's heroes were Moses, Bar Kochbah, Judah Maccabee, Karl Marx and that strange honorary Jew, Joseph Stalin, whose anti-Semitism would later become known to the world. Confessions of a Secular Jew is the story of Goodheart's disillusionment with the naive, even false, progressivism of that education. At the same time, it is an attempt to rescue and come to grips with the positive remains of that education and heritage. In the introduction to the new Transaction edition of his memoir, Goodheart addresses the themes of social justice, Zionism, chosenness, messianism, and alienation from a secular Jewish perspective. The memoir takes the reader from Goodheart's coming of age in Brooklyn to his higher education at Columbia College in the early fifties and beyond to his varied career as university teacher and literary critic. The memoir provides memorable characterizations of writers whom he knew, among them Lionel Trilling (his teacher), Saul Bellow, Richard Wright (whom he met in Paris), Hannah Arendt, and Philip Rahv.

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A literary critic reflects on his career in the elite circles of the academy, his tenuous connection to Jewish identity, and the vicissitudes of age. Although Goodheart (Humanities/Brandeis) has ... Read full review

Confessions of a secular Jew: a memoir

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Partisan Review contributing editor Goodheart (Pieces of Resistance; humanities, Brandeis Univ.) examines Jewish identity and how it distinguishes even those who do not participate in the synagogue ... Read full review

Selected pages


Coming of Age in Brooklyn
Higher Education
Innocent Abroad
Teacher in America
On the One Hand
Heavy Breathing
Mother Right
A Question of Identity

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