Response paper #2 & 3

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n 750 words, discuss Philip Roth’s approach to Jewish identity in Goodbye Columbus, “Conversion of the Jews”, and “Defender of the Faith”.  How does being Jewish inform the characters and their sense of self?  You are free to argue that Roth’s texts are more about a general sense of finding the self, of course, but be sure that your thesis covers why he would use discussions about Judaism in each of the texts (I’m definitely not discouraging you from this point of view, you just need to be sure you cover all of your bases with it). You might focus on the main characters or on a scene in each text which transmits Roth’s larger message.

Please consult the “Guide to Response Papers” posted in the Information section to make sure that your response conforms to my expectations (hint: you need to analyze quotes from each of the texts in order to get a good grade). You are not expected to talk about the other texts we’ve read so far but you can if you wish.

one of my classmate write that :
Response paper ( Phillip Roth)


 Phillip Roth has created three stories that evolve around the idea of Jewish idenity, but more specifically these storires evolve around the idea of what it means to be Jewish in general.  In Roth`s stories ” Goodbye Columbus”, “Conversion of the Jews”, and “Defender of the Faith”  Roth gives a readers several different variations of jewish people throughout these three stories.  These three stories offer readers several different perspectives through which he jewish religon can be viewed based on the characters he has presented to us.  Roth utilizes these three stories to not only show the variations withing the jewish religion but the way that these characters are viewed within the religion for not representing what a “good jewish” peson acts like.

In the story “Goodbye Colubus” Neil and Brenda represent two completely different types of jewish people. When we are introduced to Neil and Brednda it important recall how they met ata countryclub. Neil decided that he would persue Brenda after holding her glasses at the pool while she dives into the pool. It is also very important to recall the fact that Breanda and her family are members of the upperclass.   Neil comes from a working class family where he lives with his Aunt Gladys and Uncle Max. Neil`s Aunt Gladys takes care of the entire of family and prepares seprate meals for the members of her family.Neil and his family are used to much simpler things in their life for exampele in the text it says ” I thought of my Aunt Gladys and Uncle Max sharing a Mounds bar in the cindery darkness of their alley, on beach chairs, each cool breeze sweet to them as the promise of afterlife,… ( Page 8). This quote show readers that materialistic/ extravagant thinggs are not an essential to fulfill their happiness. However when we look at Brenda` family on the other hand they are very wealthy and they tend to spend their money on things that they dont are not an essential. On page 12 it says that Brenda says ” im afraid of my nose, I had it bobbed”. Asthe conversation continues Neil asks brenda how much its costs and Brenda says ““A thousand dollars. Unless you go to a butcher” ( page 13). This quote shows a carelessness for money especially when she mentions that her brother is getting his done as well. This conversation that Neil and Brenda have about the nose job reveals the fact that Neil was having a hard time processing the way Brenda and her family operate. As the story goes on readers are given much of Aunt Glady`s opinion about Brenda and her family, on page 57 it states“Since when do Jewish people live in Short Hills? They couldn’t be real Jews believe me.” This quote shows that Aunt Gladys beleives that Brenda and her family do not fit the criteria of what it means to be a ” real jew”. It is obvious that Aunt Gladys doesnt believe that Jewish people should have these things.  It is obvious that Roth uses the two different type of Jewish people to show differences among jewish people in general and the fact that Jewish people can often be criticized by other jewish people if they do not live as ” real jews” are supposed to live.  As Neil spends more time with Brenda and her family Aunt tell him that one day he will see that he will be too good for them which shows that Aunt Gladys was beginning to see a change on Neil. In the next story”Conversion of the Jews” this story provides another perspective of what it means to Jewish in comparison to other religions.

  In this short story we meet a kid named Ozzie that challenges his teacher,  Rabbi Binder on several occassion because he just cant seem to understand why his teacher does not provide him with satisfying answers in relation to Jesus. In this story Ozzie is hit by both his mother and Binder because he challenged their beliefs. Ozzie constantly asks Rabbi Binder why is it impossible for a woman to give birth to a child without partking in sexual intercourse with a man if God can create and entire universe. Each time Ozzie has a question Rabbi Binder becomes irritated with ozzie and insists that he sits down and keep quiet or he simply ignores him. on page 146 of the text it states  that ozzie says“You don’t know! You don’t know anything about God!” The rabbi spun back towards Ozzie. “What?” “You don’t know— you don’t—” . At this point in the text Ozzie is fed up with being penalized for simply asking questions that no one has the answers to. At the end of the text where Ozzie forces everybody to say that they believe that God can cause a woman to have a baby without sexual intercourse Ozzie has ultimate control. However, the story overall represents the reality that people in general are allowed to and should question the things that they dont understand. Furthermore, just because a person is associated with a specific religion there is more to life in general than just the Jewish perspective. Ozzie  represents another type of Jewish person who refuses to go along with what he is taught simply because it comes from Rabbie Binder. In the final story “Defender of faith there are characters present in that short story that reprsent that idea of different types of Jewish people anhd the associations that are tied to Jewish people.

In the short story “Defender of faith” there are two main characters in the book, Sheldon Grossbart, and Sergeant Marx. Sergeant Marx is the character that represents what it may be to be a ” real jewish person” simply because he fought and killed Nazis and he also partakes in religious practices. After Marx meets Grossbart and they engage in the conversation he Marx says “But services are important to you?” and then Grossbart says,“Sure, sir.” “‘ Sergeant.’” “Not so much at home,” said Grossbart, stepping between us, “but away from home it gives one a sense of his Jewishness” ( page 176).This quote illustrates the fact that Grossbart believes that service, kosher dieting, and unity assures his Jewish idenity as well as the jewish identiy of others. This story offers readers  an idea of what many may believe it means to be Jewish. However, Roth shows us as readers how people within this one religion can be different and yet still be Jewish.In this story in particular everything that Grossbart says about being jewish is true, however he only uses the positive aspects of the jewish religion to aid in his manipulation of Marx, but Marx on the other hand functions on Jewish principles because it is what he directly aligns with and it is not for personal gain.

After reading these three stories it seems that Roth is questioning  this cirteria that many people have for what it means to be a “real jew”. Roth utilizes these three stories to show readers the varieties as well as the flaws that are associated with the standards of being Jewish.Roth offers us a variety of perspectives in which I believe he uses to describe his own experiences with the Jewish religion. From these stories I was able to see that Roth uses these to stories to show readers that there is no one way to be Jewish in terms of being an indivdual.

and another write :

Response Paper 2/3 Matt Peterson


  Phillip Roth explores Jewish identity in Goodbye, Columbus, like no other Jewish author had before him. Roth published this collection of short stories in 1959, which includes the titular story, Conversion of the Jews, and Defender of the Faith. All three of these stories shows the characters discovering their Jewish identity in some  way or another. Roth does this by breaking down barriers that had long stood in American Literature, when exploring Jewish American life. Considered controversial at the time, these stories really do say a lot about what it means to be Jewish, and even resonate with today’s Jewish Community. By creating such deep characters that give us a first hand perspective on Jewish life, Roth is able to answer the books ultimate question.

  Roth approaches what it means to be Jewish with a head on attitude. He does not hold back on the stereotypes, the outrageous characters, and pointing out the flaws in his own religion. Goodbye, Columbus, explores the classes within the Jewish Community. Conversion of the Jews brings up some uncomfortable but necessary questions abut Judaism, while also delving into the subject of Jewish youth. Lastly inDefender of the Faith, Roth writes about the division that exists in a  community that from the outside can seem very tight knit. Though all three stories feature different characters and plotlines, Roth uses the same brutal and honest approach to answer the question, what does it mean to be a Jewish American?

  The books main story is Goodbye, Columbus, a coming of age story featuring the main characters of Neil and Brenda. Two Jewish young adults, whose backgrounds could not be any different. They enter into a relationship with each other, and the class division between the two becomes ever apparent. We see this almost immediately in the story, the class division between the two. For Brenda, life’s imperfections can be fixed. Neil is unable to comprehend why, that where Brenda comes from people will just so casually fix their body’s deformities. “She is going to have her skin fixed.” Brenda is equally confused at why one does not understand this as normal. “Why don’t you have your eyes fixed?” Both characters realize just how different the two of them are. The Jewish community is divided just like the story portrays, and Roth uses this small occurrence of two twenty-somethings  as a medium. Being Jewish is complicated and so is being American. Of the three stories, this is the only one that could stand out as just a commentary on class division in the United States, among many other things. There will always be class division and therefore this will always be a relevant telling of what can occur when these two worlds collide.

 Conversion of the Jews stays with the theme of young Jews in New York City. This time our main characters are younger and in grade school. Ozzie is a religious school student who is questioning his own faith. Roth uses the characters’ dialogue to do just that question his own faith directly to the reader. It is a striking story to read, as seemingly nothing is off limits to the young mind of Ozzie when it comes to his own religion. It was taboo for Jews to question their faith especially directly to a Rabbi. Ozzie does this, “Why can’t He make anything He wants to make.” Referring to God and how he seems absent in his own life. This is the most controversial of the three stories, and provides us with the fullest answer of what it means to be Jewish. There is no correct answer, is how Roth answers this ultimate question. Every character in the story, be it Ozzie, The Rabbi or even Ozzie’s Mother will answer it differently.

 Defenders of the Faith, shows Judaism in the context of the US Army in the final stages of the Second World War. It features Sergeant Marx and Private Grossbart, tow Jews that outside of the hierarchy if the Army would be quite similar. Though in the Army there is no avoiding the ladder of power and for Marx being of the same religion brings no exceptions. Grossbart looks for sympathy and privilege from Marx because they are both Jews from New York. This story shows what comes with the label of being Jewish. Roth knows that there is a certain comradery shred among Jews and he states through this story that he does not believe in the obligation that Jews have to fellow Jews. It caused the Jewish Community to view him unfavorably as a self hating Jew, Roth is merely giving his own answer to what it means being Jewish in America at that time.

  Jewish Identity is complicated, Roth cannot give a solid answer as to what it means, and accepts how it is different for each of these characters that he has created in these stories.

and the third one write that :
Response paper 2 & 3


In Goodbye, ColumbusDefender of the Faith, and The Conversion of the Jews, Roth reflects on the Jewish culture, and what being Jewish means. InGoodbye, Columbus we are also presented with multiple stories that emphasize different aspects of the Jewish people. Roth’s stories have given me reasons to believe that Roth has a negative perspective on the overall meaning of being Jewish and society. Roth brings to light these issue in the Jewish culture and society through, his exploration of class division, spiritual crisis, and Jewish/self-identification.

In the first story, Goodbye, Columbus, The main character, Neil Klugman, is a college graduate who works in a library, and lives with his Aunt Gladys, and Uncle Max. The three of them live in an urban, working class environment. Roth also introduces us to Brenda Patimkin, who is a college student in Boston, and lives with her brother Ron, Julie, and her parents Mr. & Mrs. Patimkin. The Patimkin family is very wealthy, and their wealth is shown in various ways throughout the novel. Roth tells us a story, which would turn out to be nothing more than a “summer romance” between Neil and Brenda. In this story, Roth focuses strongly on class division, self-identification, and Jewish identification.

  Since Neil came from a working class family and Brenda upper-middle, social economic orientation played a major role in the story. Neil’s working class family had in place values and traditions that represented what being Jewish meant. On page 58, Aunt Gladys stated to Neil “Since when do Jews live in Short Hills? They couldn’t be real Jews believe me”. Also on page 57, Aunt Gladys got defensive when their modest lifestyle was indirectly compared to the Patimkin’s. Neil mentioned to Aunt Gladys that the Patimkins did not live above their store, causing Aunt Gladys to automatically get defensive stating that they “lived over a store and wasn’t ashamed”. Therefore once Neil mentioned that the Patimkins lived in Short Hills, this automatically prompted them loose their Jewishness according to Aunt Gladys. These statement above are ways for Roth to refer to his negative association with the Jewish community because, a family’s geographic location should not automatically determine who they are (simply because it is not within the Jewish community), nor make another family’s hard work be used as for prejudgment.

  In another section of Goodbye, Columbus, Roth reflects on the issues of Jewish identification when he refers to Brenda getting a nose job on page 13. Which is a touchy subject in the Jewish community due to the stereotype that Jewish people have large noses. I feel as though Roth’s message here is that you should be comfortable with yourself as being Jewish and not spend an absurd amount of money to alter you appearance (make your appearance less Jewish).

  In the Conversion of the Jews, Roth takes on spiritual issues, and self-identification in the Jewish community. In this story we are introduced to Oscar (Ozzie) Freedman, who like all adolescents, begin to gather more knowledge and naturally have questions regarding faith. Ozzie seems to have a lot of questions regarding Jews beliefs regarding God. Ozzie would always ask Rabbi Bender during free-discussion time for explanations to these questions, and would not receive one. When Ozzie is struck by Rabbi Binder and then calls him a bastard, he runs to the roof and begins to question himself and wonder “if it’s me”, or if he is wrong for feeling the way he feels; which is what he has been taught to believe. During Oscar’s antics on the roof he comes to the realization that he has to speak his mind and be a voice for others to question what they do not understand, instead of letting questions fade away. I believe that the main point of this passage by Roth was to allude to the Jewish community inability to be tolerant. I believe this because in The Conversion of the Jews, speaking back to the Rabbi was as to say that he does not know what he is talking about, when Ozzie was just searching for explanation. I also believe that this story shows that though Ozzie actions were childish and naïve, his actions ended up serving a high purpose. This is because he essentially broke down all of the comforting barriers of power in the Jewish community leaving the Rabbi powerless by the end. While also symbolizing hope to his classmates in expressing their opinion.

  In the Defender of the Faith we follow the story of a WWII veteran named Nathan Marx who is Jewish. Marx begin to interact with a peculiar private named Sheldon Grossbart. Initially we are made to believe that Grossbart is just a religious guy who wants equal treatment for Jewish people in the Army. By the end of the story it is very clear that Grossbart is nothing more than a manipulative individual, who uses his religion to get special privileges that he wants. But in the end it all comes back to haunt him. I think that The Defender of the Faith symbolizes a bit of self-identification vs. Jewish identification, because Marx was trying to reconnect with himself after serving in the war, and saw the opportunity to do so through these Jewish soldiers, and even though he had to go through everything they had to go through in basic training, Marx still attempted to be fair and reasonable. I also think that Roth wants readers to appreciate kind gestures when they receive them, instead of taking advantage of them. Grossbart took Marx’s kindness as a weakness, and paid for it at the end of the story.

  Overall I believe that multiple key issues in the Jewish community were brought to light in Goodbye, Columbus and Roth was not afraid to touch on each one bit by bit with his stories. Goodbye, Columbus was about Neil and essentially young Jewish males, seeking knowledge (symbolized by the library), and bettering yourself to possibly overlook what others consider acceptable. Through the book Neil is wondering what is it that he loves about Brenda, when it is put into our face the entire time, her wealth, and his pursue to obtain what is surely fantasy. The same way the little African American boy at the library has fantasies about going to Tahiti. This is the reason why Neil took a liking to the kid, and saw himself in the little boy. In The Conversion of the Jews it’s all about spiritual crisis, and what should be tolerated. Roth wants the Jewish community to question themselves as to why Ozzie curiosity towards religion is an issue. Roth wants people to see that it is natural and should be tolerated. The Defender of the Faith reflected on self, and Jewish identification, and I also believe that I Roth wants kind gestures to be treated with care and respect, or bad things will surely catch up to you.

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