Examined as a whole, Bernard Malamud’s short story collection The Magic Barrel is more cosmopolitan moralism than ghetto tale, where Jews remain central protagonists but the particularities of Jewish life and suffering lose much of their cultural identification as Malamud reaches toward a universal ethical truth. I argue here that through the close reading of one those short stories, “The Lady of the Lake,” we can complement the general scholarly assessment of Malamud’s vision (of “Jews” as universals) with another, this one of Jews and Jewishness as in themselves the pathway to morality. “The Lady of the Lake” reveals Malamud at his most attuned to the complexities of Jewish self-recognition, where he thought that the ethical lay in the act of affirming one’s Jewish self-being.

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