The Jew in South Africa faces a poignant and wrenching predicament: the painful necessity of choosing between economic security and cultural identity. In the January-February issue of Tikkun, Steven Mufson explores the uneasy passage of South Africa's Jews into the white minority ruling class and wonders how the historically oppressed can make common cause with oppressors.

"In the past, Jews perceived their greatest threat to be the Afrikaner anti-Semitism that greeted them in the beloved country as they arrived," Mufson writes. "Jews refrained from openly attacking the ruling National Party for fear of arousing Afrikaner hatred toward them." Now, "the conspiracy of silence about the flaws of the National Party has given way to open enthusiasm for it. The face of the Jews' perceived enemy has undergone a metamorphosis: it is now a black face."

Why does the party whose leaders collaborated with Nazis, the party of institutionalized racism, attract so many Jews? Mufson, a former correspondent in Johannesburg, suggests "uncomfortable parallels" between the State of Israel and the second country (after the Soviet Union) to recognize it -- that other nation of settlers, South Africa. "Both are surrounded by hostile neighbors, engaged in what they consider to be struggles for survival," he writes, and "both claim to be chosen people."

The moral quandary has split Jewish congregations in South Africa. Ben Isaacson, an activist rabbi since banished to Zimbabwe, declares angrily: "They say they only want the teaching of God {in the synagogue}, as though the shooting of black children in the streets has nothing to do with the teaching of God."

Progressive opposition figures like Helen Suzman are increasingly isolated. Mufson: "The black opposition grows more radical and views her as conservative because of her approach to sanctions and because of her continued participation in what they view as an 'illegitimate parliament.' At the same time, conservative whites view her as part of the radical camp."

Mufson's questions may be read as troubled admonitions: "Where does ethnic identity end and racism begin? And what moral price will people pay to protect their own interests?"

AIDS and the Single Girl

Robert E. Gould, clinical professor of psychiatry and of obstetrics and gynecology at New York Medical College, is either talking good sense about AIDS or he's spreading deadly misinformation. Whatever the case, Helen Gurley Brown's Cosmopolitan implicitly endorses his contention, published in the January issue, that "in all probability, you won't catch the virus by inhaling it, ingesting it, or, more to the point, having vaginal or oral sex ... the fear of AIDS transmission through vaginal intercourse has been greatly exaggerated."

Wisely, Gould spends the second half of his essay dealing with the first question that leaps to mind: "If, then, there is so little likelihood and no solid proof of AIDS spreading to women practicing healthy heterosexual intercourse, you have to ask why so few experts are saying so."

Gould, who serves on the American Psychiatric Association's committee on gay and lesbian issues, answers that funding for AIDS research might diminish if the threat were seen again to be restricted to "out-groups of IV drug users (encompassing mostly minorities) and homosexual men" and that the government, for its part, "must err on the side of extreme caution."

He calls the fear of AIDS spreading through the general population "irrational." Could be, but his sense of proportion does not inspire great confidence in his arguments. The "most serious" repercussion of this crisis, he avers, is that "guilt and fear are again taking hold of people who have learned to be comfortable with their sexuality."

That's Show Biz

They're notcalled readers anymore; they're called "story analysts" -- the faceless drudges employed by Hollywood studios to sift the slush pile of unsolicited screenplays for that once-in-a-blue-moon makable movie. But who are they?

From the struggling writer's perspective, according to Jerry Lazar's wry portrait in the February Premiere, the reader is "a cretinous philistine who, because his own job lacks creative sparkle, is hell-bent on preventing another's career from taking off." But from the point of view of one reader, Beth Glazer, most of the scripts are "hands-down vomitous crap ... the ones about pussycats murdering people. You want to hit these writers and scream at them, 'Get out of the business!' "

It's a good thing this sort of childish behavior doesn't go on in other professions.

Orient Express

Rice is not an agricultural trade journal, not the alumni bulletin of a Texas university, not a publication for political bimbos and not a how-to magazine for wedding receptions. It's "The Magazine of Asian Influence." In the words of its advertising slogan, "Rice. We eat it. You read it."

The December-January issue suggests its broad mandate: America's Chinatowns in the throes of change. Prospects for the Seoul Olympics. How Japanese executives and their families are adjusting to life in New York suburbs. Profiles of Sam Kusumoto, president of Minolta; Rep. Robert Matsui (D-Calif.); Bang Nguyen, a Vietnamese gay activist; and Tuan Van Le, an Amerasian football star.

The writing is straightforward, the tone upbeat to a fault, the implication of shared values and interests among very different Asian cultures rather audacious. For 11 issues, send $12.88 to Rice Magazine, P.O. Box 2370, San Francisco, Calif. 94126.