Page 50 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 1

Basic HTML Version

MAX NORDAU
ON THE OCCASION OF THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIS DEATH
By
Emmanuel Neuman
It is, of course, impossible to attempt an evaluation of so
many-faceted a genius as Max Nordau in the compass of a brief
article. Someday one may hope things will be different. Someday
our Jewish life may attain greater awareness and a measure of
intellectual maturity and vigor. Th en and not till then will our
people awaken to a full appreciation of such heroic figures as
Nordau’s, which will then assume their rightful place in our
living tradition and play their full part in the shaping of our
national future. Meantime, we dwell in twilight. Meantime, it
must be recorded to our shame and misfortune that prophets
have lived in our midst, bu t we knew them not. They uttered
warnings which we did not heed. They pointed unerringly the
way of life, bu t we shunned it. They taught, and we were deaf.
How else explain the fact that un t i l a year ago not a single
volume of Nordau’s Zionist utterances, essays, addresses or letters
had made its appearance in the English language. One might
infer that our intellectual life was so rich and vigorous, that
there has been such an efflorescence of Jewish and Zionist
thought, that the words of the master could be safely neglected
and left to molder in musty archives. But the reverse is the truth.
Certainly on the American scene no such galaxy of intellectual
and moral leaders has appeared, as clustered so luminously
about Herzl and of whom none shone so brilliantly as Nordau.
On the contrary, it is our intellectual poverty that accounts for
this neglect for which we have paid dearly in confused thinking
and in fatal errors of policy.
There is a remarkable essay on Nordau from the pen of Ben-
Zion Netanyahu which appeared last year as an introduction to
a modest collection of some of Nordau’s addresses. I t is perhaps
the first serious attempt to trace Nordau’s development both as a
European and as a Zionist, and describes his great crusades first
on behalf of civilization and then on behalf of the Jewish people.
Nordau had accurately appraised the disruptive forces which
were driving the nations to a head-on collision and the charac­
- 5 0 -