Page 74 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 1

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f. Block were received with varying degrees of lukewarm interest
and apathy, and the only excitement aroused would be caused
either by some pronounced piece of criticism or an anti-Semitic
attack. Emma Wolf’s
Heirs of Yesterday,
Martha Wolfenstein’s
Idyls of the Gass,
Abraham Cahan’s
Yekel ,
like the books of
“ I. Z.” himself, attracted more attention; but while small select
circles talked about the books, the larger groups fell asleep
without reading.
A young lawyer by the name of Montague Glass had published
a sketch of the East Side in the
New Era Magazine,
which I
edited for a short while; but that was before his story
as a Fine Ar t
in the
Saturday Evening Post
gave me my first
practise in the protesting business, and also before he made
masses of people laugh over the manipulations of the celebrated
cloak and suit couple, Messrs. Potash and Perlmutter. These were
rollicking farces between book covers and on the stage, which
amused the multitudes; yet the only genuine piece of satire,
striking a poignant Jewish note, was a forgotten and neglected
piece called “Some of My Best Friends Are—,” which Glass wrote
for a trade magazine.
It was probably before the days of Glass’ popularity that the
present writer sat on the front porch of the mansion that was
the home of “The Sage of Girard Avenue” and heard the
venerable Judge Mayer Sulzberger discourse to young “Keidan-
sky” on all manner of literary and cognate subjects. The
protagonist of my book, he said, was essentially a preacher, and
with some prophetic vision of the great future of the rabbinic
profession, he seemed to imply that his visitor may have chosen
a different and safer career. A real book lover, an omniverous
reader and a voluminous talker, the patron saint of the J.P.S.
had many keen observations to make on the writers and books
of the time, but his description of Emma Wolf as “first-rate
second-rate novelist” may have applied to a number of the
Jewish authors of the time. He had his enthusiasms, to be sure,
and these included Helena Franck, the non-Jewish English-
woman who made a hobby of Yiddish and produced two volumes
of translations,
Pictures and Sketches of
L. Peretz
being selections from a variety of writers. “She is a won-
he said.
made my appearance as an author when Hutchins Hapgood,
introduced to the East Side by Abraham Cahan, published his
Spiri t of the Ghet to ,
with those remarkable illustrations by a
young artist by the name of Jacob Epstein—now the great sculp-
tor—and Abraham S. Freidus, who upon my arrival from Boston
initiated me into the literary circles of New York, took orders
for both Hapgood’s book and mine. It was a sideline he fol-
lowed outside of his work for the New York Public Library. He
explained once that at one time he had been a bookseller and
that he continued to supply books to a special list of bookish
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