Page 78 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 1

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“Father of Modern Hebrew Li tera ture” is universally ascribed
to the Lithuanian-born author of the classic,
Ahaba t Ziyyon
(“The Love of Zion”), Abraham Mapu. The discussion of his
literary contribution points out that he began to plan the writing
of this historical romance as early as
1 8 3 0
. When the work
appeared, twenty-three years later, it was an instantaneous sue-
cess. It has been translated into a number of languages, including
English.
Mapu was also the author of a second historical tale,
Ashmat
Shomeron
(“The Guilt of Samaria”), which depicts the rivalry
between Israel and Judah, and of a third historical work, which
has come down only in par t and which deals with Jewish life
until the rise of Hasidism.
Mapu’s works fired the imagination of the Hebrew reader and
filled him with romantic vision and hope. But it remained for
Judah Loeb Gordon to give forceful expression to the needs of
East European Jewry. On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary
of his death, the realistic and castigating poems of his later
period are contrasted with his earlier idylls.
One of Gordon’s first poetic works,
The Love of Dav id and
Michal ,
established his reputation and presaged a career as the
outstanding literary figure of the age. He wrote a collection of
fables entitled
Mi shle Yehuda
and continued to publish poems
on biblical and historical themes. The
Haskalah
movement in
Li thuania soon found in Gordon an ardent champion, and he
turned his poetic talents to caustic criticism of the foibles and
the narrowness of religious leadership.
Among the best known in this cycle of epic poems is
The Do t
of a Yud,
which presents a strong indictment of the legalism
of the rabbis. Gordon also wrote articles and satires in this vein.
He was later called to St. Petersburg, where he undertook the
editorship of the important Hebrew periodical
Ha-Mel iz.
If Gordon hoped to see the ushering in of a new era of toler-
ance and emancipation for the Jew in the Diaspora, the Hebrew
poet Jacob Cohen, whose sixtieth birthday is marked in this sec-
tion, sounded the call for rebellion against the misery of
Galuth
life and for a re turn to the heroic days of Bar Kochba and the
Zealots. While Cohen has written many lyrical poems of beauty,
it is his all-consuming desire to see the termination of Jewish
dispersion and suffering which lends his poetry such vitality
and force.
Cohen’s works are varied. In addition to his poems and
dramas he has also published translations from the works of
Goethe. He has edited a number of important Hebrew peri-
odicals and has been an active worker on behalf of the Hebrew
movement. At present he lives in Palestine where he is contin-
uing his creative work.
Jacob Fichman, whose sixtieth birthday is also marked in
this section, is a many-sided au thor who has made inestimable
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