Page 26 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 12

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
20
there came a corresponding growth in its interest in Jewish cultural
values. This was particularly noticeable from the last quarter
of the eighteenth to the middle of the nineteenth centuries when
large numbers of Jewish immigrants from Central Europe found
their way to the New Land. They carried with them their native
culture, including a wide interest in Jewish literature and in
modern Jewish learning which had its rise and early development
in their native lands.
The interest in Jewish literature of the Spanish-Portuguese
Jews who preceded them was confined largely to works bearing
upon religious practices and synagogue worship. Works which
they contributed to the making of American Jewish literature
were therefore mostly popular treatments of religious subjects
and were designed to meet Jewish religious and communal needs.
Manuals for the teaching of beliefs and practices and text books
for instruction in Hebrew comprised the major ou tpu t of the
literature. Most of the liturgical texts were imported from abroad.
The German immigrants were, however, not willing to depend
upon importations. They began to publish in this country religious
text books in German and in English. Some of their congregations
did not hesitate to adapt their respective order of worship to
their special requirements and had liturgical texts published in
this country. More than tha t, they launched a vigorous campaign
for the strengthening of the position of the Jews and Judaism
in America by infusing their religious and cultural life with the
results of modern Jewish learning. They were not satisfied merely
with publishing religious texts and works defending Jewish reli-
gious teachings and practices against frequent attacks upon them
from Christian missionary quarters. They concentrated upon
efforts to give Jewish religious and cultural values an opportunity
to strike root in the New Land. They planted Jewish learning
on American soil.
Many works in American Jewish literature were not written
originally in English bu t were translated from other tongues.
Each wave of Jewish immigrants brought to these shores gifted
men of talent and learning, who of necessity often employed
their native tongue in addition to the English language of their
adopted land. This made the cumulative ou tpu t of Jewish books
a polyglot literature, a characterization which, indeed, applies
to Jewish literature as a whole.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, when this country
was still hospitable to the influx of Jewish immigrants from Eas t
European countries, Jewish scholars, who had already gained
fame in their native lands, found their way to these shores. No t