Page 28 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 12

Basic HTML Version

JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
22
which has gone through several editions in this country and
abroad. Simultaneously, another American Hebrew scholar, Abra-
ham Hayyim Rosenberg, singlehandedly produced a remarkable
Hebrew encyclopedia of the Bible in five volumes entitled
Ozar
Hashemot
(New York, 1923). I t dealt with every phase of ex-
perience reflected in the Hebrew Bible. Unlike other encyclopedias
of the Bible, Rosenberg incorporated a wealth of material drawn
exclusively from rabbinical and other Jewish sources.
The Uni-
versal Jewish Encyclopedia
, in ten volumes, (New York, 1939-1943)
owed to
The Jewish Encyclopedia
much more than is generally
recognized. Monumental, too, was Israel Davidson’s
Thesaurus
of Medieval Hebrew Poetry
(New York, 1924-1933), a work in
four sumptuous volumes and supplements. I t represented a daring
bu t successful venture in the compilation of an extraordinary
index to the vastly dispersed Hebrew poetic compositions, sacred
and secular, written during a millennium and a half, from the
fifth century to the present. However, it recorded no secular
poems written after 1740. Virtually all the entries were richly
annotated with critical and bibliographical da ta in which author-
ship, sources, form, content and character were dealt with. Dr.
Davidson carried out a stupendous task with acumen, diligence
and a wonderful sense of proportion.
These great reference works which American Jewish scholarship
produced within the first half of the present century represent
comprehensive treatments of branches of Jewish knowledge. They
comprise a rich contribution to the to tality of Jewish literary
endeavor.
Jews have never neglected the study of the Bible. Wherever
Jews settled they brought with them their Scriptures and sooner
or later had them translated into the vernacular of their new
settlements. At an early date, Isaac Leeser, a diligent worker
in advancing Jewish knowledge, undertook the task of making
the first American Jewish version in English and published it
in Philadelphia in 1853. Drawing heavily upon the King James
version, it nevertheless reflected the traditional Jewish interpre-
tation and retained the Jewish spirit though often at the expense
of good style. I t became the accepted version in all synagogues
and Jewish religious schools in virtually every English speaking
country. I t was not successfully challenged until 1917 when the
Jewish Publication Society of America produced its version
The
Holy Scriptures according to the Masoretic text
,
a new translation
.
Largely the work of Max L. Margolis, this Jewish version made
full and advantageous use of the results of modern literary and
archaeological research in Scriptures without in any way removing