Page 47 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 12

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BIALOSTOTZKY — AMERICAN YIDDISH LITERATURE
41
more universalism than in particular universalistic themes which
often suffer from too much intellectualism. This writer is strongly
inclined to milieu, to environmentalism, in literary creation.
As to the broadly national motifs and works that appeared in
this country in Yiddish I would like to say the same as with regard
to the nostalgic works. Here too the depiction of many Jewish
historical personalities and eras in American Yiddish literature was
to a large extent a product of American Jewish life, a result of the
moods that animated the American Yiddish writer who was
worried over Jewish survival. Not having found in the American
Melting Pot a firm enough basis for Jewish national life, Yiddish
writers called upon the past for inspiration and the Jewish heroic
figures in whom they could find comfort and hope for Jewish
survival. In their uneasiness over the Jewish future they were
like King Saul who in a moment of fear called the Prophet Samuel
from his grave.
I know that the newly-aroused Jewish national yearnings and
visions stem in large measure from Zionism and from the progres-
sive Jewish nationalism preached by the historian Simeon Dubnow
and the philosophers-publicists Chaim Zhitlovsky and Nachman
Syrkin. But in Yiddish works created in America there is also a
search for a Jewish base in this land of many nationalities. This
can be felt in the historical works of J. Opatoshu, the personalities
depicted in Menachem Boraisha’s
Wanderer
, the poems of martyr-
dom by A. Liesin, Sholom Asch’s
Witch of Castille,
David Ignatoff’s
The Hidden Light
(based on the stories of Rabbi Nachman Bras-
laver), David Pinski’s
The Eternal Jew
, David Einhorn’s religious
poems, Leivick’s
Maharam of Rothenburg,
, the Cabbalistic tones of
Aaron Zeitlin’s verse, many poems of A. Almi, the long novel,
The Gaon of Vilna
, by Pesach Marcus, and the Hassidic drama
by Zvi Cahan.
One should also underscore that in the United States and
Canada, as might be expected, many Yiddish translations were
made of ancient and medieval Jewish literature. There was the
monumental translation of the Bible by the great poet Yehoash,
followed by renderings of the
Five Megillot
and the
Psalms
by
Naphtali Gross, the
Mishnah
by S. Petrushka, portions of the
Midrash
by Sh. Z. Setzer, the medieval Hebrew poetry of Spain
of the so-called Golden Era by J. J. Schwartz and Mordecai Jaffa;
Talmudic
Aggada
, by Tashrak; ancient Jewish legends, particularly
from the
Midrash
, by Chaim Shauss;
From The Babylonian Exile
to Rome
by B. I. Bialostotzky;
Moses
,
Our Teacher
by J. J.
Schwartz; a book of legends about Elijah the Prophet by A. Menes,
and many others. This inclination to go to ancient and medieval