Page 45 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 13

Basic HTML Version

eona rd
i s h k i n
MEDIEVAL Hebrew legend relates that, when the Romans
breached the walls of Jerusalem, they found in one of the
walled-in towers a sage who had separated himself from the
struggling city and in self-imposed solitary confinement dedicated
himself to recording the glorious history of his people.
Such a legend might also be told of Professor Meyer Waxman,
whose literary career of half a century was recently celebrated by
the Jewish community of Chicago and by the Hebraists of America,
since he too imposed upon himself severance from social, communal
and political leadership in order to dedicate himself to recording
the culture of his people in monumental works.
Dr. Waxman is nearing seventy. The period of his literary and
teaching activity covered the most kaleidoscopic and catastrophic
period in Jewish history. When Dr. Waxman, who received his
earliest training at the Yeshivah of his birthplace, Slutzk, and in
Mir, left Europe in 1904, as an ordained rabbi, the religious and
cultural hegemony in the Jewish world was held by Russian Jewry.
In the half century that followed, America became the leading
Jewish center.
At first Dr. Waxman was drawn into the vortex of American
Jewish life. He became an Hebraist, an ardent Zionist, a Hebrew
teacher and writer, a rabbinic student and an officiating American
rabbi. During the first World War, he quit the pulpit and became
the general executive director of Mizrachi in America. He at-
tended the London Zionist Conference in 1919. He was instru-
mental in founding the Mizrachi system of schools together with
Rabbi Meir Berlin and Rabbi Jehudah Leib Fishman. He founded
the first Hebrew teachers’ training college in America, directing it
until its merger with Yeshivat Rabbi Isaac Elchanan. Today it
is still functioning as a corporate unit of Yeshiva University.
Many a prominent rabbi began his career as a student in Dr.
Waxman’s teachers’ college.
Contrary to expectations of those who prophesied a great future
for him as a leader of American Jewish public life, Dr. Waxman,
in 1922, called a halt to all political activity and assumed the post