Page 19 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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ROTH ----GREAT JEWISH BOOKS: OLD AND NEW
9
better investment for the Jewish communities of any country!
We cannot, of course, force the horses to drink, and it may be
difficult even to bring them to the river; so we must bring the
river to them.
I said there were two sorts of translation, and one of them, the
more obvious one, has been mentioned. The second is the transla-
tion of a classic not only into the language, but in terms of the
thought, of the present time. In order to avoid confusion, I shall
call this kind of translation, interpretation, with the remark that,
without this second sort of translation, interpretation, the first
sort, which is often not much more than transliteration, is (regret-
tably) useless. Putting a translation of the Talmud (for example)
into the hands of untrained everyman is like giving him a ticket
for a visit to a coal-mine when he asks for fuel for his sitting-room
fire.
Of interpreters Anglo-Jewry has had very few. Schechter was
one, Israel Abrahams was another. These scholars realized that
although erudition is the foundation, it is not the end, of scholar-
ship. An interpreter brings books home to men’s “ business and
bosoms.” He re-lives, and helps others to re-live, them. In Greek
studies this is what Gilbert Murray has been doing (in addition
to some other things) for over half a century. We need similar
work, that is, similar workers, in Jewish studies. Our scholars must
be taught that this work, what the French call “vulgarization,”
is not, as many of them seem to think, something to be ashamed
of; but it is not, as they also suppose, easy. I t demands the most
finished scholarship, the keenest sympathy, and the most profound
understanding. I t is the finest and possibly the most reward-
ing, as it is certainly the most requested, fruit of the tree of
learning.
But we cannot hope for many Schechters or Israel Abrahams,
and I should like to mention a few examples of books written by
scholars-on-holiday, or intelligent laymen, which seem to me to
be of the type required today. I take them at random from the
bookshelf. Here is the unforgettable (but, alas, forgotten) volume
of essays,
Jewish Ideals
, by the Australian-English-American Jew-
ish scholar Joseph Jacobs, whose centenary has just been celebrated
by the Jewish Historical Society; here the translations by Elkan
Adler of the largely autobiographical
Jewish Travellers of the
Middle Ages;
here that splendid account of Biblical and post-
Biblical Jewish moral ideas
The Old Testament and After
of Claude
Montefiore; here the fascinating collection of historical sketches
called
Dreamers of the Ghetto
, by Israel Zangwill. No one of these