Page 38 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 15

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
in this medium is all the more remarkable. “The Wandering
Jew,” “Two Songs,” “An Old Lady,” “A Jewish Mother,” and
“My Chanukah Candles,” to mention only a few of the poems I
have just re-read, surely deserve more than the limited reclame
they enjoy.
It is, however, Abraham M. Klein, the Canadian Jew, who has
shed greatest honor upon Jewish-American poetry. A lawyer by
profession and a writer by true love, he is most at home in the
realm of poetry. In more than one sense, as Dr. Lewisohn has said,
Mr. Klein is to date our finest poet. He is a Jewish man of the
world who does not feel himself a stranger in the outside world,
but who is most truly at home in the Jewish part of the world —
in the little synagogues with small clusters of Jews early every
morning and at
minchah
time and
maariv
time; in the exuberant
wedding festivals in the back parts of the city, where the ever-
merciful God of the Jews somehow sees to it that even the wedding
of a poor bride and groom should be a real
simchah
; and in the
presence of the
rabbonim
and the
rebbes.
He also loves to pass
Jewish homes on Friday evening when the candles welcoming the
Sabbath flicker into being one by one, as if the Sabbath Bride
has decided to come into the homes of the Jews on dancing feet,
kindling the lights tenderly as she hops from candle to candle and
from home to home. And he is at home in his own study, even
when reading the sad annals of this wonderful Jewish people, who,
despite every agony, somehow manage to come out on top, chant­
ing
Shema Y isroel
. . .
Hath Not a Jew
and
Poems
, Mr. Klein’s two best books, grow
in intensity with each reading. He has a style of his own. His
expression is laden with emotion, Jewish emotion, yet is not over­
burdened with it; its breadth and fullness are the breadth and
fullness of life and authenticity . . . His writing is an act of creative
enlargement of the Jewish experience, and reading him is to under­
go a creative enlargement of one’s own awareness of the glory
and magnificence of Judaism and of Jewishness. Read his “Por­
traits of a Minyan,” and see how truly and sharply, yet kindly,
he can depict Jews. Consider the four-line
Pintele Yid:
“Agnostic, he would never tire
To cauterize the orthodox;
But he is here, by paradox,
To say the
Kaddish
for his sire.”
Read his “Design for Mediaeval Tapestry,” especially the section
subtitled,
Reb Zadoc has memories
, which opens with these three
lines: