Page 104 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 16

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K A S R I L E V K E R E V A L U A T E D
O
n
t h e C e n t e n a r y o f S h o l o m A l e i c h e m , s B i r t h
B
y
S
ol
L
ip t z in
S
HOLOM ALEICHEM has been translated more often and
into more tongues than any other Yiddish author. Neverthe-
less, he is not a world classic. This term must be reserved for
writers who can be meaningful to peoples far and wide and
whose works can be guides to wise and moral living regardless
of time and clime. Sholom Aleichem is, however, a Jewish classic
because he can be meaningful to Jews on all continents and his
works can be guides to more constructive Jewish living despite
their limited value for non-Jews.
On the centenary of his birth, the question may well be asked
by American Jews: what does and what can this supreme narrator
of the Eastern European Yiddish milieu mean to us here and
now? After all, we are no longer living in the monocultural
world of the
stedt l
Kasrilevke, a Jewish fortress beleaguered on
all sides by an alien culture but holding out and able to hold
out against all assaults and all lures generation after generation
because its foundations were sunk deep in the soil of a Jewish
tradition reaching back to immemorial time.
We, on the other hand, are living in American space, warmed
by the friendship of well-disposed neighbors. We have been
liberated from the confinement, the filth and the tensions of
Kasrilevke. At the same time, however, we have also been up-
rooted from its bedrock of Jewishness. We have been trans-
planted to a new and fairer earth but, in the process of trans-
plantation, we have suffered severe damage. It is true that a
brighter sun now shines above our heads and more plentiful
moisture bedews our foliage. But somewhow there is no greater
taam
to our existence. We blossom more ostentatiously but with
diminished fragrance. We bring forth ever new shoots but they
are devoid of aroma. We are in danger of succumbing to a
major transmutation of our essential characteristics, those historic
traits that form our precious uniqueness and the justifiable rea-
son for our continuing group survival.
We are beginning to recognize that, if we are not to become
indistinguishable from our neighbors, we need more food from
the cultural storehouse of our recent and remote past. We need
an enrichment of our Americanism by Torah. We must have
knowledge not only of Washington and Lincoln, the American
liberators, but also of their Jewish counterparts, from Moses,
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