Page 10 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 17 (1958-1959)

Basic HTML Version

e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
Buber’s influence has not gone unquestioned in Jewish reli­
gious circles, which complain that Hassidic tales alone do not
give the essence of Hassidic religious teaching, and that reli­
giously Buber seeks overmuch to synthesise Judaism with
Christianity. One critic has called him “a self-appointed Apostle
to the Gentiles, carrying to them a metamorphosed message of
Hassidism.” There may be justification for that judgment when
one considers how a Christianised Jew like Victor Gollancz,
under Buber’s influence, jumbles together in one of his books
bits from the Apostles’ Creed, from St. Thomas Aquinas, Kierke­
gaard, the Mass, the Lord’s Prayer, the Shema and a great deal
from the Hassidic Rabbis. According to a review in a Jewish
magazine, the Jewish-Christian missionaries have started publish­
ing in their “Judeo-Christian Studies” long essays on “The
Hassidic Movement” and on “Buber’s I-Thou Philosophy.”
Buber himself has said, “I consider Hassidic truth vitally im­
portant for Jews, Christians and others.”
There can be no doubt that Buber’s writings have played a
great role in spreading the knowledge of Hassidism, and above
all, of the Hassidic tales. But there nave been other writings in
the field. Jacob Minkin says in his
T h e Romance o f Hassidism
published in 1935, “Hassidism has an accumulated literature
that may fairly be described as stupendous.” Yet when he men­
tions some of it, we find it is not creative literature, but scholarly
work like “Dubnow, Horodetzky, Buber, Kahana.”
Influences other than the scholarly have of course contributed
to the knowledge of Hassidism. There was, for example, the
tremendous impact the production of An-sky’s
T he Dybbuk
the Vilna Troupe and the Habimah made on the English stage.
Not only Anglo-Jewish theatre groups, but also non-Jewish
companies, were impressed by the play’s dramatic possibilities and
by the novelty of the Hassidic dances. Rabbi Azrael’s speech
T he Dybbuk
found its way into Victor Gollancz’s anthology.
Maurice Schwartz’s production of Singer’s
Yoshe Kalb
more Hassidism to the English stage. Wolf Mankowitz and
Sam Wanamaker recently produced
The World, o f Shalom
making a point to stage the Hassidic features.
As far back as 1904, Helena Frank’s early translations of
Peretz’s Hassidic tales, like
I f Not H igher,
had roused interest
among English-speaking Jews and non-Jews. It is noteworthy
that Helena Frank’s translation is the one Chief Rabbi Hertz
incorporated in his
B ook o f Jewish Thoughts.
Other Yiddish
and Hebrew writers who pictured Hassidic life did not get into
the stream of English translation until Sholom Asch and Zalman
Schneor brought the Hassidic world to English readers with
such works as
Salvation (T eh ilim Yid)
T h e Emperor and
the R abb i
(the Rabbi being the Hassidic Rabbi Schneor