Page 15 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 17 (1958-1959)

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L
e f tw i c h
— H
assidic
I
n f luence s
in
L
i teratur e
9
impulses which had brought the Hassidic revival into existence.
In
Children o f the Ghetto,
too, which appeared in 1892, Zang­
will pictured the Hassidim who by that time, the 1890’s, had
made their home in London. In their little Synagogue, “they
prayed metaphysics, angelology, Cabbalah.” One of their num­
ber, Karlkammer, “was a great authority on Cabbalah.”
The Hassidim began to interest London Jewish artists. Alfred
Wolmark, who is now over 80, went as a young man to Cracow
to paint Hassidim. Sir William Rothenstein became a member
of the Mahsike Hadas Synagogue in Whitechapel, so that he
could paint some of its orthodox and Hassidic Jews. They went
also to the
Hevra Shaas,
known as the
Kahal Hassidim,
and to
other Hassidic
shtibels.
Zangwill was a friend of Schechter’s and spoke of himself as
his pupil. Schechter’s writing was not imaginative literature,
but he seems to have been the first to bring Hassidism to the
attention of Anglo-Jewry. In his essay
T h e Hassidim,
republished
in 1896 in his
Studies in Judaism ,
Schechter referred to writers
who have used the Hassidim in imaginative literature. “Some
account of the sect is the more necessary,” he wrote, “because
although the Hassidim have not been wholly ignored by his­
torians or novelists, the references to them have generally, for
perfectly intelligible reasons, been either biased or inaccurate.
The historians have been almost exclusively men saturated with
Western culture and rationalism. To them Hassidism was a
movement to be dismissed as unaesthetic and irrational. To
the purposes of fiction the romantic side of Hassidism lends itself
readily, but the novelists who have used this material have con­
fined themselves to its externals. Thus Franzos in his references
to the Jews of Barnow describes faithfully the outer signs of
the man, his long coat and tangled curls, but the inner life, the
world in which the Hassid moved and had his being, was un­
known to him.”
“As to my treatment of the subject,” Schechter explained, “I
confess that there was a time when I loved the Hassidim as there
was a time when I hated them. And even now I am not able
to suppress these feelings. I have tried to guide my feelings
in such a way as to love in Hassidism what is ideal and noble,
and to hate in it what turned out bad and pernicious for
Judaism.”
Dr. Moses Gaster was another Anglo-Jewish scholar interested
in Hassidism. He introduced the English translation of Horo-
detzky’s
Leaders o f Hassidism.
“It (Hassidism) came,” he wrote,
“from the lowly, the poor, the ignorant, but it spoke with a
tongue of fiery conviction, of deep enthusiasm. It brought hope
and joy to the downtrodden.” Rabbi Dr. Abelson, in his book,
Jewish Mysticism,
published in London in 1913, spoke of the