Page 74 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
and “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean,” he confesses that their
American authors must have “mused in Hebrew . . . The oldest
and the youngest nations thinking in the same vein, in the same
measure, in the same tongue,—there must be some significance
in this. Perhaps, nay, assuredly, the youngest nation is the heir
of the oldest, and all that was best in the Jewish nation is now
the possession of the American nation to be developed and cul-
tivated for the benefit of all humanity.”3
Rosenzweig edited a short-lived periodical
Bee). He also likened the epigram to the bee whose body is small,
sweet and stinging. In that image he compressed his schizoid es-
The younger contemporary of Rosenzweig, Benjamin Nahum
Silkiner (1882-1933), did not share the belief that America in-
herited the totality of the Jewish spirit. But he was aware of the
vast cultural potentialities of the New World. Like many immi-
grants before him he was fascinated by the native Indian. In
the year 1909, which will be remembered as a turning point in
the history of Hebrew literature in this country, he presented the
Hebrew-reading public with the first important and native
Hebrew poem,
Mul Ohel Timmurah
(Before the Ten t of Tim-
murah). It was cast in the form of a poetic story told to an Indian
girl by her father Timmurah—hence the name of the poem. Com-
posed at the age of twenty nine and published in Jerusalem, it
struck a bold note and a new theme. No Hebrew poet before
Silkiner ventured into the realm of the intertribal quarrels of
the Indians and their fights with the Spaniards. With a fine sen-
sitivity to the early injustices of the white man and with an ex-
cellent command of the Hebrew language, he succeeded in por-
traying the noble savage against the paradoxes of primitive re-
ligion. Human sacrifices to the Great Spirit clash with the tender
cult of the God of Peace and Purity, the Soul-God; the wiles of
chiefs jar the wisdom of priests. And above all the American land-
scape in all its glory comes into its own.
High mountains of flint to the east—these are for eagles,
The hoary sea to the west—for the whales,
the spawn of the deep,
The ancient woods in the south—for the lions,
the roaring leopards
The desert of awe to the north—for the storms
and the whirlwinds.
3 The slender volume of three translations was published in a bilingual
edition and dedicated to the man who had also befriended Naphtali Herz
Imber, the author of
Ha tikvah
— “Mayer Sulzberger embodying all that is
good in American Judaism.” Rosenzweig must have thought that the three
patriotic poems would be also sung in Hebrew for he furnished them with
musical notes and a transliterated translation.