Page 76 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 2

Basic HTML Version

prophetic vision of the Yishuv is not forgotten, this edition of
Old-New Land
should be sold out rapidly. This volume has in its own way a message of inestimable
value for the Jewish people, a message of startling contemporaneity these forty
years after its composition. Here is a Herzl sobered by contact with a world of
tragic reality within Jewry and outside it, and yet a Herzl more conscious than
ever of the destiny of his people and its capacity for accomplishment.
In the form of a Utopian novel, a form which other literary and political leaders
had used before him, Herzl laid the groundwork for a Jewish state that was to be
some twenty years after the appearance of his book. The very shortness of the
period selected, two decades in the history of a people thousands of years old, is
symbolic of the daring of the author. Unlike others who had written novels of the
type, Herzl did not sigh and say that these things might come to pass if human
beings were other than they are. Instead, he said, “ If you will it, it is no fable.”
Now that twenty years have passed beyond the date of Herzl’s story, we can look
back on the world he created, and find errors in it. But these errors of fact, and not
of intent, are nothing compared with the truly amazing record of clear-sightedness
he displayed.
Herzl the novelist was no match for Herzl the pamphleteer and political genius.
“The greatness of
Old-New Land,"
writes Dr. Wise in his preface to this edition,
“ is seen after forty years to lie in the accuracy of its prognosis and the little less
than miraculous truth of its prophecy.”
— E
l i h u
W
i n e r
in
Opinion
The Jews in Spain.
By
A b r a h a m A. N e u m a n .
Philadelphia,
J e w i s h P u b l i c a t i o n S o c i e t y
(1942). 2 vols.
In writing these two volumes Dr. Neuman has undertaken an ambitious task.
His objective is “ to describe the social, economic and constitutional aspects of
Jewish life in medieval Spain and thus to depict the normal, daily life of the Jews
on the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages.” He is not satisfied to write
about the leaders and the great names, many of whom are already familiar. He
prefers, rather, to reach down through history and exhume the “ unnamed and
inconspicuous but all-important multitude.” The author skilfully exploits
two kinds of documentary sources which, by their nature, often provide a check
upon each other. He makes ample use, in the first place, of the contempo-
rarv Jewish sources of the period provided by the
Responsa.
These are quite
literally the written “ responses” by prominent rabbis to questions embracing the
entire gamut of Jewish life, from birth to death, and even beyond the grave. They
include questions and answers to problems of dress, etiquette, as well as the deeper
problems of morals, economics and the spiritual life of the Spanish Jews.
He succeeds in achieving his objective of treating in an intimate way of the life
of the “common man.” I t is fascinating to read of the domestic, social and economic
life within the Spanish Jewish communities, to know of the moral attitudes, the
courtship and marriage customs, the daily routine of a Jew in medieval Spain.
Quite apart from their utilization of primary sources, these volumes have claim
to distinction which issues from the character of its author. Dr. Neuman is an
objective writer. He makes no hasty judgments. He has no axe to grind. He
serves no master unless it be the severest master, the truth. Neither does he write
as a Jew. History is non-sectarian. Indeed, he smashes some ideas held by various
and sundry persons for generations. For example, Dr. Neuman writes: “The
Church of Rome does not bear the onus of having advocated the expulsion or the
physical extermination of Jewry in any Christian State.” Similarly, he breaks
some specious illusions harbored by those who believe that Jews have been utterly
and always landless,
lujtmenschen
divorced from the soil. As a matter of sober
history, land was one of the most striking aspects of Jewish economy in Spain.
This work will establish Dr. Neuman as a scholar’s scholar. It is at once a
source book for students and a pattern for other scholars who seek to make the
most efficient use of available documents. I t is another evidence of the high stature
to which Jewish scholarship, American-trained and nurtured, has attained.
— B a r u c h B r a u n s t e i n i n
Contemporary Jewish Record
66
— .