Page 78 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 2

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The rule of courtesy is beginning to be observed. Dr. Klausner cannot dismiss,
let us say, the Archbishop of Canterbury as a spiritual inferior, and the Archbishop
of Canterbury cannot ignore a book like this as if it were merely obstinate. I t is
the small minds that differ. When, at long last, the great minds begin to get to-
gether, they meet on a plane above the low-lying miasmas of prejudice, and, in
Paul’s great words, know as they are known.
— P.
W . W7i l s o n
in
The New York Times Book Review
Henrietta
Szold:
Life and Letters
. B y M a r v i n L o w e n t h a l ,
New
York (1942).
T h e V i k i n g P r e s s .
The letters in this book, some 200 chosen from nearly 5,000 made available by
the family and friends of Miss Szold, range over sixty years. The prim, idealistic,
very intellectual American girl going on botany trips with her sisters, writing
“ learned” articles under the pen-name of “Sulamith,” moralizing and deploring,
as early as 1878, that “ the extensive fields of Hebrew lore, philosophy, poetry, and
the noble language in which it is expressed, all have been allowed to remain barren,”
grows into the woman past eighty, grappling in Palestine with the most desperate
issues before the Jewish people. I t is an extraordinary evolution, and a strange
journey from the ferny woodlands of Baltimore, nostalgically remembered, year
in and year out, to the solitary room in Jerusalem, where the light always burns
late —“Miss Szold is working.”
Zionism did not come to Henrietta Szold, as it did to Herzl, with the impact
of a revelation. I t developed naturally in her studious rabbinical home, where
Judaism was viewed as “ a way of life.” The final stimulus was given by her con-
tact with a group of Russian immigrants, who came to Baltimore as refugees from
the pogroms of 1881. From the first, her Zionism was motivated by a sense of the
spiritual impoverishment of American Jewry.
Her ascetic devotion to duty, her infinite capacity for work, her rigorous idealism,
are a part of Zionist lore. “Miss Szold as Saint” is a sufficiently popularized con-
ception. What is less familiar is the richness and complexity of her personality.
This comes alive in the letters because Miss Szold writes with truth and power.
Perhaps most striking of all is the conflict between one aspect of her nature and
the tasks she is obliged to assume. Always she is driven. At fifty-five, because of
a stipend which made her financially independent, she was able to resign her post
as secretary of the Jewish Publication Society, where she had edited and translated
for twenty-five years. But the years to come were to bring labors greater than any
that had gone before.
But of all the thorny problems — the inadequacy of human material, the in-
sistence on “political” discussions when “practical” work called to be done, the
partisan debates in which she was so often called to be a judge, she who writes of
herself, “My usual ability to see both sides made me a poor advocate”— the
fiercest and most pressing, from her point of view, was that of Arab-Jewish re-
lations. With her revulsion from violence, her meticulous sense of “ fair play,”
this was inevitable. A solution for the race problem became for her the crux of
Zionism.
Herzl, in a moment of disillusionment, spoke of Zionism as the movement which
had made him poor, sick, and old before his time. But he also called it the Sabbath
of his life. Henrietta Szold could perhaps level other charges. She could say that
it had taken from her the serenity of old age, the books she might have read and
perhaps written, the quiet satisfaction of personal desires. But one cannot read
her letters without feeling that here too has b;en a hallowing, a “Sabbath” which
has its special peace — the peace of the day of grace, if not of the day of rest.
In the present volume we have a rarely beautiful and moving record for a great
spirit.
— M
a r i e
S
y r k i n
in
The Menorah Journal
68