Page 117 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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S I M O N B E R N S T E I N AT E I G H T Y
B
y
H
arry
B
lum b erg
I
T is not often tha t one discovers in the works of an au tho r
a leitmotif to which he has remained consistently faithful
throughout his literary career. Dr. Simon Bernstein is an unusual
example of one whose many literary and communal activities
have been motivated by two high-minded purposes: a steadfast
adherence to the ideal of an independent Jewish state in the land
of Israel, and an indefatigable effort to bring the message of
this ideal to a wide circle of readers. In addition, Bernstein has
won acclaim for the fine quality of his scholarly research in
medieval Hebrew poetry. I t is on these two grounds of his
Zionist activities and writings and of his distinguished scholarly
publications in the field of medieval Hebrew literature, tha t
tribu te ought to be paid him on the occasion of his eightieth
birthday.
Early Training and Career
Born in Jacobstadt, Latvia, Bernstein received a good founda-
tion in traditional Hebraic studies, which was to serve him well
in later research. He went on to graduate work in Semitic Ian-
guages, history and philosophy at the universities of Berlin,
Strassburg and Berne. From the latter institution he received the
doctorate in 1907 for his dissertation
Konig Nebucadnezar von
Babel in der jildischen Tradition.
In this early work Bernstein
delved into the Haggadic sources for the characterization of the
Babylonian king’s personality as depicted in the later Hebraic
literature, and demonstrated his competence in handling Arabic,
Syriac and Patristic sources for parallel portrayals. On the basis
of the documentary evidence available, Bernstein concluded tha t
there were two different views of Nebuchadnezzar’s character:
(1) as a harsh, unscrupulous ru le r who ruthlessly destroyed the
kingdom of Judah; (2) as a mild, tolerant king who was merely
the tool of the Almighty in punishing Israel for its transgressions.
Zionistic and Communal Activities
In 1912 Bernstein became officially connected w ith the world
Zionist movement when he was appointed secretary in charge of
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