Page 79 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

Basic HTML Version

DAN I E L P E R S KY T HE F O L K I S T
B
y
M
e n a h e m
G . G
l e n n
T
HE memory of Daniel Persky will always be tha t of a man
wholly and soulfully dedicated to Hebrew as a viable,
dynamic and growing language. His long lifetime could scarcely
contain his unabashed, almost naive enthusiasm for Hebrew.
T o him it was not an arcane study and pursu it for cloistered
scholars—not tha t he failed to appreciate the work and efforts
of the Biblical classicists who made Hebrew so impo rtan t a tool
in Biblical exegesis. Nor did he ever negate Yiddish. He saw it
as more than a jargon, as a web of the homogeneity of the
Eastern European Jews who burst on world history in the nine-
teenth century.
In his unflagging drive to teach, improve and strengthen
Hebrew in its literature, Persky was essentially of the people,
a
folksmensch
who dedicated his life and efforts to have the
Yiddish masses accept Hebrew as their basic trad itional ver-
nacular. He came from the heart of the Yiddish high tide, when
the currents of the west roiled the townlets of the Jewish Pale
of Settlement.
Persky was born in Minsk, White Russia, on the 18th day
of Ab 5647 (August 8, 1887). T he Jewish masses in Minsk,
already influenced by the Haskalah brought on the wings of
the cultural renaissance, were impelled by a strong urge for learn-
ing and for renewed interest in Hebrew as a living language
and as a harbinger of the Zionist nostalgia for the ancient home-
land. In this culturally saturated environment Persky, even
before his puberty, was drawn to Hebrew, not as a study of
ancient rabbinics bu t as an instrument for the living present
so portentous with change and destiny for his people. Like
other Yiddish youth he was stirred by the Haskalah movement,
bu t he wanted the Jew to be an enlightened Jew. He was
less stirred by Zionism and the political goal of a free Palestine.
Salvation for him lay in recapturing the language as a pliable
tool, the language of the Judean ancestry whose progeny were
now scattered. Unity was possible through the revitalization of
that language, and to this task young Persky resolved to dedicate
his life.
At the tender age of th irteen he was already a teacher and
proponent of a living, secular Hebrew, and he was soon recog-
73