Page 81 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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75
G
l e n n
— D
a n ie l
P
e r s k y
Zabra) he was ever busy correcting its slovenly, too easy assimila-
tion of Yiddish-European catch phrases and the like.
Persky was a thoroughgoing American; he lived in and
through the optimistic American spirit. In his later years he
became a well-known figure in New York and it was fitting tha t
he was chosen for a profile by the
New Yorker
on May 28, 1959.
Dwight MacDonald, a critic w ith a repu ta tion for opposing
kitsch
in American cu ltural life and a self-confessed Trotskyite
(in the 1930s), caught the sense of Persky’s unbounded fealty to
Hebrew and his wide public life as contrasted w ith his narrow
!private life (if he could be said to have had one) as a
Hebraist acolyte.
Persky was a regular contributor to and a p illar of
Hadoar,
the sole Hebrew weekly in the Un ited States. His weekly
feuil-
le\ton
was often the first piece many readers tu rned to (as I
did). Always active, he sought many methods of interesting the
young in Hebrew. He published small dictionaries which the
H istad ru th Iv r ith and Zionist organizations distributed for use
in schools. He knew of every Hebrew work—literary, poetic,
criticism—often reading them first, editing and in some cases re-
writing w ith self-effacing modesty.
Persky published nine Hebrew works. His last,
Lashon
Nekiah
(Pure, Correct Hebrew), was issued in 1962 and con-
firmed his unabated love of the language and his concern for
its correct usage. I t was subtitled: “A practical guide in matters
of grammer, syntax and style.” But it was more; it contained a
continuity of Hebrew from classic times, archaic terms, oddities
and curiosa, all very much alive. He declared again for the
Ashkenazic pronunciation bu t was not averse to the Sephardic
pronunciation used in Israel.
A one-man betrothal to Hebrew is, of course, an anachro-
nism with the establishment in Israel of the Hebrew Language
Academy. But Persky will always be a glistening satellite in the
Hebrew firmament. I carry with me a personal memoriam to
our devoted colleague in American Hebraica. Before he died he
wrote to me about
Lashon Nekiah,
“If you have in m ind to
review this book in
Hadoar
or
Bitzaron
please write to the
editors—and thanks!” I was especially intrigued by his insistence
on correct pronunciation and was eager to comment on the
newly created pronunciation
Ashkesfard.
In
Lashon Nekiah
he
listed eleven titles of books he had planned to publish; had they
appeared his total works would have comprised twenty volumes.
But alas! as Bialik sang
תרישו
וייח
עצמאב
הקספנ
“T he song of his
life was in terrup ted midway.” So far as his plans and aspirations
were concerned, it was only the middle of his life.
Persky died I I Adar 9, 5722—March 15, 1962, at the age
of 74 years, seven months and eleven days. His memory will
continue to inspire us.