Page 122 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 21

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J e w i s h B o o k A n n u a l
and perchance. But I remembered “Perchance to dream,” and
“ere half my days” and “,tis an unweeded garden”; and I con-
eluded that there isn’t so much weeding needed in Zangwill’s
prose. I t is more important that “human nature is dateless,” and
that as I said in my book on Zangwill, his people still live and
are recognizable in their present-day children and grandchildren.
They are here, even in modern Israel, where one of its writers
says he has found “whole pages dragged from Zangwill’s
Chi ldren
of the Ghet to
One thing I would do—in the light of Zangwill’s
later respect for Yiddish—is to delete from
Chi ldren of the Ghe t to
the nine words of derogatory dismissal of Yiddish. I wouldn’t
replace them with nine of his later eulogy of the language. I
would leave only his simple statement, “many were in Yiddish.”
Otherwise I rest on St. John Ervine’s judgment of Zangwill
as “a writer of such high quality.” I t is not enough to dismiss
Zangwill unread. He must be re-assessed by a reading of his
best work. 1 have told the story in my printed Zangwill Memorial
Lecture to the Jewish Historical Society of England, how Ivan
Greenberg, who was then editor of the
Jewish Chronicle,
wrote
to me that he had turned up for me Israel Abraham’s review of
Chi ldren of the Ghet to
when the book had first appeared in
1892, and finding there the proem of the book had been tempted
to re-read it. “What a magnificent piece of writing,” he said,
“and how the years if anything mellowed its appeal!”
I
want to return to the suggestion to delete the nine deroga-
tory words about Yiddish in
Chi ldren of the Ghet to ,
because it
illustrates Zangwill’s habit of learning and changing his views
in the light of later knowledge. He had respect for Jews, even
for the so-called “fundamentalist zealots.” “1 cannot share,” he
said, “the intolerance for the Jews of the old type who live in
Jerusalem. I feel more strongly than ever that it pays a people
better to keep up such a standing army of mystics and students
than to nourish the insolence of a military caste.” He declared
himself one of Schechter’s most assiduous pupils. He always
wanted to learn more about Judaism. He learned and he
thought over what he learned. And there is a great deal in his
writings which is of value for us still today, those of us who want
to think about and understand our Judaism.
It was Dr. Harold Fisch, of the Bar-Ilan University in Israel,
who in a lecture to the Jewish Historical Society of England
said: “We in Anglo-Jewry (and equally in American Jewry)
have still much to learn from Zangwill about ourselves and the
diaspora Judaism we have inherited.”