Page 222 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 24

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e w i s h
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“Furthermore, my associations in the Jewish Book Council have
given me great personal gratification. From my youth I have loved
books and the dreams that were enshrined in them. As a child
even the very smell of books, the leather, the printer’s ink, the
feel of the paper had some esoteric meaning and a special pleasure
for me. To deal, therefore, with books and with the men of the
books was a joy and honor given me, that exceeded many of the
other honors that I have been privileged to hold.
“Serving in the Jewish Book Council and working with writers
and people interested in the written word was particularly im­
portant to me because we are now engaged in a committed battle
to maintain the significance of literature in a world dominated
by the new ideology of scientism. This ideology, which is seeking
to capture our materialistic world, teaches that the only truth is
the truth that can be documented in statistics or in experiments,
and that the instinct of the writer to create out of his experiences
or his ideals a set of values to live by and a noble meaning in the
world is trivial and irrelevant. The challenge that writers face
today, is to preserve the inviolability of man’s imagination, to
idealize the distinguishing personalities and individual differences
of man, as opposed to the unemotional, unfeeling machine, the
cold, brutal computer, or the anonymity of statistics.
“The Jewish writer is especially caught up in this
for it is incumbent upon him to add in his work a humanistic
quality—the validity of the moral imperative—a vision without
which a people must truly perish. But he has a special duty, as
well, and that is to transmit that heritage which is peculiarly
ours, and which was originated in the Bible, the first book of all
books. I speak not, of course, of the Jewish writer who has
allowed the awareness of himself as a Jew to reach the vanishing
point, and whose gesture of passionate rejection seems to him
his last possible connection with the historical past. Nor do I
speak of the Jewish writer to whom success is represented by the
fulfillment of the cultural assimilationist dream. Jewish writers
may now, in this moment when philo-Semitism is rampant in
certain cultural and literary circles in America, write without
self-consciousness in their idiom.
“A Jewish writer, or at least a writer in the Jewish medium,
must vindicate the relevancy of Jewish life and Jewish aspiration,
Jewish tradition and Jewish thought, and we in the Jewish Book
Council are dedicated to encourage such writers to write—and
our people to read. For that purpose our annual meeting is also
an occasion for the special recognition of those whose great
talent is particularly joined in the battle for the freedom of
human expression and the articulation of the human hope.”