Page 225 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

Basic HTML Version

K
abakoff
— A
mer ican
H
ebrew
B
elles
-L
ettres
2 05
branches of literary creativity as well, helped develop in America
a center of literary productivity second in importance only to
that of Palestine. The value of their efforts was enhanced all the
more by the fact that the Hebrew literary center in Eastern
Europe was rapidly entering into a period of decline. Th e poets
sensed that theirs was an historic mission and they responded with
a burst of creative endeavor.
The hopes for the future of American Hebrew letters ran high.
In 1927, when Daniel Persky surveyed the field o f American
Hebrew letters in the 5th anniversary volume o f
H a d o a r ,
he was
able to list 110 writers who were active in various fields of literary
work. Then , as now, virtually none of the writers made their living
from Hebrew writing. Over half were engaged in Hebrew
teaching.
In 1943 Menachem Ribalow, editor of
H a d o a r ,
who perhaps
more than any other single individual was responsible for the
fostering and encouraging of American Hebrew writing, reviewed
the fruits of Hebrew literary creativity in America between the
two World Wars. His review appeared in
A h ise fe r ,
a volume de-
voted to studies in the literature and language of the Jews, and
was highly optimistic. When he penned this survey, the leading
American Hebrew writers who had come from overseas were still
with us. According to his estimate, “there were close to 120 He-
brew writers and scholars who had bu ilt an edifice which would
stand.”
Ribalow was of the opinion that, due to the efforts of these
writers, “Hebrew literature in this country had become a basic
and indispensable part of the cultural life of the Jewish commu-
nity in America.” He was sanguine also regarding the future of
American Hebrew letters, for he could not conceive o f a creative
Jewish community in which the Hebrew language and literature
would be allowed to languish.
Undoubtedly, the hopes of Ribalow and other leading Hebraists
were buoyed up by the appearance during the 30’s and 40's of a
group of young Hebrew writers, all of whom were educated in
America and some even born here. These young talents had begun
to publish their creative efforts in a journal of their own called
N iv .
R ibalow stressed that the needs of Jewish history and the
affinity of American culture for the Bible and Hebraic values
were factors that could be counted upon to further the develop-
ment of Hebrew letters on American soil. Term ing the years
between the two World Wars a “period of transition,” Ribalow
hopefully concluded, “What has been done until now w ill serve
as the basis for continuation, a seed planted for the future.”