Page 82 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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M A X W E I N R E I C H
1 8 9 4 - 1 9 6 9
By
J
o s h u a
A.
F
i s h m a n
O
n
A
pril
22, 1969,
M
a x
W
e inre ich
would have been 75 year
old. These words were originally planned in recognition no
only of his past incomparable contributions to Yiddish and J
scholarship, but also of his continued exemplary leadership i
these very fields. Dr. Weinreich took great pains that his birthday
pass without notice, for he neither enjoyed, nor could he spare th
time for, the celebrations his birthdays might easily have triggere
in Jewish and in non-Jewish scholarly circles. Even less obviou
than his birth date was his age, for his vigor in thought, in speec
and in action remained such that on January 29, when he passe
away, he was supervising or engaged in 18 research and publicatio
projects, several of which could easily have been full-time jobs fo
anyone else.
Max (Meyer) Weinreich's life epitomized the emotional, intel
lectual and physical odyssey of the last great generation of Easter
European Jewish intellectuals. The well-to-do Jewish milieu o
Kurland (Estonia) in which he spent his childhood was intellectu
ally oriented toward German and Russian culture and he receive
his earliest education in those languages. However, the rising tid
of modern Jewish nationalism attracted him as it did many of hi
Russified, Polonized and Germanized contemporaries. He earl
became an active participant in Yiddish secular-nationalist an
socialist organizations and publications, but simultaneously, steepe
himself in the intellectual counterparts of his societal involve
ments. From the age of 18, when he was admitted to the Facult
of History and Philology at the University of Petrograd, to the da
of his death, he continued to view knowledge as the necessar
precursor of constructive social action, and constructive socia
action as the potential consequence of all knowledge. His demo
stration that deep familiarity with the Eastern European linguistic
socio-cultural and political-economic roots were essential prerequ
sites for understanding and re-directing American Jewish lif
began on the day of his arrival in New York in 1949 and deepl
influenced two generations of students and colleagues.
Max Weinreich’s scholarship must long remain unrivaled i
quality, in quantity and in scope. Its quality is attested by th
fact that his dissertation (University of Marburg) on the histor
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