Page 100 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

Basic HTML Version

MA R V I N L OWE N T H A L , 1 8 9 0 - 1 969
ha r le s
ad ison
a r v in
o w e n t h a l
who died on March 15, 1969, was a
solid scholar in Jewish history, a felicitous stylist and
popular lecturer; yet he never quite broke through the barrier
to eminence. His several books and numerous essays, for all
their excellence, found relatively few readers, and very few
libraries now carry the books on their shelves. Those who
knew him, however, and many did in varying degrees of inti-
macy, genuinely admired him as a lovable person and as a
writer of unusual merit.
Of German-Jewish parents, Lowenthal was born in Brad-
ford, Pennsylvania, on October 6, 1890. His father, a watch-
maker, was a modest and plain man, while his mother was
positive and protective in relation to her family. Marvin be-
gan to write at an early age, and a story of his was bought
when he was 14 years old. The next year, however,
he left school to work as a bobbin-boy in a silk mill, where
he gradually advanced himself to assistant superintendant. But
his progress at the mill notwithstanding, in February 1912
he entered the University of Wisconsin, where he in time won
two Menorah essay prizes, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
A scholarship on graduation in 1915 enabled him to attend
Harvard University for his M.A. In 1918 he married Sylvia
Wardfin, a fellow student at Wisconsin.
At Wisconsin his early interest in Jewish history was stim-
ulated by Horace M. Kallen. In 1916 lie assumed the director-
ship of the Zionist Bureau on the Pacific Coast. For the ensuing
three years he devoted himself to strengthening and broaden-
ing the interest in Zionism among the Jews living in that area.
Lowenthal came to New York in 1919, hoping to earn his
living as a writer. He soon joined the staff of
The Menorah
and from 1921 to 1930 he served as associate and for-
eign editor. During most of this decade he lived in Europe,
contributing his travel reports under the pseudonym of H. Ben-
Shahar as well as essays on various topics. He visited most
Jewish centers in Europe and North Africa and described his
observations with insight and sympathy. Typical of his essays
was “On a Jewish Humanism,” which expounded Jewish hu-
manism based not on “an historic and altogether extraneous
accident” bu t on “an absorption in Jewish culture.” Rejecting