Page 111 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

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EFROS, POET-PHILOSOPHER
ISRAEL
On the Occasion of His 80th Birthday
B
y
J
acob
K
abakoff
sr a e l
E
f r o s
,
who came to America from Czarist Russia as a boy,
has enjoyed a distinguished career as poet and philosopher for
half a century. During his years of fruitful activity here he
chieved a position as one of our foremost American Hebrew poets
nd as a leading authority on Jewish philosophy. His lifework
epresents a unique blending of two disciplines which complement
ach other admirably. In order to find a parallel for his accom-
lishment, we have to revert to another age, to medieval times,
hen Hebrew poets who engaged in philosophical speculation
ere no rarity and when it was no uncommon occurrence to find
riters who were equally at home in several disciplines.
In 1955, at an age when most people go into retirement, Efros
as invited to become the first rector of the Tel Aviv University,
hose fortunes he helped to guide during its formative years. Efros
ad graced the faculties of many American academic institutions,
eginning with the Baltimore Hebrew College which he headed,
un ter College where he was professor of Hebrew, and Dropsie
ollege where he served as professor of Jewish philosophy.
The Israeli chapter in Efros’ life has marked a notable turning
oint in his literary career. In Israel his poetry has become more
efined; it has attained new dimensions of expressiveness. Here
fros’ qualities of intense lyricism and philosophical contempla-
tiveness became more closely linked. His poems, always rooted in
ewish thematic material, address themselves to the human prob-
ems and to their eternal contradictions.
The author of several books of Hebrew poetry and of scholarly
English language philosophical works, Efros is preoccupied in
srael with collecting his literary productivity. At this writing seven
f his projected eight volumes have already appeared. His collected
orks are almost evenly divided between poetry and philosophy,
roviding an overview of his manifold contributions to our liter-
ture. No stranger to literary awards, Efros was signally honored
n 1967 with the coveted Bialik Prize for belles lettres, thereby
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