Page 68 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 29

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C EC I L R O T H , 1 8 9 9 - 1 9 7 0
By
S
olomon
G
rayzel
O
n
J
u n e
21, 1970, Cecil Roth passed into history. Instead of
a
reviver and skilful portrayer of its past, the Jewish people
now has another colorful personality in the vast galaxy of bookmen
who enriched its life and who will henceforth further enrich its
memory.
Cecil Roth loved history. The past was for him always a living
past. One can sense it when reading almost any of his sketches,
short or long, of the half-obscure personalities whom his pen
brought back to life. Only Roth could undertake to describe the
daily life of a medieval English Jew so that the reader can almost
see him and feel for him. Only Roth could resurrect, out of the
archives, an adventurer like Sir Edward Brampton, or—should one
say
lehavditf—a.
devoted personality like Gracia Mendez. He could
achieve such flesh, blood and mind characterization because his
approach to history was not so much in terms of ideas and forces—
though he was, of course, very much aware of these—but rather in
terms of men and women whose life and labors deserved to be
remembered for their own sake as well as for the sake of the varied
and profound Jewish experience.
The catalogue of his writings was compiled by the late Oskar
Rabinowicz for the volume
Rem ember the Days
published in 1966
in Roth’s honor by the Jewish Historical Society of England, which
he had eight times served as president. This catalogue lists 572
items up to 1966. Some, to be sure, are duplicates in the sense of
being translations into other languages, or later editions, or re-
prints. But even if original items are reduced by a hundred, they
still constitute a prodigious achievement and attest a very active
intellectual and literary life. Thirty or more of these items are
full-size books (eight published by the Jewish Publication Society
of America). The balance are briefer essays on a great variety of
themes, almost all of which derive from or contribute to Jewish
history. The most important exception is his doctoral dissertation
for Oxford,
The Last Florentine Republic
(London, 1925). His
continuing interest in Italian history earned him an official honor
from Italy which he turned back when Fascism became anti-
Semitic, but which was restored to him at the end of World War II.
Roth’s very first publication presaged his lifelong interest in
disseminating Jewish culture and knowledge of the Jewish past. It
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