Page 46 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 3

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B y B
e r n a r d
i c h a r d s
The central Jewish organizations in the United States devoted
to their special purposes are not primarily interested in Jewish
literature as a means of promulgating Jewish knowledge and
interpreting the teachings of Israel. Occasionally, however, they
become aware of a certain lack of education among their members
or within the community generally and in a sudden spurt of effort
one or the other of these bodies issues several pamphlets or a book,
as if to say: “Here is something, sit down and read” . Thus the
National Council of Jewish Women in 1935 published several
pamphlets prepared by its Committee on Contemporary Jewish
Affairs including
Our Heritage and the World Today
by Abram L.
Sachar and Leo W. Schwartz and Hadassah, the Women’s
Zionist Organization, in 1942 presented our community with a
book called
The American Jew
, a
Composite Portrait
, edited by
Oscar I. Janowsky and made up of essays by a dozen or more
writers. Consciously or unconsciously, both organizations followed
the example set by the
B'nai B'rith Manual
, a compact and
useful little book issued under the direction of the late Dr. Boris
D. Bogen in 1926, with Dr. Samuel H. Cohon as editor.
On the theory that half a loaf is better than none, these stray
contributions to the sum of Jewish literature made by different
organizations deserve some appreciation, but more deserving of
praise would be a consistent and unified plan promoted by each
and possibly by a number of organizations, in co-operation with
the Jewish Publication Society, for the production of handy and
attractive booklets of popular Jewish knowledge.
The American Jew
contains a number of thoughtful and inform-
ative papers which have already drawn considerable comment,
but more striking than all is the unintentional lesson of the book
implied by the circumstance that even a Zionist organization can
be caught up by the stream of assimilation or up-townism and
neglect to include in the composite picture such distinctive aspects
of Jewish life as the Yiddish press, the Yiddish theatre, Hebrew
and Yiddish literary and cultural activities, and the great Jewish
labor movement which is also obscured from view by the non-
geographical down-town conceptions and surroundings.
But I am becoming dangerously serious and shall myself be
guilty of neglect if I do not proceed to fulfill my promise of provid-
ing some chit-chat about the several authors and the backgrounds
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