Page 81 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 3

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the Jewish people. Like Proust with his crumb of madeleine cake in his
Remem-
brance of Things Past
, Louis Golding uses a small clue to guide him through the
cosmic labyrinth which conceals and obscures the times of the Exodus from our
vision. In his case, the clue is a picture postcard showing the legendary site in
Cairo where Moses was found in the bulrushes. From this point, the author and
two companions trace the steps of Moses across Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula to
the ford where Israel crossed the Jordan.
For their Baedeker, they used the Bible itself supplemented by any legends,
Jewish, Christian or Moslem, which seemed useful, interesting or beautiful.
For their purposes they were satisfied by poetical consistency rather than by
dogmatic conformity with actuality. The discussion of their findings are set forth
and lend interest and body to the narrative.
Parallel experiences awaited them. As they approached Moab or Transjordan,
Golding found the hostility of the natives toward the Jewish people reaching pro-
portions of fanaticism. Invariably, the first question put by the Arab would be
whether the party were Jews. To secure their safety and through regard for his
companions, Golding avoided direct answers, referring to his British connections.
What implications for the future may be drawn are not stated. Some political
implications are indirectly involved in Golding’s discussion of Lawrence and
the British administration of Transjordan. A preciousness of style creeps in at
points, but on the whole we have a good and interesting work.
— E l e a z a r
L i p s k y in
Congress Weekly
Vilna.
B y I s r a e l C o h e n .
Philadelphia,
T h e J e w i s h P u b l i c a -
t i o n S o c i e t y o f A m e r i c a ,
xxiii, 531 pages.
Cities, like human beings, have their souls, and they live on long after the hand
of destruction has passed over them. The soul of Vilna lay in its saints and scholars,
in its books and libraries, in its synagogues and institutions, and in the great num-
ber of its men — and women also — who have passed its name on to posterity.
There is something unique and extraordinary about Vilna, something vivid
and striking which makes this city a living memory to those who have known it.
Jews everywhere were proud of their Vilna, whether born there or not; proud of
its great name, of its noble traditions, of the love and affection in which it is uni-
versally held. Vilna was a city of synagogues and houses of learning — one hundred
and more of them. But unlike the prayer- and study-houses of many another
Jewish community, the sacred shrines of Vilna did not bear great and holy names;
rather plain and humble designations after the men who gathered there to while
away an hour or two in study or meditation. Indeed, every craft and occupation
among Jews, even the most ordinary, had a synagogue devoted to its service. Thus
the butchers, the bakers, the candlestick-makers, the tailors, the shoe-makers,
the hatters, the plumbers, the carpenters, the jewelers, the tinsmiths, the tanners,
the water-carriers, yes, even the grave-diggers, had their own synagogues or
kleizlech, as they were called.
The Schulhof was a world all of its own, a strange and fascinating world, with
synagogues and houses of learning crowded in confusion one on top of the other
with the Great Synagogue and the so-called chapel of Elijah Gaon occupying places
of honor, but it was also a kind of open-air forum where poets, dreamers, romancers,
philosophers, rabbis, scholars, idlers and community busy-bodies had met by
chance or by appointment for an hour or two of learned or worldly discussion.
The Gaon, of course, dominated the life of Vilna as the sun dominates the sky.
He was the city’s protecting angel whose grave the good people visited in times of
sorrow and tribulation. In the course of time there arose in Vilna other names
which rendered the city memorable to thousands of hearts. The presses of Rom
and Katzenelenbogen were remembered not alone for the fine editions of Talmudic
literature they turned out, but also for literature of another kind, the translations
of Kalmann Schulmann, the poems of Lebensohn and J. L. Gordon, the diction-
aries of Steinberg, the Hebrew newspapers and periodicals and for a host of Yid-
dish books of every description.
Such then is, or was, Vilna as the writer remembers it with its surges and eddies
through the process of years. How much of it all will the reader find in the recently
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