Page 82 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 3

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published volume by Israel Cohen? He has traced the history of one of the largest
and spiritually and intellectually one of the most influential Jewish communities
in the world with patience, industry and faithfulness. He has covered a period
of more than five hundred years with its pathos and humor, with its people and
movements and the varying fortunes which befell Vilna during the long course
of its existence. For this the author is to be both thanked and commended.
— J a c o b
S.
M i n k i n i n
Congress Weekly
The Jews in Russia.
By Louis
G
r e e n b e r g
.
New Haven,
Y
a l e
U
n i v e r s i t y
P
r e s s
, i x ,
210 pages.
The subject of this book is, of course, a fascinating one. Indeed, the chapters
dealing with the general and Jewish policies of Alexander II , with the trend of
non-Jewish public opinion, with trends among Jews themselves (assimilation,
nationalism, revolution), with the economic situation of the Jewish population
and its contribution to Russian culture, convey an impression of a sleeping hero
suddenly awakened from a long dream, stretching his limbs and producing miracles
of economic and mental achievement.
What tremendous forces were dormant in Russian Jewry during the period of
their segregation and how swiftly these dormant forces became active! Sons of
strictly Orthodox parents, who grew up in the traditional environment, became
leaders in arts, sciences, economics, and politics. There is room for much argument
about the relative importance attributed by the author to the various aspects of
Jewish life under Alexander II and their relationship to the process of emanci-
pation. After all, it is the author's privilege to emphasize certain elements and
give less attention to others. On the whole, however, the author has dealt fairly
with all aspects of the situation.
This is a readable book on a period which chronologically is sixty years away,
and psychologically, a few centuries.
— T a c o b R o b i n s o n in
Congress Weekly
The Apostle.
By
S
ho l em
A
s ch
.
Translated by
M
a u r i c e
S
a m u e l
.
New York, G.
P
u t n a m
s
S
o n s
.
804 pages.
“ I thank Thee and praise Thee, Lord of the world,” thus Sholem Asch, in one
of the most moving addenda attached to any book since Chaucer penned the
Retractation at the end of “The Canterbury Tales,” “ tha t Thou hast given me
the strength * * * to complete the two works, ‘The Nazarene’ and ‘The Apostle,'
which are one work; so that I might set forth in them the merit of Israel, whom
Thou hast elected to bring the light of the faith to the nations of the world.”
I t was an achievement indeed that a Yiddish novelist should have been able
to create a portrait of the Master that should be as widely accepted by Christians
as was the Yeshua of “The Nazarene.” Now, in “The Apostle,” Sholem Asch has
tried to tell the story of the life and work of St. Paul in the same manner and spirit
in which he has already written of Jesus, and to carry fiis history in fiction of the
Christian movement down as far as the Neronian persecutions.
I t goes without saying that “The Apostle” must have been an even more diffi-
cult problem for a novelist than “The Nazarene.” The story is less dramatic, less
compact. The central personality is less alluring. The modern Jew does not find
it difficult to love and admire Jesus. But when it comes to St. Paul there is often
a very different story to tell. For many Jews — and some Christians — see St.
Paul as the real founder of “Christianity,” which they differentiate clearly from
the religion of Jesus.
Mr. Asch’s Jewish background appears clearly, too, in his account of Paul's
relations with Judaism. In his first phase as persecutor, Paul (or Saul) attacks
Gentile, not Jewish, Christians. The apostle himself keeps the Jewish laws. He
was striving to fuse into one person * * * the two Pauls, Paul the Jew and Paul
the Greek.” He was tortured in spirit at the thought that, having set out to con-
quer the world in the name of the Messiah, he had actually “ thrust a wedge be-
tween Israel and the world.”
— 68 —