Page 96 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 30

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I S R A E L T S I N B E R G
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By
E
l ia s
S
c h u lm a n
I
I
srael Tsinberg was one of the most important representatives of
the great Jewish intelligentsia that appeared on the Russian
Jewish scene in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Groups
of Russo-Jewish intellectuals appeared in various cities in the
Pale of Settlement, but the most illustrious appeared in St. Peters­
burg. Although these intellectuals lived far from the Jewish
centers, they were in constant touch with the Jewish masses whose
interests where of prime concern to them. They organized various
cultural, artistic, scholarly, self-aid and relief agencies and com­
mittees to help the Jewish masses who were crowded in the cities
and
shtetlekh
of the Pale. Although, due to the unique situation
in Tsarist Russia, these intellectuals were in most cases self-ap­
pointed, they represented the Jewish people who looked upon them
as their real representatives and called upon them whenever nec­
essary, and they responded magnificently.
Among the group were editors, writers, historians, journalists
and a type of higher social and political commentator known
both in Yiddish and Russian as “publicists.” Most of the St.
Petersburg writers wrote in Russian, but others wrote in Hebrew
and Yiddish; and some, like Simon Dubnov, Saul Ginzburg and
Israel Tsinberg,wrote in all three languages. Simon Dubnov
wrote his
World History of the Jewish People
in Russian, his
History of Hasidism
in Hebrew and some occasional pieces in Yid­
dish. Saul Ginzburg wrote his historical studies first in Russian,
and later rewrote and revised them in Yiddish. Israel Tsinberg
wrote a great deal in Russian, including some very important
studies and monographs; but his most important work, his monu­
mental
History of Jewish Literature
he wrote in Yiddish. In creat­
ing the greatest scholarly work in Yiddish, he gave Yiddish scholar­
ship status, endeared himself to the Yiddish reading public, and
assured for himself a position of great honor in the world of Jew­
ish letters. Tsinberg planned to write his
History of Jewish Liter­
ature
in Russian, and five chapters of the first volume were pub­
lished in Russian in 1919. In the same year, however, he decided
to rewrite in Yiddish those parts he had written in Russian, and
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