Page 52 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
46
lectual life before I could read English books with understanding
would have tapered off to nothing, had it not been for the
stimulus of the little Yiddish literature I devoured at home. . . .
For intellectual stimulus I turned to the
Arbeiter Zeitung,
the
Jewish organ of the Socialist Labor Party. In its columns I read
Flaubert’s
Salambo.
. . . The numbers of the Socialist monthly
Di Zukunft
gave me much mental nourishment. . . .
“Di Arbeiter Zeitung,
in its incisive comments on politics and
world affairs, always stressed the significance of the economic
element. And to this day it seems to me that it had a more real-
istic understanding of public affairs than anything I could see
for years afterwards in the English press. It was indeed almost a
generation later that men like Lincoln Steffens began to appre-
ciate what
Di Arbeiter Zeitung
was saying in 1892, that behind
the ,bosses’ and the corruption of our politics were the economic
interests that did the bribing, because it was cheaper to hire
politicians than to enter politics directly. . . .
“Yiddish was my mother-tongue. . . . No other language ever
replaced it in the expression oi intimate affection. I owe a good
deal of my education to the Yiddish press. It taught me to look
at world news from a cosmopolitan, instead of a local or pro-
vincial point of view, and it taught me to interpret politics real-
istically, instead of being misled by empty phrases.
“As I look back on the Yiddish and the English press in the
last decade of the 19th century, I cannot help feeling that the
former did more for the education of its readers than the latter.
Having no army of reporters to dig up sensational news, the
Yiddish press necessarily paid more attention to things of per-
manent interest. It tried to give its readers something of en-
during and substantial value.
“The Yiddish press has prepared millions of Jewish people to
take a worthy part in American civilization while also promoting
the national self-respect to which Jews are entitled because of
their character and history.”
The new mass migration to the United States during the years
1903-1905 and thereafter—the years which included the pogrom
in Kishinev in 1903, the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, and the
unsuccessful Russian revolution in 1905—this new mass migra-
tion brought to Jewish America new readers and new writing
talents. They were followed later by writers who had gained fame