Page 74 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
70
joy and with the feeling that it was a privilege to assist Dr. Weiz-
mann who was by then seriously ill. Tha t same sense of being, as
it were, an acolyte in a holy rite, a Levite pouring water for the
Cohen and so serving the whole of the people—that sense gave
deeper meaning to the work he did in translating not only Bialik
and Shmarya Levin but Sholom Aleichem and Sholem Asch. He
did more than translate them into brilliant English: he recreated
them so that they were closer to the taste and perception of a
younger generation so far removed “from their fathers’ table.”
Samuel was to go further than this. It was not enough for him
to give English form to Yiddish works. Yiddish itself fascinated
him as a phenomenon. After he brought into English the person
of his Uncle Berel and his reminiscences of the Yiddish-speaking
shtetl,
he addressed himself to the Yiddish language, creation of
a thousand years of Jewish history, spoken by Jews and molding
their very nature. The idioms and vocabulary, the dialects and
inflections of Yiddish, its rules and grammar, its wisdom and the
folk genius implicit in it, its vulgarity, its beauty—to all of these
he paid homage in his book
In Praise of Yiddish.
I t is a unique
volume in Jewish literature written out of overwhelming admira-
tion and love, out of delight in the great linguistic creation of
the masses of the Jewish people, the creation of their spirit and
intellect, nerves and energy. Rivalry between languages, argu-
ments for and against one or another—all these vanish in the face
of Samuel’s adoration.
In Praise of Yiddish
is no book to read
systematically from beginning to end. In fact, you can hardly read
it that way. Wherever you open it, you are fascinated, captured,
by the wisdom, the wit and the vitality inherent in the words
and phrases Samuel cites, exploring all their development and
all their ramifications. The spirit of our people in all the cen-
turies of Exile seems to be speaking through him.
If we return to our garden metaphor, we can see Samuel as the
newly felled oak that just a little while ago flourished in the
avenue we call by Zangwill’s name. We mourn him who has been
cut down—he who was so widely known, so widely loved. Let us
see this assembly here in the President’s Residence in Jerusalem
as a central Jewish commemoration, mourning a great son of
our people, who served with love those that fought its battles and
saw its visions. We will remember him with deepest admiration,
with affection and with gratitude.