Page 37 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 33

Basic HTML Version

an entire people moved to a new land, a new environment, under a
free sky. . . . We were dazzled, we were winged.12
The eyes of the Yunge saw beyond the ghettoes of the great
cities to the broad horizons of the new land. David Ignatoff
began to write fiction about the West. So did Isaac Raboy, “who
is not the
Jew of the great cities. In him runs the blood of
the old-time healthy Jews who lived close to nature . . . who
perceived that there is too much of the gray and the workaday
in the life of the great cities and went off to the open freedom
of broad fields to sing of the beauty of the prairie.”18
A thrill of exhilaration and pride ran through a group of them
as they settled into what was then a new section of the city in
the process of being built up, “the most beautiful section of the
Bronx—the achievement of energetic and enterprising Jews. In
this neighborhood, while it was still quite rural, young Jewish
writers conceived their songs, their stories, their novels. And if
they felt gratified to cleave to the soil, with its flowers and living
creatures, they were even more pleased to associate with the
dynamic men who were building homes, streets, cities. This joy
in nature and this dynamism enlivened their writings.”14 How
little the Old World understood of these new developments, of
the new home in the New World, can be seen from the tone of
the greeting sent by Mendele Mokher Sforim to the New York
Yidishes Tageblat
for its March 20, 1910 anniversary issue. It
reads in part:
How are you Sisters, how are you Brothers, in the new land whither
you have wandered far from home? As a leaf is in autumn, in the
storm, in the cold, so have you been cast away far from your old
home, having left there forever all that is so dear to your hearts-----
Woe unto the fallen leaf that is driven and buffeted by the wind-----
Yes, my Dear Ones, you have been storm-tossed and
have remained
here. But what sort of remaining has this been? . . . Broken-hearted,
have yearned, and
have worried endlessly about my poor for­
saken sisters and brothers. . . .
The first generation of American Yiddish writers had been
12 I. J. Schwartz, “About Myself and My Generation,” (an interview with
A. Tabachnik, in Yiddish),
Di Zukunft
LXIX (Jan. 1964), p. 35.
13 Shteynberg,
op. cit.,
p. 83.
14 Opatoshu,
op. cit.,
p. 79.