Page 104 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 34

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JOSHUA A. FISHMAN
Yudel Mark
(
1897
-
1975
)
L i k e m o s t m o r t a l s
Yudel Mark was very much a product of his
time. The Yiddishist-secularist revolution that swept Eastern Eu­
ropean Jewry during his childhood claimed him as a lifelong
adherent. However, on the one hand it did not convert Mark
into a blind follower or automatic advocate, and on the other
hand, to the extent that the revolution added or strengthened
several creative dimensions in modern
yiddishkeit
that have an
eternal significance, Mark too can be said to have written his
name large in the Book of Eternal Jewish Creativity.
Indeed, “Jewish Creativity” is the proper rubric to charac­
terize Yudel Mark’s entire life, and “Yiddishist-secularist” are
merely labels, important ones admittedly, to understand the di­
rections which his creativity took. Yudel Mark was a multifaceted
genius. His four interconnected passions were Jewish communal
activity, Jewish education, Yiddish literature, and Yiddish lan­
guage. Although it is true that the Yiddishist-secularist revolution
placed its own particular stamp upon each of these passions, one
must view each of them also as an outgrowth of many prior gen­
erations of Jewish devotion. This sense of historical continuity
constantly asserted itself in his work and kept him and his four
passions remarkably free of sectarian excess or of “holier than
thou” stances.
Jewish communal activity is particularly evident in the earliest
period of Mark’s life. He was a
folkist,
i.e. an activist on behalf
of a trend that sought a supra-political synthesis of all that was
positive in everyday Jewish life: secularism
and
tradition, dias­
pora
and
Eretz Yisrael, Yiddish
and
Hebrew. In this pluralistic
spirit Mark was active as an editor, as an organizer of Yiddish
schools and cultural organizations in Latvia, and as one of the
earliest builders and leaders of the YIVO in Vilna. Although
Mark’s most active period of communal activity was in his young
adulthood, he retained an everlasting willingness to “pitch in”
and devote long hours (e.g. to strengthening Yiddish schools,
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