Page 106 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 34

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
of world Jewry. Against considerable opposition, he insisted on
an orthography which was somewhat more traditional, and on
an inclusiveness that was far more permissive and far less pre­
scriptive, than most other great Yiddish linguists of our times
found acceptable. For Mark the
Great Dictionary
was a treasure
trove in which every Yiddish word ever uttered had to be wel­
comed, whether or not it was “pure” or “cultured” or “needed.”
Although Mark did not fear to be a “normativist” in his more
pedagogic roles and even in his role as editor of
Yidishe sprakh,
when it came to the
Great Dictionary,
his life’s crowning work,
he was a “descriptivist” almost to a fault, utterly incapable of
invidious comparisons between good words and bad words. In
this connection his joy was the richness of the Yiddish language,
which he found to be as extensive as world languages such as
German, Italian, Spanish, etc. Whoever the future editors of
the
Great Dictionary
will be, and whatever policy changes they
may introduce, the
Dictionary
will doubtlessly always be known
as “Mark’s dictionary,” even as Webster’s is always known by
his
name regardless of its subsequent editors and compilers.
Mark’s final five years were spent in Jerusalem, devoted full­
time to completing volumes of the
Great Dictionary,
researching
on Yiddish literature, teaching gifted students, and aiding Yid­
dish cultural efforts. It is amazing how he found the time and
the strength for his activities in those last years, in the face of
problems posed by the Israeli civil and academic bureaucracies.
Nevertheless, even under these difficult circumstances, Mark suc­
ceeded in publishing a valuable volume on the work of A. Suts-
kever (Israel’s most illustrious Yiddish poet), and completing a
Yiddish grammar for college and university use. He assisted the
newly founded
Yidishe Kultur Gezelshaft
of Jerusalem and
the previously founded Manger Prize Committee, he spoke at
literary events all over the country, and welcomed (with the con­
stant help of his wife Feygl) a never-ending stream of admirers,
associates, students and friends, while working on the
Great Dic­
tionary.
Mark's passing coincides with the decline of the Yiddishist-
secularist milieu which stimulated one of the greatest creative
outbursts in modern Jewish history, and perhaps in world Jew­
ish history. That milieu still awaits proper evaluation and ap­
preciation. When the detached but sympathetic analyst will fi­