Page 108 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 34

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Jewish Literary Anniversaries
t h e p a s t d e c a d e
the world Jewish community has been watch­
ing the dramatic struggle of Soviet Jewry to reclaim its cultural
and religious birthright and to reassert its commitment to its
rich heritage. This coming year marks the quarter-century of a
tragic episode in that struggle, the liquidation of numerous
Yiddish writers during the last year of Stalin’s rule. Not only
were the lives of these cultural leaders snuffed out, but the
whole pattern of Yiddish literary endeavor in the Soviet Union
which had been quite extensive in the inter-war period, although
naturally limited by the demand to strict adherence to Commu­
nist ideology, almost came to an end. Since that time the num­
ber of Yiddish publications has been reduced to a mere trickle.
Among the few works being published are works of these victims
of totalitarian conformity who posthumously have been reha­
A unique place in the history of philosophy is occupied by
Baruch Spinoza, who came from the Jewish community but
rejected its beliefs, yet exerted a great influence on many of his
former coreligionists for centuries. A more recent spiritual giant,
Ahad ha-Am, helped fashion the outlook of many of his con­
temporaries and of subsequent generations. Although the writ­
ings of Gershom Scholem are devoted primarily to a scholarly
exposition of Jewish mysticism, he has not been indifferent to
contemporary Jewish problems and has occasionally expressed
his views quite vigorously.
Assessing the literary accumulation of the past, while not
requiring great originality, is a requisite for all literatures.
Samuel Van Straalen and Shlomo Shunami in their respective
bibliographic works merit well-deserved kudos from all of us
who are concerned with our literary heritage.
Again we salute a variety of writers, each contributing his
part to our world of books.