Page 37 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 34

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KABAKOFF / FIRST HEBREW-YIDDISH POETRY BOOK IN AMERICA
27
mudic spirit” could the Jewish people prevail. He had to aban­
don the publication of the rest of his work for lack of funds.
As a result of his travels throughout Russia and other lands,
Sobel came to know at first hand the difficult lot of the Jewish
communities and was strengthened in his resolve to depart for
America. Senior Sachs, the Hebrew scholar, suggested that he
come to Paris to take up the study of medicine but instead Sobel
set out for London in 1876. After a short stay there he left for
New York. In preparation for this step he had already started
to learn English the previous year.
While still aboard ship, Sobel began to compose his Yiddish
poem
Die Dray Printsipn der Toyre, oder Oylom Hatoyhu
(The
Three Principles of the Torah, or the World of Chaos). Follow­
ing his arrival in New York, he published it in three installments
in the weekly
Yidishe Gazetn.
He described the Odessa pogrom
that had undermined his faith in progress and 19th-century
ideals. He relates that wherever he had visited in Europe he had
found disunity and chaotic conditions among Jews. The poem
stresses three principles which can ensure the survival of the
Jews: the rejection of superstition, the practice of tolerance and
humanism, and the struggle against pauperism. These principles
had already been underscored by Sobel in his previously pub­
lished Hebrew work
Ha-Hozeh Hezyonot.
The last part of his
Yiddish poem deals with America. Upon coming to this country
he had kissed its soil and had hoped to find peace. Soon, how­
ever, he became aware that unity was lacking here as well. The
poem concludes with the question: “Am I in a world of chaos
or a Garden of Eden?”
In New York Sobel made his living as a teacher. That he was
highly respected in the circles of the
maskilim
is clear from vari­
ous sources. His signed Hebrew contributions to the
Yidishe
Gazetn
indicate that he lived for a time in Elmira, New York.
It was when he returned to New York City that he published
his
Golden Song,
comprising a total of thirty-six pages.
The title page of Sobel’s
Golden Song
contains, in addition to
four lines of German verse, a twelve-line stanza in Yiddish pro­
claiming the value of Jewish poetry and the importance of the
Hebrew language:
These golden poems,
O my dear brothers I,