Page 41 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 34

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KABAKOFF / FIRST HEBREW-YIDDISH POETRY BOOK IN AMERICA
31
odical press. In 1897 he published in Smolenskin’s
Ha-Shahar
an article advocating agricultural work for the Jewish immi­
grants and pointing to America as a suitable haven of refuge
for harassed Jews. Five years later he published two of his He­
brew poems in the same periodical. When the American Hebrew
press was renewed at the close of the 80s, Sobel became a con­
tributor of occasional poems and especially of publicist and
learned articles to the weekly
Ha-Pisgah
and other publications.
He particularly extolled the talmudic spirit and was critical of
Christianity and the influence of foreign cultures. He remained
an ardent supporter of the Zionist ideal, but was too firmly
rooted in the Haskalah to adjust to the new trends in Hebrew
literature, exemplified by such writers as Ahad Ha’am and
Berdichewsky.
SOBEL’S CRITICAL ATT ITUD E TO YIDDISH
Sobel’s attitude to Yiddish remained critical, referring to the
language as a “jargon.” Only two Yiddish poems from his pen
were published in 1890 in
Der Menshnfraynd,
edited by N. M.
Shaykevitsh (“Shomer”) . In the same periodical he published
articles in which he decried the vulgarity of the Yiddish press.
Sobel became proficient enough in the English language to
write for such publications as the
Truth Seeker,
a progressive
weekly which appeared in New York, and for the
Chicago Daily
News.
I t is true that Sobel’s
Golden Song
occupies its unique place
in the saga of American Jewish cultural life more for its histori­
cal value than for its intrinsic literary merit. Still, initial pioneer­
ing efforts are deserving of special attention. As the first poetic
work to depict immigrant life in the land of golden opportunity,
Sobel’s
Golden Song
is the harbinger of later, more sophisticated
developments in both American Hebrew and Yiddish writing.