Page 136 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
from the Jews. Firkovich sought old books and manuscripts that
would prove that the Karaites antedated the Jews in the region.
He was later accused of forging some of his material. Upon his
death in 1874, more information came to light about his tamper­
ing with manuscripts. Among those to jo in in the fray was
Deinard, who earlier had worked for Firkovich. In his first book
Toledot Ibn Reshef
(1875) he gave a biographical sketch of Fir­
kovich, offered some of his personal impressions of the man, and
uncovered some o f these forgeries. However, because o f
Deinard’s anecdotal style and prejudicial attitude, the historian
has to use this book with caution.
POLEMICAL WRITINGS
Deinard was unable to deliberate about an issue; he invariably
formed hasty and often unfounded opinions. Though not a par­
ticularly observant Jew, he was outraged by any person or move­
ment that dared to perceive Judaism in a way which did not
accord with his own views. In spite of his own impulsiveness, he
deplored emotionalism in others. He mocked the Kabbalists and
heaped scorn upon the Hasidim. He prided himself on being
called a “mitnaged” (i.e. an opponent of Hasidism). For Deinard,
writing at the turn of the twentieth century, the battle against
Hasidism was as sharp and as intense as it was when Elijah, the
Gaon of Vilna, first excommunicated Hasidic groups in 1772.
Delighting in anti-Hasidic tracts, he republished many such
works previously unavailable. To all of these books he added
introductions. They are as vehement and denunciatory as the
texts themselves; the writer sees nothing good at all in Hasidism.
Except for an occasional modern allusion, one could think that
these introductions were written at the turn of the nineteenth
century.4
Deinard was also critical of the Reform movement’s tampering
with established Jewish practice. Though he praised the generos­
ity of its leaders in granting large sums for the acquisition of
books, he felt that, through assimilation, they were too unin­
formed regarding the very cultural resources they were trying to
4 On Deinard’s Hasidic writing see Mordecai Wilensky,
Hasidim and Mitnaggedim,
A Study o f the Controversy between Them in the Years 1772-1815 ,
(Hebrew) Bialik
Institute, Jerusalem, 1970, 2 vols. (index).