Page 137 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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BERKOWITZ / EPHRAIM DEINARD
129
preserve. He considered American Reform rabbis ignorant even
of Hebrew.5 He was particularly upset about the Reform move­
ment’s tolerant attitude toward Christianity. Just before Christ­
mas, 1925, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, preaching from his usual
Sunday platform at Carnegie Hall, delivered a sermon entitled
“Jesus the Jew.” Wise wanted to show that Jesus was a man, not
God, that he was Jewish, not a Christian, that Jews repudiated
Jesus the Jew, and Christians, for the most part, never followed
Jesus the Jew. Wise was denounced by the Orthodox. In the
ensuing storm, Deinard published his
Zelem B ’Hekhal
(1926),
which reproduced some of the articles that appeared in the Yid­
dish press of the period attacking Wise’s alleged pro-Jesus stand.
In this same work, he continued his attacks against Professor
Joseph Klausner’s
Jesus o f Nazareth.
One year after Klausner’s
book had appeared in Jerusalem, Deinard’s unbridled criticism of
it appeared in America
(Herev La-Shem U-L’Yisrael,
1923). During
the same period he published two other books disputing the very
existence of Jesus. Furthermore, in 1904, the year in which he
had republished several out-of-print anti-Hasidic tracts, he had
also reissued a medieval anti-Christian polemic by Hasdai Crescas
entitled
Bittul Ikkarei Ha-Nozerim.
These untempered responses,
as well as his many articles against apostates, were perhaps trig­
gered by a deep pride in the Jewish people and a fervent love for
its cultural heritage.
ZIONIST ACTIVISM
This feeling was the motivating force behind his Zionist ac­
tivities. Deinard’s first detailed tour of Palestine (1880) came at
the behest of Aaron Arkady Kaufman, a St. Petersburg Jew, who
wanted to establish a Jewish settlement in Palestine. Deinard
corresponded with Laurence Oliphant, a British writer and
traveler who visited Palestine in 1879 and became the most im­
portant Christian Zionist of his time. Deinard prepared an
agenda for a general meeting of Hovevei Zion representatives in
Constantinople where Oliphant was negotiating with Turkish
authorities. This meeting never took place. Deinard was highly
5 Interestingly enough, one of his sons-in-law was Samuel N. Deinard, a reform
rabbi and a professor o f Semitics. Another, Mendel Silber, was also a reform
rabbi and wrote on Hebrew literature in America. The third, Alexander Basel,
was a conservative rabbi.