Page 11 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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JACOB KABAKOFF
Introduction
T
he
b eg in n in g
of
mass m igration from Eastern Europe in 1881
served as a turning point in the story o f American Judaism and in
the odyssey o f the Jewish peop le as a whole. W ith the approach o f
the centennial o f this m igration, increasing attention will be fo ­
cused on the impact and implications o f the historic process that
began in the wake o f pogroms and persecutions.
Exhibits, lectures and courses will be devoted to the events that
tr iggered the migration, as well as to various phases o f the imm i­
grant experience in the N ew W orld . Visits will be made to Castle
Garden in Low er Manhattan’s Battery Park and to Ellis Island.
Emma Lazarus’ moving poem “ T h e N ew Colossus,” which is
inscribed on the base o f the Statue o f Liberty and which extolls the
spirit o f Am erica as a haven, will often be invoked. T h e teeming
life that existed on the Low er East Side and its tremendous
concentration o f spiritual energy and talent will again be cele­
brated.
In preparation fo r this anniversary, the
Jewish Book Annual
has
devoted three articles to various aspects o f the Jewish immigrant
experience as reflected in our tri-lingual literature.
Abraham J. Karp, in his study, has indicated not only how the
East European Jewish imm igrant was viewed by Jews in novelistic
and general writings, but also how he was perceived by non-
Jewish observers. T h e various sources which he has culled consti­
tute virtually a little anthology on the subject.
In dealing with the imm igrant phase o f American Yiddish
literature, Aaron Soviv has chosen to illumine the attitudes o f the
early writers themselves towards America and American Jewish
life. Proletarian and radical writers, as well as more moderate and
traditional literary figures, voiced their reactions to life in the
N ew W o r ld and contributed to the adjustment o f the immigrant
generation.
I f in the English and Y iddish writings o f the immigrants one
can discern a deep tension between the desire to sustain O ld
W o rld values and the need to con form to new conditions, the