Page 131 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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PATTERSON / YOSEF HAYYIM BRENNER
1 2 1
delicacies and da in ties p r e p a re d by the maid — and
Shemaiah Ta ler is her mate.
T h e re ’s vision for you.2
From the moment o f his arrival B renner conceived an intense
dislike for the East End and the ghetto mentality which it bred.
His contempt for the Jewish trade-unionists, for example, may be
seen in the story “Ou t o f Distress” and in a short but powerful
satire entitled “T he First o f May.” He loathed the ugliness and
misery of his surround ings, and the life o f degradation suffered
by the newly arrived immigrants. Yet he made no attempt to come
to terms with or even get to know English society beyond the
confines of the East End; nor does he appear to have made a
serious effort to acquire any real command of English. He never
met Weizmann, and on the only occasion when he was induced
reluctantly to visit Ahad Ha’am they scarcely exchanged a word.
Indeed , th roughou t the visit B renner sat with crossed legs, whis­
tling casually th rough clenched teeth in what was clearly in tended
to be a most insulting manner. In spite o f a common devotion to
Hebrew, the ir views on Judaism and the Jewish problem were so
diametrically opposed, that neither could regard the o the r’s op in ­
ions with anything bu t contempt.
HIS PERIODICAL
Nevertheless B renne r’s years in London were by no means
barren . For almost two years, from 1906-7, he edited a Hebrew
monthly,
The Awakener,
when the grea t Hebrew journals o f East­
ern Europe had ceased publication following the pogroms which
swept across Russia after the failure o f the revolution in 1905.
B renner pou red his life’s blood into his journal. He was pub ­
lish e r , e d i to r , p r in c ip a l c o n t r ib u to r ( u n d e r a v a r ie ty o f
pseudonyms), typesetter, p r in te r, d istribu tor and office-boy,
while he subsidized the publication from his meagre wages as a
compositor. But such was his passionate love of Hebrew tha t his
iron resolve to keep it alive and maintain a circle o f readers,
however small, produced twenty-one issues o f
TheAwakener
in the
face of seemingly insuperable obstacles.
2
Out of Distress, (Min Ha-Metzar),
first published in
Ha-Olam,
Vienna 1908-9,
section 3, (my translation).