Page 50 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
Bible) on Sabbath afternoons. H e traced this image back to
Worms, Mainz and Speier, and through Prague, Lublin, and
Odessa, “which were drawn together by one fire, and one miracle
united them all.” W ith tearful eyes, he p ledges “ to remain a link in
the chain, and to continue fu rther into future generations the
miracle o f will and martyrdom ; to live fo r the holy teachings and
die fo r them with perseverance.”
Indeed , times had changed, and a number o f short stories
stemming from the turn o f the century testify to it. Z. L ib in ’s
socialist characters are not ashamed to adm it that the May Day
demonstrations leave them cold, and that they miss the warmth o f
the religious holidays which they experienced in their youth.
T h e y feel drawn to the synagogue, but the American synagogue
cannot a f fo rd them the spiritual satisfaction fo r which they
yearn .17
Holidays put free-thinkers in a m ood o f self-analysis. T h e i r
logic told them that all these ceremonies are “ foolish and d ecep ­
tive,” but their hearts fe lt that “ this is no life, not to know the taste
o f a festival or a Sabbath.” W ere not their observant parents much
better o ff, when they fo llow ed the pattern established by trad i­
tion.18
N o t all labor poets shared in the radicals’ opposition to Juda­
ism. Isaac Re ingo ld was such an exception to the rule. His poetry
recaptured the m ood o f hopeless resignation o f the sweat shop
workers, but lacked the fam iliar appeals to reason and socialist
education. Sometimes, in the fashion o f Job or Jerem iah, he
questioned G od ’sjustice, but never did he resort to irreverence or
blasphemy. A t the same time, Re ingo ld sang also songs o f a f f i r ­
mation to Judaism, o f which “ I am a Jew” was the strongest. H e
was not ashamed to admit that, although he was concerned with
the sufferings o f all mankind, still, the lot o f the Jew rema ined
closest to his heart. “ I am aJew and I remain aJew,” he d ec la red .19
O f a more problematic nature is Morris Rosen fe ld ’s attitude to
Jewishness. H e participated in the onslaught on relig ion when it
was fashionable. H ow ever, this approach o f his alone does not
express the full intricacy o f his personality. His attitude to Jew-
17 “Ven der May kumt on,” vol. 3.
18 From Leon Robin’s “Annas mah nishtaneh.” A similar note is struck in stories
by Zevin, Libin and Gorin.
19
Geklibene lieder,
Chicago, 1952. The first edition o f his poetry appeared in 1884.