Page 52 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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JACOB KABAKOFF
The American
Hameassef
T
he
year
1881, which stands at the beginn ing o f the epoch o f
mass imm igration o f East European Jewry, saw the publication in
N ew York o f the H ebrew periodical
HameassefBa arez Hahadashah
(T h e Gatherer in the N ew Land). T h e periodical marked a con­
certed e f fo r t on the part o f the H eb rew maskilim who had come
here to prov ide a literary forum and to stem the tide o f mate­
rialism and anti-intellectualism among the newly arrived imm i­
grants. A lthough but one issue o f 44 pages appeared, the fact that
its sponsors m ode lled the publication a fter
Hameassef,
the first
important periodical in Hebrew literature, which was ed ited by
the friends and disciples o f Mendelssohn, indicates the high
hopes which they held fo r it.
For lack o f H ebrew forums o f expression the H eb rew intellec­
tuals who arrived here had begun as early as during the 1860’s to
send their literary e fforts to Hebrew jou rna ls overseas. From time
to time they also contributed H ebrew items to various English-
Jewish periodicals, as well as to the early Yidd ish newspapers.
W ith the acceleration o f the East European imm igration du r ing
the 1870’s, Zvi Hirsch Bernstein began the publication o f the
Hebrew weekly
Hazofeh Baarez Hahadashah
(T h e Observor in the
N ew Land), which lasted fo r a period o f some five years (1871 -
76). It was designed to meet the needs o f the imm igrant H eb rew
readers as well as to prov ide in formation about Am erica to Eu ro­
pean Hebrew readers.
By 1880, a group o f N ew Y o rk H eb rew maskilim who had
already established themselves here fe lt the need o f band ing
together in o rd e r to advance their cultural aims. In February o f
that year they founded the
Shohare Sefat Ever
(Friends o f the
H ebrew Language ), which has the distinction o f being perhaps
the first society o f its kind to be organ ized anywhere in the wo rld
and which became the prototype o f the many Hebrew -speak ing
groups that sprang up later in this country and overseas.
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