Page 56 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
Talmud to the New Testam en t.” Delivered originally as a lecture
to the Society, the article deals with various talmudic passages tha t
may be said to oppose Christian ideas. Eisenstein was bo rn in
Mezherich, Poland, and came here as a young man in 1872. O f all
the East Eu ropean maskilim he adap ted most fully in America
and wrote also in English. In 1901 he published for imm igran t
use an edition o f the Constitution o f the United States and the
Declaration o f Independence toge ther with translations into H e­
brew and Yiddish and explanatory notes. When
Hameassef
was
published he was a p a r tn e r with a brother-in-law in a shirt m an ­
ufac turing business, as is seen from an advertisement which he
placed in the publication. Eisenstein soon forsook the business
world for a life o f scholarly writing and before long became
known as a prolific encyclopedist and anthologist.
In his book o f autobiographical memoirs (
Ozar Zikhronotai,
p.
47) Eisenstein indicates that it was upon his initiative tha t the
Shohare SefatEver
was brough t into being. Regarding the Society’s
read ing room he added: “I contributed many Haskalah books
and paid for the Hebrew periodicals tha t were then appear ing in
Europe, and also fo r Jewish jou rna ls in o the r languages.” He
went on to describe the Society’s activities and men tioned its
publication
Hameassef.
From his account it appears tha t two o f the
members, T.F. Schapiro and Isaac Bomash, had criticized the
contents o f the publication in a satirical poem and it is to this
criticism tha t he attributes its cessation. Nevertheless, Eisenstein
observed that, as the first periodical o f its kind,
Hameassef
could
compare favorably with the early periodicals tha t bore this name
in Germany.
T he
Shohare Sefat Ever
did not last beyond its second year. Yet,
as indicated, it served as a model for the East European Hebrew
intellectuals who founded similar societies du r ing the 1880’s in
such cities as Chicago and Rochester. By the end o f the decade
there were already th ree Hebrew weeklies being published in
New York, and du r ing the next decade Hebrew and Zionist
societies began to pro liferate in the large centers o f Jewish pop u ­
lation. While
Hameassef Ba’arez Hahadashah
is not distinguished
for its literary quality, it is o f historic importance as a dem on s tra­
tion o f the determ ina tion o f the Hebrew imm igrant intellectuals
to perpe tua te the ir old world heritage and as a h a rb inge r o f
fu tu re American Hebrew creativity.