Page 106 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 4

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
94
earliest days of our republic to the present times. The stories are told
by an elder American to an inquisitive boy of grammar school age and
they are surprisingly free of didacticism and special pleading. Much
emerges that, buried in dusty archives, fails to find space in standard
historical textbooks. It is interesting to note for instance, that in 1812
there was an acrimonious debate in the North Carolina legislature to
unseat because of his Jewish religion, one Jacob Henry duly elected as a
representative of that body.
It was in 1750 more than 100 years before Lincoln’s Emancipation
Proclamation, that a Savannah Jew, Benjamin Sheftall, dared to pro-
voke the slave owners with this:
“The very essence of Hebraic spirit is against slavery. The Jews believe
that all men are the children of the same Father. How can the Universal
Father tolerate that one set of His children make slaves of another
set?”
There is the curious case of Abraham Guttman, an American merchant,
who, because of the then existing Swiss restrictions against Jews, was
denied the right of residence in Zurich; he appealed to President
Lincoln, who appointed Guttman as the American consul for Zurich.
Incidentally, it was Commodore Uriah Levy who abolished corporal
punishment in the U. S. Navy.
All this and more that testified to the intense patriotism and the self-
abnegation of the Jew and his joy at being an American citizen is in
Americans All.
The book is interestingly illustrated by Ellen Simon.
— B e n j a m i n W e i n t r o u b i n
The Chicago Sun Book Week
Rab Saadia Gaon: Studies in his Honor.
Edited
b y
Louis
F
i n k e l
-
s t e i n
.
New York,
J
ew i s h
T
h eo log ical
S
e m i n a r y
,
1944. 191
pages.
Today, when the crucial battle against a neo-medievalism is at last
joined, and the spirit of man —Christian as well as Jew — is subjected
to the rigors of the hour, we are prone to lose sight of higher human goals
while staggering under the burden of the random and the evanescent.
Hence the need for such a memorial as is here fittingly rendered to that
Egypt-born Talmudist and philosopher of the 10th century, Rab Saadia
Gaon. He was the first scholar not a native of Babylonia to be appointed
head (or Gaon) of one of the great Jewish academies in Babylonia.
The author of an excellent translation of the Old Testament into Arabic,
his outstanding contribution to Jewish thought,
Emunot we-Deot
(Beliefs
and Opinions), written originally in Arabic, was the first notable attempt
to effect a synthesis of Greek and Arabic philosophy and Judaism. Termed
by Abraham ibn Ezra “the first of authorities in every field,” a defense
against dissenting Karaism was one of his contributions.
Those whose papers constitute this book include Dr. Finkelstein, the
editor, Alexander Marx, Richard P. McKeon, Arthur H. Compton, A. S.
Halkin, Ben Zion Bokser, and Robert Gordis.
— A l e x a n d e r G o d i n i n
The National Jewish Monthly