Page 49 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 4

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W A XM A N ---- SOME OUTSTANDING JEWISH BOOKS
37
and in addition was inclined to subjectivism. These qualities
which are often opposed to each other were the cause of many a
flaw in his great work. As a rationalist, he disparaged all mystic
and emotional movements and personalities, hence he misjudged
them. As a conservative, he disliked certain innovators who
diverge from the trodden path, hence his distortion in the presen-
tation of a number of events and the characterization of certain
men. Dubnow’s character was more balanced; he loved his
people, revered tradition,
but
was, on the whole, secular in his
outlook and looked upon history as a series of causes and effects,
and laid more stress upon facts than upon personal inclina-
tion. He was therefore objective in his view and avoided much
of Graetz’s flaws. He, of course, stumbled into other flaws. His
secularism caused him at times to underestimate certain spiritual
phenomena and treat them inadequately or misjudge events.
Nor did he escape contradictions entirely. On the whole, we can
agree or disagree with certain of his views, but there is no denying
his objectivity. We also miss in Dubnow’s History the warmth
of feeling manifested by Graetz which inspires the reader with
love for this exceptional story of his people, as his style is often
too formal. On the other hand, it is distinguished by clearness,
proper brevity, and synthetic vigor.
From all that was said, even in this limited sketch, we can
easily conclude that Dubnow’s History is one of the outstanding
works, if not the outstanding, of the present century.
ISRAEL ZINBERG’s
WORK
A contribution similar to the one of Dubnow in the field of
Jewish history was made by Israel Zinberg to the history of
Jewish literature in his great eight volume work written in Yiddish,
Geschichtefun Literatur bei Yidden.
The title of the work is somewhat misleading for it does not
give an account of the entire literary productivity of the Jews
during the ages but is limited both in time and in space. I t is
limited to the last millennium, beginning with the tenth century
and ending with the year 1869 and is circumscribed by geo-
graphical boundaries, inasmuch as it deals with literature pro-
duced in European countries only. I t is further limited to a
degree by the point of view of the author which considers literature
primarily as an exponent of the cultural and social life of the Jewish
group, and this is further narrowed by a restricted concept of
culture which seems to emphasize the secular and the contempla-
tive-religious. As a result, we have, on the one hand, extensive
descriptions of the cultural and social phases of Jewish life in