Page 280 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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He continued, “The essays in the Jewish Book Annual contain a
universe of knowledge,” essays which cannot fail to delight and
enlighten the lover of the Jewish book, Jewish learning, and
Jewish literature. Even today, many years later, I find a tremen­
dous pleasure in the serendipitous browsing through a volume.
Where, for example, can one find such a regular calendar of
literary anniversaries? I clearly remember Rabbi Kiev using the
lists of dates to honor both the greats of modern Hebrew litera­
ture and Jewish scholarship as well as those with whom fate has
not dealt so kindly. He would mount small exhibitions in the
library, set aside some time either on a notable birthday o r
to read some of those writers’ works, often in volumes whose
pages were yellowed, dusty, and cracked, or even recite Kaddish
for one long forgotten.
My hand reaches out and randomly selects one volume. It turns
out to be volume 34 (1976-77/5737). Among its excellent essays
are two which I find myself going back to time and again: the
essay by Hyman Bass, “Vegn Zibn Yidishe Literatur Kritiker” (On
Seven Yiddish Literary Critics) and that by Stanley Nash, “Ahad
Ha’am: Wordsmith and Moral Force.” Both are filled with such
learning, both impart such a wealth of knowledge, both are so
eloquently literate that their ability to delight is constant. I can
turn to any volume and always discover and rediscover similar
fine essays. For the lover of Jewish culture, the Jewish Book
Annual is an inexhaustible fountain of learning and knowledge,
an event unto itself without parallel in any other language or at
any time in Jewish history.
A second question: why an appreciation on the fortieth an­
niversary? Surely we can wait ten more years and celebrate the
jubilee. But as is widely known, the number “forty” has a special
significance in Jewish culture, the entering into the Promised
Land after the forty-year sojourn of the Children of Israel in the
wilderness being perhaps most outstanding in this regard. There
are those who believe we are presently at the very beginning of a
major efflorescence of Jewish culture, learning, and scholarship
in America. Today there are departments of Jewish studies in a
number of major American universities and many university
libraries have established Judaica collections. Jewish publishers