Page 123 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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BEN -HOR IN / ZEVI SCHARFSTEIN
117
EDUCATIONAL HISTORY
Thu s far no th ing in the field o f Jewish educational historiogra­
phy quite compares with Scharfstein’s six volumes, including
ha-Heder be-Hayye Ammenu
(lit. T he H ede r in the Life o f O u r
People), the multivolume
Toledoth ha-Hinnukh be-Yisrael,
whose
fou rth par t records the history o f Jewish education in Erets
Yisrael from the early n ine teen th century to the establishment o f
the State o f Israel;
Great Hebrew Educators
, mentioned above; and
Ha-Hinnukh we-ha-Tarbuth ha-Ivrith be-Eropa beyn Shete Milhamoth
ha-Olam
o r
Hebrew Education and Culture in Europe between the Two
World Wars.
Scharfstein edited this 562-page volume (1957)
whose contributors were all survivors o f the Holocaust. He meant
the book to be a m onum en t to an era which is no more and to a
generation which fough t “ou r battle for education and culture
and spiritual existence” (p. ix). T he countries represen ted are
Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Rumania, Bukovina-
Bessarabia-Transylvania, Carpatho-Russia, Yugoslavia, Belgium.
In his original works, Scharfstein is a daring pioneer. He in te r­
mingles personal experiences and first-hand observations with
selected passages from contemporary memoirs and works o f
poetry and prose. It is certainly an un fa ir judgm en t to declassify
his histories as impressionistic or mere journalistic efforts o f an
amateurish nature . It is true, however, tha t a scholarly world his­
tory o f Jewish education in modern times remains to be written.
But such a work o f comprehensive and exhaustive docum en ta­
tion Scharfstein did not intend to produce. Nonetheless, this part
o f his legacy is likely to remain indispensable to fu tu re inquiries,
despite the need for correction o f this o r tha t detail.
To this genre also belongs Scharfstein’s last book entitled
Hayye
ha-Yehudim be-Mizrah Eropa
or
Jewish Life in Eastern Europe
(1973).
In a sense, it is an extension o f his educatonal histories and his
autobiographies (see below). For here, too, are jo ined toge ther
first-hand knowledge and literary sources. In this combination
lies the book’s authenticity, freshness, and independence o f ju d g ­
ment. The book offers an excellent, warm though not uncritical
o r romantic, description o f the
shtetl
— its economy, its labor
force, its social institutions, its rabbis, cantors,
shohetim, gabba^im,
shamashim,
its free-lance traveling preachers, its
mitnaggedim
and
hasidim,
schools, women, joys, woes, the agonies o f military d raf t
and o f em igration o r
aliyah.
It is a book which displays to the full