Page 46 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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Jewish survival and the preservation o f Jewish religio-cultural
d i s t in c t i v e n e s s w e re m a jo r c o n c e r n s o f I. J . S c h w a r tz
(1885-1971), an o th e r m em ber o f the
Schwartz trans la ted
num e rous masterpieces o f medieval and m ode rn Hebrew lite ra­
tu re into Yiddish and wrote narra tive verse abou t America and
the American Jewish experience . His skillful poems abou t the
American landscape, abou t Jews and Blacks in Kentucky, and
abou t his L ithuan ian childhood assured his place am ong the o u t­
stand ing Yiddish poets o f America.
Generations wept over me:
“My child, remain a Jew.
May your father’s legacy and suffering
Be preserved deep in your heart.
I was not cursed with a craving for gold,
God blessed'me only with the gift of the spirit.
I bear past generations within me,
God does not withhold his grace from us.
I am weary and old; you are young.
Go forward with God’s blessing, my child.
May your soul emerge purified
From the trials and temptations of life.
Don’t forget our role in the world
Be a Jew.” Thus he spoke
And his visage beamed and glowed
With faith and silent prayer.
In the synagogue the eternal light flickered
With its shivering, sorrowful light.
In reverence and awe I bowed,
In the holy ark’s cover I buried my face.
(“A Y e rushe”)
A no the r early m em ber o f the American
who was to be ­
come a cen tral figu re in the history o f Yiddish li te ra tu re and in
the cu ltu re o f the Jewish people, was H. Leivick (1888-1962).
Leivick, who inhe rited the m antle Y. L. Peretz had worn in
Eu rope , became the poet o f ethical sensitivity and moral re sp o n ­
sibility in Yiddish lite ra tu re . His poems and plays revolve a ro u n d
th e th em e s o f g u i l t a n d fo rg iv e n e s s , a c c o u n ta b i l i ty a n d