Page 23 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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aura of authenticity that Hasidism has managed to create in
recent years has led many readers who wish to examine their reli­
gious roots back to traditional sources. T he ir concommitant
interest in the various late twentieth century east Euramerican
Orthodox and Hasidic publications speaks either of truly eclectic
tastes or a failure to differentiate between classic Judaic and con­
temporary Orthodox compositions, but more study is required
before this determination can be made.
Preference for English books does not mean that no one in the
Orthodox community can read Hebrew, but the time and energy
required for serious reading of these works are frequently not
available. And, like the kosher fast-food industry, which has used
modern technology to serve social and religious interests, the
kosher fast-rtwJ industry produces translations, condensations
and anthologies. I frequently ask people reading new antholo­
gized commentaries on the weekly sidra, why they have chosen
them, in preference to the classics that are also available in Eng­
lish. Ease of access and briefness of entry lead the list of responses
by far. The availability of new and sophisticated printing techno­
logy and the involvement of many Orthodox Jews in it are not to
be underestimated either. The ease with which books can be pro­
duced and marketed has supported the industry in unprece­
dented ways.
Many books have been printed in Hebrew and other Jewish
languages in America, but the translations are of particular inter­
est, including what is chosen for translation.9 It is impossible to
survey all of the translations of ancient, medieval and modern
classics that have come on the market in recent years, but a word
about the translation process is in order. Though most of these
works have been translated from one or ano ther dialect of
Hebrew (the most accessible of the Jewish languages), we find
9 The folksy, mystical-magical thrust o f Jacob Culi’s project
MeAm Lo’ez,
lated as
The Torah Anthology
in about 20 volumes (New York, 1977 ff.) is a case
in point. This early 18th century Bible commentary simply would not have
appealed to the American Orthodox community o f 30 years ago. Its popular­
ity today testifies to strong links between the midrashic-mystical mindsets o f
the 18th century Sephardic world and late 20th century America.