Page 126 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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Festschriften are not without their elements of humor. For
example, there was a noted scholar in Jewish studies whose grad­
uate students had the misfortune of remaining under his wing
for many, many years while they wrote (and re-wrote) their dis­
sertations. At one point a call was issued for papers for a
Festschrift in this teacher’s honor, and the number of positive
responses from former students, colleagues, and friends was
truly gratifying. The process of gathering the articles and editing
them for publication took years, many more years than would
have been normal. As one wag put it, his students were getting
even for all those years they had to wait before he sent them from
the nest. Indeed, it took so long for this Festschrift to appear that
one contributor had a complete change of opinion with regard to
the conclusions he had drawn in his article for this Festschrift.
Consequently, he completely re-wrote the article, and published
it in a journal, which appeared a full year before the Festschrift
finally did!
In another case, there was a noted Old Testament scholar, a
non-Jew, known for his outspoken and hostile opinions on Jews,
Israel, and Zionism, who was to be honored with a Festschrift.
Because his attitudes were so widely known, Jewish scholars were
disinclined to respond positively to the invitation to contribute
articles in his honor. Indeed, one might be able to say that there
was a tacit boycott. One major Jewish scholar in the field of Old
Testament, however, did respond positively, much to the dismay
of his colleagues. The article was written, and although the con­
clusions drawn would hardly have pleased the scholar being hon­
ored, the editors printed it as submitted. When the “renegade”
contributor was asked about his breaking ranks with his Jewish
colleagues he responded that his motives were two-fold: the first
that although he did not especially care for the
honoree as a person he did respect him as a senior colleague; the
second was spite, that every time the honoree took the Festschrift
down off the shelf, opened it and perused the contents, he would
see the name of the one Jew, recall the conclusions drawn in his
contribution, and get heart-burn.
One point that Berlin made in the introduction to his index was
that Festchriften were frequently privately printed and distrib­
uted, and consequently difficult to obtain. Fortunately that may
be a thing of the past. With the growing number of scholars in the