Page 56 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
much they had in common, how in spite of differences they all
remained bound to one culture. The Society even held itself up as
a symbol of Jewish unity, for, as it repeatedly insisted, it was theo­
logically neutral: “it favors no special views and supports no par­
ticular party.”
Second, the document underscored the Society’s value for
improving community relations. While the need to combat anti-
Semitism, later given more prominence, found no explicit men­
tion in 1888, the circular did point out that as a minority group,
Jews wherever they are, even in America, have a duty “not only to
avoid being misunderstood, but to secure . . . a patient hearing
and fairjudgement” for themselves, especially given that so many
tend “toward a certain contempt for our beliefs and our very
name.” The Society, through its books but without apologetics,
pledged to do its part to convert “the mind of the world around
us to juster conceptions of duty and fraternity.”
Last but not least, the document pointed to the Society’s role in
addressing the problem ofJewish youth. “If we would inspire our
youth to hopeful partisanship in our cause,” it argued, “they must
learn that we are the bearers of something worth preserving.”
Since Jewish culture could only be transmitted to the bulk of Jew­
ish youth through books in the English language, it considered its
mandate clear: to educate the coming generation of American-
born Jews, and to raise their Jewish consciousness.
Yet more than just problems motivated the Society’s founders;
given the evident Jewish revival in America, the document also
appealed for support on the basis of American Jewry’s “growing
. . . prosperity and intelligence.” The circular noted that “schol­
ars are arising among us who, by their devotion to Jewish litera­
ture and their high general culture reflect honor on our commu­
nity.” Through their scholarship, they were realizing in America
that synthesis that was the post-Emancipation Jewish ideal. With
German Jewry “hampered by a revival of mediaeval prejudices,”
its cultural activity impeded by late nineteenth century anti-
Semitism, it was up to Americans, “free citizens of the noblest of
countries,” to assume the mantle of Jewish culture “in their
stead.” The Society pledged to do its part “so that Israel in
America may proudly claim its literary period, as did our ances­
tors aforetimes in Spain, in Poland and in modern Germany.”
German Jewry’s “valuable contributions to modern Jewish litera­
ture” gave the Society a scholarly goal to strive for.'The financial