Page 9 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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JACOB KABAKOFF
Introduction
t h e
J
e w i s h
b o o k
a n n u a l
endeavors to draw attention, well in
advance, to significant anniversaries in the Jewish literary world.
It is a source of special satisfaction this year to be able to highlight
the forthcoming centennial of the founding of the Jewish Publi­
cation Society, which occurs in 1988. A forerunner of our mod­
ern “book clubs,” the J PS has held high the banner ofJewish liter­
ature and scholarship with great dignity and persistence. Jona ­
than D. Sarna’s article describes the founding of the Society and
the role of its pioneering exponents.
A personal experience has served to bring home to me the
sense of devotion and fairness with which the early leaders of the
JPS conducted their business. While engaged in collecting the
scattered English writings of Naphtali Herz Imber, of
Hatikvah
fame, I repeatedly came across references to an autobiography
which the poet had submitted to the Society. It was even reported
that it had already been set in type and had been kept in galleys
for some years. Eventually, however, all trace of it was lost. Natu­
rally, I was eager to Find out what had brought this about.
At Dr. Sarna’s suggestion, I visited the offices of the JPS and
received permission to consult the minutes of both the Executive
Committee and the Publications Committee of the Society. These
were recorded in the fine hand of Henrietta Szold, who had
served as secretary in the early years of the Society and whose
duties included also editing and translation.
On the basis of Miss Szold’s meticulous records, it was possible
to trace the fate of Imber’s manuscript from the time it was first
submitted in 1893 to its rejection in 1905 when already in galley
form. It might have been expected that Mayer Sulzberger, the
chairman of the Publication Committee who was known to be
Imber’s loyal patron and supporter, would have brought his con­
siderable influence to bear in order to facilitate the publication of
the autobiography. Yet, while Sulzberger undoubtedly tried to be
of help to Imber he did not interfere with the judgment and rec­