Page 219 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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KESSNER / ON BEHALF OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE
211
that Marie never quite conquered. However, Marie Syrkin and
Maurice Samuel’s common interest in Zionism and their activ­
ities in its behalf led to a resumption o f their friendship in
later years.
Soon, however, Marie went o f f to study literature at Cornell
University, and there she met and married a young instructor,
Aaron Bodansky, who was to become a distinguised biochemist.
Nevertheless, the next few years were to be exceedingly painful
ones. Marie thought o f herself as primarily a poet and she de­
voted herself to writing verse; at the instigation o f her father
she even began a Ph.D. program in literature at Columbia.
There she received much encouragement from the faculty, but
the demands o f domestic life militated against completion o f
the degree. During this time Marie had two sons, the oldest
o f whom tragically died in 1924, only two months before the
death o f Nachman Syrkin and three months before the birth
o f her second child. Finally, by this time Marie’s feminist in­
sistence on pursuing her own career inevitably led to a sepa­
ration from Aaron Bodansky because o f incompatibility. How­
ever difficult the decision, she left Cornell and returned to New
York with her infant son David (who was to continue his father’s
traditon and become a nuclear physicist). There she took up
a position as an English teacher at Textile High School in Man­
hattan.
L I T E R A R Y W O R K
Despite the obvious problems o f these years — her separation
and ultimately her divorce from Aaron Bodansky, along with
unrelenting economic strain — Marie persevered in her single-
handed efforts to maintain herself and her child. She added
to her meager teacher’s salary by doing translations, and, in
fact, her translations o f Yiddish poetry in the twenties were
amongst the very first to be done. And she went on writing
her own poetry despite the fact that she was employed in a
tedious teaching job that she detested.
Without doubt the mid-twenties marked the nadir o f Marie
Syrkin’s life — personally and professionally. But then, in 1927
she met the objectivist poet, Charles Reznikoff, whose poetry
she had first encountered when she was at Cornell. Within a
year o f their meeting they decided to marry — an event that