Page 83 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

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SINGERMAN / ALMANACS AND LITERARY ANNUALS IN JEWISH LITERATURE
7 5
raelites . . .
(Newport, R.I., 1806) compiled by Moses Lopez is
the first in America, it is overshadowed in terms of rarity by
the first Jewish work printed on the Pacific coast, Alexander
Iser’s
California Hebrew & English Almanac fo r the Year 5612 ,
pub­
lished in San Francisco in 1851, with only two copies surviving
today. Iser, the “first professional Jewish clergyman of record
in the West,” was a careful recorder of the names of all the
officers of the Gold Rush-era congregations in California at his
time.2 Yet another almanac of incalculable historical importance
for its directory of congregations and affiliated societies in Can­
ada, the United States, and the West Indies is the
Jewish Calendar
fo r Fifty Years (1854-1904),
published in Montreal in 1854 and
compiled by Jacques J. Lyons of New York’s Congregation
Shearith Israel and Abraham de Sola of Montreal’s congrega­
tion of the same name.
O f the European literary annuals in Hebrew, one of the most
famous is the
Luah, Ahiasaf
(more correctly,
Ahiasaf; luah sifruti
ve-shimushi),
founded in Warsaw in 1893 by Ben-Avigdor, the
pseudonym of Abraham Leib Shalkovich, a noted promoter of
the Zionist cause and Hebrew literature and the founder of
the Ahiasaf publishing house.
Luah Ahiasaf,
published from
1893 to 1904 and revived for a single year in 1923, is deservedly
significant for the “who’s who” of major authors represented
in its pages: e.g., in volume nine for 1901/2: Bialik, Bershadski,
Frishman, Judah Leib Gordon, Klausner, Steinberg, Berdi­
chevsky, Jacob Cohen, Lilienblum, Simon Bernfeld, Brainin,
and M.M. Dolitzky, the latter contributing a Hebrew poem from
New York, “Shomer, mah-mi-lailah?” (“Watchman, What of the
Night?”). While lacking a calendar, this annual provides readers
with an informative review of the previous year’s highlights,
statistics, anniversaries, and a section devoted to obituaries. Na­
hum Sokolov’s
ha-Asif
(Warsaw, 1884-93), a precursor of Ben-
Avigdor’s annual, was considerably larger in size and, in the
beginning at least, a clear success with the inaugural volume
selling an astounding 15,000 copies, a remarkable feat given
the size of the Hebrew reading public at that time. According
to Sokolov’s biographer, “the reception given to
Heasif
led to
the establishment of the daily Hebrew press” in the form of
2. William M. Kramer and Norton B. Stern, “A Search for the First Synagogue,”
Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly
7 (October 1974), p. 18.