Page 11 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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KABAKOFF / INTRODUCTION
3
in America to the openness and hospitality of the country. At
the same time she stressed that these accomplishments in English
could not “compete with or substitute for the centripetal energy
of Hebrew in the national life of the Jews.” For Hebrew con­
tributes the “dimension of historical time to Jewish consciousness”
and enables Diaspora Jews to participate in the culture that is
being created in the sovereign state of Israel.
There was no quarrel at the conference regarding the indis­
pensability of Hebrew for a true understanding of Jewish life.
No easy formulas were advanced, however, for promoting He­
brew knowledge within the organized structure of American
Jewish communal life. At best, the process was viewed as a slow,
step by step process. One speaker emphasized the need to evolve
new techniques to enable the American Jewish leadership to
acquire some Hebrew. Another felt that the Jewish intellectuals
and academicians should be at the forefront of the movement
for Hebrew. All were agreed that the tide of Hebrew illiteracy
had to be reversed to order to ensure the creative survival of
the American Jewish community.
The Dartmouth Conference reviewed the role that Hebrew
and the Bible played in Colonial America. A special session dealt
with the study of Hebrew at Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth.
While we often take pride in pointing to this development, it
should be realized that it was motivated by the theological in­
terest of these schools of learning in the Hebrew Bible. The
early American Jews had practically no connection with it. The
use of Hebrew among American Jews at this time was confined
mainly to religious purposes. Because of their limited numbers
and their preoccupation with the problems of adjustment and
acculturation Jews were able to pay but scant attention to He­
brew cultural endeavor. In our day and age, when American
Jewry has reached a high level of maturity and when we have
the vibrant example of a living culture in Israel, we should be
able to do much better.
I l l
Dov Schidorsky, of the Graduate School of Library and Ar­
chives Studies of the Hebrew University, is the author of a new
volume entitled
Sifriyah ve-Sefer be-Eretz-YIsrael be-Shilhe ha-
Tekufah ha-Otomanit
(Libraries and Books in Late Ottoman Pal­