Page 17 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 5 (1946-1947)

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5
BLOCH ---- THE YEAR ’S BOOKSHELF
largest and most prosperous in the world. I t is very conscious of
its cultural responsibilities despite frictions from within and
obstructions from without. I t is concerned with the advancement
of its cultural values and does not fear the consequences of cor-
roding forces tha t at temp t to undermine its spiritual foundations.
I t is therefore constantly seeking to know and understand itself;
it seeks its spiritual goal, fully aware of the fact tha t its roots are
in the past. Books tha t deal with all aspects of its past, present
and future have therefore a wide market, and publishers are now
offering Jewish books of better quality; their standards are higher;
their editing is more critical and constructive; and their promotion
is more telling.
Secondly, Jewish magazines and weeklies have in recent years
greatly improved their book review departments. I f one compares
the attention now given to new books with the lack of attent ion or
the sporadic, scanty, superficial attention such books received
comparatively recently, one sees tha t a gratifying change has taken
place. The amount of space devoted to book reviews of merit is
considerable and the quality of the criticism is fairly impressive,
though at times very uneven. This is, in no small degree, to be
at tributed to the fine example set in the way books are dealt with
in the pages of
In Jewish Bookland>
tha t delightful, but modest
bulletin which the Jewish Book Council of America is issuing.
Thirdly, Jewish educational agencies are doing ever more to
encourage and require reading in good Jewish literature, especially
on the par t of young people. In young peoples’ groups, particularly
those in elementary and secondary schools, there is now awakened
an interest in encouraging the habit of reading literature dealing
with Jewish life and lore. This too, is in a large measure, due to the
effective service which the Jewish Book Council, sponsored by the
National Jewish Welfare Board, has been rendering to individuals
and groups concerned with making the book play a vital role in
the advancement of Jewish life.
Fourthly, and probably this is the most important factor,
Jewish books, are now generally better than what they have been
in the past. Of the many books now appearing, not all are good.
Some are shoddy. Not a few are excellent. The general level is
higher and grows constantly even higher. The average Jewish
book is now a technically respectable piece of writing, adult and
competent. Whereas, some time ago, there were a few scattered
and lonely stars in the Jewish literary firmament, like Israel
Zangwill, and only feeble fireflies far below, there are, in our time,
many lesser lights to companion, and to stand comparison with
the great luminaries. These command interest and develop follow-
ings. Thus there are more Jewish books to read; they are more