Page 64 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 5 (1946-1947)

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By J.
H o d e s s
ET it be said at the outset that Anglo-Jewry has not pro-
duced in recent years any book of outstanding literary merit.
Having been in the battlefield, in the real sense of the word, it
would have been remarkable if it had. The horrors of the Blitz
were hardly conducive to literary activity. People lived more in
shelters than in their studies and libraries, so many of which were
destroyed. Under the circumstances, it is not surprising that the
years of horror did not evoke new talents in the Jewish literary
field. Considering the conditions under which people lived, and
the shortage of paper, it is rather remarkable that there was a
substantial output of Jewish books, some of considerable quality
and literary merit.
I t is difficult, within the brief space allocated, to deal in detail
with the many and varied books that have appeared in recent
years. A noticeably striking feature in recent publications is the
renewed interest in the religious and spiritual aspects of Judaism;
a definite tendency to go back to original Jewish sources. The
Jewish tragedy has had a marked spiritual effect on Anglo-Jewry.
Like American Jewry, on a very much smaller scale, of course,
it is becoming conscious of the fact that it can no longer draw
Jewish sustenance from Europe, but that it must, in its own small
way, be spiritually and intellectually self-supporting.
The late Chief Rabbi, Dr. J. H. Hertz, has done much pioneer
work in this respect. The small volume,
Jewish Thoughts
, which
he selected and arranged in the First World War, has been re-
published in recent years with extensive additions, and undergone
many editions. This popular, up-to-date anthology, wide in scope,
was of incalculable value in awakening interest in Jewish history
and literature of all ages. The revived interest in the old Jewish
literature may be gauged from the eagerness to see the translation
of the Talmud, completed into English. The greater part of the
Babylonian Talmud has already been published by the Soncino
Press. The war, however, made it impossible to continue the
enormous enterprise. But now an effort is being made to complete