Page 84 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 5 (1946-1947)

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
72
serve the cause of Palestine without any such morbid complexes,
without crushing fears lest their Americanism be questioned.
The only hope of Jewish survival lies in Palestine where Jews,
Mohammedans, and Christians can live their lives as free human
beings, unhampered and unafraid. He regards the United States
as an ideal democracy where peoples of all races, nationalities and
religions have together built a democratic commonwealth, leaving
to the individual complete personal autonomy in his spiritual and
cultural life. He would like to see Palestine become the home of
such a free, democratic commonwealth. He has been generally
close to the Revisionist wing in Zionism.
AN ILLUMINATED HAGGADAH
During his stay in London, about 1940, Arthur Szyk devoted
his great abilities as an artist to the completion of an illuminated
Haggadah
on which he had begun to work some years before in
Poland. It is a breath-taking and brilliant achievement, beyond
the power of words to describe. Szyk’s full powers as a miniaturist,
and illuminator, his ability to create jewel-like designs, his capacity
to mold forms into human likenesses, are brought into full play.
The
Haggadah
, which recounts the story of the liberation of the
Israelites from Egyptian slavery, is peculiarly adapted for calling
forth all the humanistic idealism of Szyk as a man, and all the
resources of his genius as an artist. Szyk, in his art, seems to have
recaptured what many have considered a lost art — the art of
book-illumination — an art perfected during the Middle Ages
when monk-artists in monasteries and cathedrals made manu-
scripts, especially of the Bible and other sacred writings, objects
of astounding beauty. The illuminator had to have not only
mastery of the techniques and skills of his art; he had to be not
only a miniaturist; he had also to have profound piety and love
and devotion for what he did.
The
Haggadah
combines within itself just those things in which
Szyk is vitally interested. Here is a heroic Israel seeking to find
a way to freedom. Here is the oldest story in the world of how a
people battled against tyranny. Here is found the folk-spirit of
a people, in song, prayer and parable, revealing love of life and the
desire to live it fully and freely. Consequently, Szyk poured out
all the noblest passion of his spirit upon every page of this illu-
minated
Haggadah
, executed his miniatures with brilliance of
skill, and suffused it all in gorgeous color. Love, reverence, and
pride in his Jewish heritage are found intertwined with every
letter of the book. I t is truly “a thing of beauty and a joy forever.”