Page 9 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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JACOB KABAKOFF
After Fifty Years
in
a
c e l e b r a t e d
essay entitled
Ha-Sefer Ha-Ivri
(The Hebrew
Book), the poet Hayyim Nahman Bialik addressed himself to
the problem of how to preserve the Jewish national heritage.
He underscored the need of fostering a literary “ingathering”
(i
kinnus)
that would encompass the best literary works of all time
and outlined a plan for sifting and collecting these works and
publishing them in modern editions. ‘“A time to gather’— this
is the dictate of the hour,” proclaimed the poet. Bialik’s clarion
call served as an impetus to widespread Hebrew publishing ac­
tivity and his main ideas continued to be carried out by Mossad
Bialik (The Bialik Institute), established in Jerusalem in 1935
as the publishing arm of the Jewish Agency.
Looking back a half century to the beginnings of the Jewish
Book Council and the launching of the
Jewish Book Annual
(JBA),
it may be said that a similar motivation characterized the ini­
tiators of these cultural efforts. Bialik was concerned with per­
petuating the best of the Jewish cultural heritage through the
medium of the Hebrew language. The founders of the Jewish
Book Council sought to interpret and popularize this heritage
on the American scene by means of a trilingual approach. They
wanted, of course, to disseminate Jewish knowledge and the
love of the book on the widest scale in English. At the same
time, they hoped to sustain the readership of Hebrew and Yid­
dish literature without which Jewish literary creativity would
remain cut off from its sources. Thus, the early volumes of
JBA were divided into three sections with separate editorial
committees for each of the three languages.
A perusal of the early volumes of JBA cannot but bring home
to the reader that the sponsors were imbued with a heightened
sense of mission and responsibility. World events had deepened
their consciousness of the historic role of the book in the strug­
gle for Jewish survival. They were bowed down by the tragedy
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