Page 13 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 7 (1948-1949)

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EPEATEDLY, in the course of our work, we of the Jewish
. Book Council of America and others, refer to the Jews as
“The People of the Book.” Left unexplained, however, the phrase
is too flattering and seems to imply that the work of the Book
Council is quite unnecessary. Actually, the reference may be said
to mean three different things, depending on the period in the
life of the Jewish people to which it is applied. It meant originally
that the Jews created The Book — the Bible. Subsequently and
down to a few generations ago, it could well have been used to
mean that the Jews lived by their books, that their literature
was (to paraphrase Heine) their portable fatherland. But our
own generation, especially in the lands of the Diaspora, has been
so out of touch with Jewish cultural values that, if the phrase
“People of the Book” is to have any meaning at all, it must be
made to refer to the hope that Jewish literature will in time help
re-create the Jewish spirit. Jewish books are, we think, the
revivifying element that will bring unity, vitality and meaning
to contemporary Jewish life.
That is the ultimate purpose of the Jewish Book Council of
America. The growing response to our work seems to indicate
that year by year larger numbers of the Jewish population of the
United States recognize the validity of our aim. Our expanding
activities are reviewed elsewhere in this volume.
Jewish Book Annual
represents but one aspect of our
activity — that which aims to give guidance to the community’s
cultural leaders. Two types of articles may be found in this
volume: lists of new publications in the three languages used by
the Jewish people in this country; and articles of a more or less
bibliographical nature of timely as well as perennial interest.
Apart from serving as a guide and a source book, the
serves to acquaint the users of one language with the literary
products of the other two.
I t is a source of deep regret that three articles on the Hebrew
literary creativity in the State of Israel, that had been assigned
to and accepted by outstanding Israeli personalities, have not
been received as this book goes to press, undoubtedly due to the
unsettled conditions there. When these articles are received,
the Council will find appropriate channels for their proper dis-