Page 15 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 7 (1948-1949)

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THE YEAR’S BOOKSHELF
A Survey of American Jewish Books in English for 1947-48
B y J
o s h u a
B
loch
T
HE experiences of the Jews in the last few decades have given
rise to a re-awakening of the historic Jewish self-conscious-
ness and have brought into sharp relief the difficulties of Jewish
survival. Never have Jews been more painfully aware of the
“Jewish problem” than they are now. The Jews are incessantly
pre-occupied with anti-Semitism and with the abnormality of
their existence. This unfortunately aggravates an already too
widespread ignorance of matters of Jewish belief and religious
practice. So much of effort is devoted to the struggle against
destructive forces internal as well as external that the Jews do
not seem to find enough time to equip themselves with spiritual
armor adequate against the forces of disintegration. What is
called for now is a great spiritual revival of Judaism, a revitaliza-
tion of its institutions, a full understanding of the means of main-
taining Jewish identity in a non-Jewish environment. In short,
there is a crying need for the fortification of Jewish ranks in the
struggle for survival.
The flow of publications dealing with aspects of Jewish life and
lore challenges the Jews to free themselves from indifference
and inertia and to discharge their responsibility towards the re-
vival of the Jewish spirit and the perpetuation of Jewish values.
There is an obligation for the rediscovery and reinterpretation of
Judaism. There is an urgent need for a better understanding
of Jewish values. Indeed, there is need for a translation of the
whole content of Judaism as a way of life into the language of
our day. A rediscovery of Jewish values will be rendered possible
by re-endowing Judaism with its original elasticity which is neces-
sary to answer the changing questions of changing generations.
To achieve that much-desired end, Jews must draw their spiritual
nourishment from the rich wisdom of the saint and sage of yester-
day and also from contemporary Jewish thinking. To some de-
gree this can be attained by resource to good Jewish books, old
and new. So fine an exposition of the Jewish religion as is presented
in
Basic Judaism
by the Rev. Dr. Milton Steinberg (N. Y., Har-
court, Brace, ’47) is of this sort. I t offers a very fine exposition
of Judaism as the living religion of an ancient people. Written
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