Page 88 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 7 (1948-1949)

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
76
“disability,” one would expect his pages to be dull and colorless,
but, on examination, the contrary will be found to be the case.
His
History of the Jewish People
, composed in collaboration with
the late Dr. Max L. Margolis, is a massive, moving panorama of
four thousand years, written with the vision, clarity and distinction
of a great master. In
Studies in Jewish History and Booklore
the
reader is confronted with a stupendous mass of widely diffused
and seemingly unrelated material. But, slowly and gradually, as
the stories unravel, chapter after chapter, we behold lovely figures,
charming portraits emerging from the past, as well as glimpses of
devout and holy lives of men who lived nobly and died heroically.
Prof. Marx aimed at the creation in this country of a Science
of Judaism, inspired by the same spirit which had brought about
a renaissance of Jewish learning and culture in the land in which
he was born. A full generation before European Jewry sank from
the stage of history, Dr. Marx apprehended that the time would
come when the Jews of America, rich, numerous and powerful in
every material sense, would one day be called upon to become the
spiritual torch-bearers of their people. I t was for this reason that
he ransacked the libraries of all the world and brought their
treasures of Jewish lore and scholarship to America, and that, at
terrific strain, he taught, preached, warned, and harangued his
learned and wealthy friends and colleagues alike to save what
still could be saved, to rescue what still could be rescued of the
spiritual and intellectual products of the Jewish genius.
I t was a task that required courage, devotion, and self-consuming
energy. American Jews were not quite prepared for the extrava-
gant demands Dr. Marx was making upon them. To our moneyed
men and princes of philanthropy, books were at best, a curiosity;
they could see no advantage in putting up their money on such
a “dead” investment. They grappled energetically and successfully
in relieving the physical needs of their less fortunate brethren.
They built hospitals and infirmaries and dispatched impressive
sums of money abroad, but when Dr. Marx spoke to them of early
editions and manuscripts, they dismissed him with a benevolent,
almost pitying, smile. I t was thus that American Israel, vast in
power and numbers, was poorer than Jewries of other lands in the
things that constitute the Jew’s true pride and greatness.
CREATOR OF UNIQUE LIBRARY
But, in the end, Dr. Marx triumphed. He triumphed in that,
at the age of seventy, after a lifetime of exhausting labor, he has
the satisfaction of reigning as undisputed master of the greatest
single collection of the choicest products of the Jewish spirit in