Page 40 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 8 (1949-1950)

Basic HTML Version

JEWI SH BOOK ANNUAL
34
in the democratic spirit of this country and reveal certain of their
spiritual experiences. While the non-Jewish contributors represent
the diverse elements which comprise the Christian community, it
can hardly be claimed that the three Jews are characteristic repre-
sentatives of their group. Much of the spiritual elements which
have motivated the life and work of a truly great American Jew
is revealed in
The unfailing light
, the candidly written memoirs of
the late Rev. Dr. Bernard Drachman (N. Y., Rabbinical Council
of America, 1948). The first of native American Orthodox rabbis,
Dr. Drachman lived in an era of great spiritual struggle in Ameri-
can Israel and took a leading position in the efforts to establish
securely on American soil the heritage of Jewish traditional life.
Dr. Drachman’s memoirs are rich in historical material. His own
role, played so modestly in American Jewish life, can now be more
fully appreciated than it was possible during his life-time.
I t is not often that truly great Jewish leaders are willing to
present the facts of their lives to the judgment of their contem-
poraries. The exceptions are very few and now include
Trial and
error;
the autobiography of Chaim Weizmann (N. Y., Harper;
Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society of America, 1949) who
has given the best years of his life to the creation of a Jewish State
and has seen its birth. I t tells the story of a Jewish boy born in
Czarist Russia who grew up to become a great chemist, a leading
figure in the Zionist movement, and the first president of Israel.
I t is also the story of a Jewish leader who lived in the darkest
years in Jewish — perhaps in all world — history since Roman
days and of a candlelight of faith that grew into a conflagration
on the hills of Judea. The book is more than personal history; it
is part of the history of the Zionist movement told in a dignified
manner but largely in terms of personal experiences. While defend-
ing Britain against the charge that it championed Zionism as a
cloak for imperialism, Weizmann is very resentful of the under-
cover struggle against Zionism conducted by many of the so-called
assimilated Jews in various parts of the world. In no small degree
is Weizmann’s autobiography a rich and stirring account of the
birth of a nation, the rebirth of Israel. I t is one of the greatest
stories of faith moving mountains — and watering deserts — in
the whole history of mankind, the building of a State and as a
consequence, the rebuilding of a people.
In
The ?nechanical angel
(N. Y., Knopf, 1948) Donald Friede
offers his memoirs of the days when he was active in publishing
as half-owner and first vice-president of Boni and Liveright, when
they published works by Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, Faulkner,
Hemingway, Ludwig Lewisohn, Eugene O’Neill, T. S. Eliot,
Robinson Jeffers and others. In the early 1930’s he became a