Friday, May 13, 2016

Item number 80,000.

Let's start at the end. Like most people I have a weakness for big round numbers. After many years of cataloging I recently reached the item number 80000. The book is a recent academic book in English. My price is a fraction of the retail price and if you want another copy you can probably find a copy on Amazon (evil made manifest, may God take them) or on some other website that Amazon controls or has not yet bought solely to present a case that they don't completely control every aspect of the book trade. At this point in my career I'm easing my way out of the business of selling English language books (and other fool's errands), but in addition to a weakness for big round numbers I also have a weakness for really good books and I do actually care about what's in them.

And so, I bring you lucky number 80000:

Harshav, Benjamin. Three Thousand Years of Hebrew Versification: Essays in Comparative Prosody. New Haven, Conn., Yale University Press, 2014. First Edition. ISBN: 978-0-300-14487-1. Octavo, printed paper covered boards, xxii, 352 pp., A List of Spanish Hebrew Meters, notes, Publications by Benjamin Harshav (Formerly Hrushovski) on Prosody and Related Fields, Index of Persons, Index of Topics in Prosody and Literature, Index of Hebrew Versification and Yiddish Poetry. Hardbound. Very Good.  (80000)       $20.00

             Benjamin Harshav, z"l, was born Binyamin Hrushovski in Vilna in 1928. As he described it the family lived above the publishing house B. Kletskin. He learned Hebrew and Yiddish in that great city. He parents were both educators at the Sofye Gurevich Secular Yiddish School. His mother took over the school from Gurevich herself. Moyshe Kulbak was a teacher in the school. He was friends with the young Weinreichs who lived next door to Zalman Reisen. His parents were friends with Sutzkever, Manger and Grade who all spent time together. Max Weinreich had young Binyomin in his sights as a future Yiddishist from birth and had fate not destroyed the Vilna Jewish community Harshav certainly would have been a leader of it in his generation.
           The family survived the Holocaust by fleeing to the east with great incident and arrived through great good fortune. It was there that they remained through the war. He studies Mathematics and Physics at Orenberg State University. After the war they made their way to the DP camps in Germany. Before leaving Germany for Mandate Palestine on the last illegal Zionist vessel Harshav published his first book of poetry in Yiddish, Shtoybn (Munich, Merkaz "Deror" in Daytshland, 1948). In the newly independent state of Israel he became on the the many fresh faces thrown into uniform.
         I don't know much about how Harshav transitioned into Israeli society and how he went from Mathematics and Physics to Yiddish literature. At that time he became associated with a number of younger poets who would go on the very successful careers, among them Yehuda Amichai and Dalia Ravikovitsh.
         His first published academic article "On free rhythms in modern Yiddish poetry," appeared in the first volume of The Field of Yiddish, in 1954. In 1960 a book on Hebrew literature of his was published and he participated in a book of translations of Aaron Glantz-Leyeles into Hebrew together with Dov Sadan and Shimshon Meltzer. Although Harshav continued to publish poems in Yiddish and Hebrew (under pseudonyms) his primary work became the study and translation of Yiddish into Hebrew. He edited one of the great anthologies of Yiddish literature in any language, A Shpigl oyf a Shteyn Antologye. Poezye fun tsvelf farshinitene yiddishe shraybers in Ratn-Farband, together with Chone Shmeruk, Sutzkever and Mendel Piekarz.
        In 1967 he founded Department of Poetics and Comparative Literature at Tel Aviv University. One of his first projects at Tel Aviv University was the founding on the journal "Ha-Sifrut."It was immediately a central journal for literary studies in Israel. The journal ran until Harshav left Israel for the US in 1986.
        His first book published in English, Structuralist Poetics in Israel, a collaboration with Ziva Ben-Porat, was published in 1974. In 1979 Harshav established the academic journal "Poetics Today," in order to serve his interest in theories of versification. (The festschrift in honor of Harshav was published three issues of the still running journal in 2001).
        Barbara Harshav, a historian and translator began working with Yad Vashem between 1978 and 1986. She came from a typical American Jewish background of her time and became multi-lingual through talent rather than environment. In 1986, together with her husband (and with additional assistance from Kathryn Hellerstein), they did the translations for the massive bilingual Yiddish-English anthology American Yiddish Poetry. That year both took posts on the faculty at Yale University and moved to the United States. They worked on many translations into English including the work of Yehuda Amichai, Avraham Sutzkever, Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Menke Katz. On his own Benjamin Harshav completed translations of Marc Chagall and of vital significance, Herman Kruk's The Last Days of Jerusalem of Lithuania: Chronicles from the Vilna Ghetto and the Camps, 1939-1944.  
        After her return to the US Barbara Harshav became a very successful translator into English of texts from French, German, Hebrew and Yiddish on her own.
        On his own Benjamin Harshav continued to write Yiddish poetry, publishing a new collection in Take oyf tshikayes: geklibene lider in 1993/4. He continued to publish translations into Hebrew from Yiddish. Among the writers he worked on are Jacob Glatstein and Glantz-Leyeless. In the field of Hebrew literature he continued to write about specific authors like Avot Yeshurin and Uri Tsvi Grinberg. He continued his work on Hebrew versification. This brings us back to Three Thousand Years of Hebrew Versification: Essays in Comparative Prosody, item number 80000. Seen in the grand sweep of his career this volume seems to be an attempt to gather and offer up the best version of a life's work in literary theory. The volume is the last one published by Harshav.
       To see a nearly three hour oral history conversation recorded with Benjamin Harshav by the National Yiddish Book Center take a look here. The full video is in Yiddish but there are some highlights which have been captioned in English.

       Below are a few more Harshav items available from my stock:

Harshav, Benjamin. Language in Time of Revolution. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1993. ISBN: 0-520-07958-2. Octavo in dust jacket, xii, 234 pp., references, index. Hardbound. Very Good.  (12774)      $8.95

Hrushovski, Benjamin, edited by. Ha-Sifrut Riv'on La-MadaHa-Sifrut 1-25, 27/ Hasifrut: Quarterly for the Study of Literature. Vol. I,No. 1, Spring 1968 - No. 25 (VII/2), October 1977; No. 27 (VIII/1), December1978. Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv University, 1968-1978. Royal octavos, paper covers (with wear to the head of the spine of the second issue only), viii, 237, ix-xv, fold-out b/w photo + 249-454 pp. + 455-778 pp. + 264 pp. + 265-448 pp. + 449-696 pp. + 697-888 pp. + 186, viii pp. 187-364, xiv pp. + 365-622, xii pp. + 191, xi pp.  + 399, xii-xix pp. + 400-578, xx-xxx pp. + 579-770, xxxi-xlii  + 161, xi pp. + 238, xii pp. + 160 pp. + 176, vi pp. + 155, ix pp. + 170, iv pp. + 163, ix pp. ... + 164, vi pp. Some covers soiled.  Softbound. Very Good-. In Hebrew. At Vol. IV, No. 1, January 1973 the title changes to Ha-Sifrut Riv'on La-Mada Ha-Sifrut: Teoriyahm - Poetikah - Sifrut Ivrit - Sifrut Kelalit/ Ha-Sifrut - Literature: Theory - Poetics - Hebrew and Comparative Literature. At September 1974 (V, 1) 17 the Hebrew title changes to Ha-Sifrut: Ketav-Et Le-Mada Ha-Sifrut.  At the April 1976 22 issue Itamar Even-Zohar becomes the editor. 150, xii pp., fold-out chart + 170, iv pp. There are three double issues, thus twenty-three separate issues. The periodical ran until 1986 and concluded with issue 35/36. (63117)      $400.00

Harshav, Benjamin. Marc Chagall and His Times: a Documentary Narrative. Stanford, California, Stanford University Press, 2004. ISBN: 0-8047-4213-8. Royal octavo in dust jacket, frontispiece photo, xxii, 1026 pp., b/w photos and reproductions, notes, index of names, index of works of art by Marc Chagall mentioned in the text, index of letters and documents,  Hardbound. Very Good. Translations from Russian, Yiddish, French, German and Hebrew by Benjamin and Barbara Harshav (56631)      $6.95

Harshav, Benjamin. The Meaning of Yiddish. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1990. ISBN: 0-520-05947-6. Octavo in dust jacket, xx, 206 pp., index. Hardbound. Very Good.  (9358)      $7.95

Harshav, Benjamin. Ritmus ha-rahavut: halakhah u-ma'aseh be-shirato ha-ekspresyonistit shel Uri Tsevi Grinberg/ The Theory and Practice of Rhythm in the Expressionist Poetry of U.Z. Greenberg. Tel Aviv, Ha-Kibuts ha-me'uhad, 1978. Duodecimo, paper covers in shelfworn dust jacket, 88 pp. Softbound. Good. Text is in Hebrew. Literature, Meaning and Culture 8: Publications of The Porter Institute for Poetics  Semiotics, Tel Aviv University in collaboration with Siman Kri'a and Ha-Sifrut/ Literature. (72985)      $15.00

Harshav, Benjamin. Shirat ha-yahid be-Nyu-York: deyukna'ut shel arba'ah meshorere Yidish u-mivhar shirehem be-targum Ivri/ Yiddish Poets in New York. Selected Writings: Volume V. Jerusalem & Tel Aviv, Karmel and ha-Makhon ha-Yisre'eli le-poetikah ve-semyotikah a. sh. Porter, Universit`at Tel-Aviv, 2002. Octavo, paper covers with flaps, 228 pp., b/w photos. Softbound. Very Good. Yiddish poetry translated into Hebrew. In Hebrew. OCLC Number: 51529552. (68451)      $20.00

Harshav, Benjamin and Barbara, edited by. American Yiddish Poetry. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1986. First Edition. ISBN: 0-520-04842-3. Royal octavo in dust jacket, xxvi, 814 pp., b/w illustrations, glossary. Hardbound. Very Good. In Yiddish and English on facing pages (32120)     $50.00

Harshav, Benjamin, with documents translated by Harshav by various authors. The Moscow Yiddish Theater: Art on Stage in the Time of Revolution. New Haven, Conn., Yale University Press, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-300-11513-0. Royal octavo in dust jacket, b/w frontispiece illustration, xiv, 199 pp., color illustrations, notes, glossary of names, bibliography, illustration credits. Hardbound. Very Good. This collection includes translations of many previously un-translated articles as well as many articles that were never publicly available before the end of the Soviet Union. (62195)      $4.95


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Daniel Persky: Slave to the Hebrew Language. The Forgotten Men: American Hebreaism, Part Two.

Daniel Persky as portrayed by Saul Raskin
             Memorializing a teacher and a gadfly is a difficult thing to do when the audience you are speaking to never knew the person. For many years Daniel Persky was just a gold-stamped name on the spine of a few slow selling Hebrew books. He only came alive to me in an obituary, a random clipping that I found in another book one day The author was loving but light-hearted. The Persky he knew was a devoted teacher at the Herzliah Hebrew Teachers' College and a bit of an oddball. Persky, he wrote, never bothered to own more than one suit at a time. Persky selected his attire from the finest goods that thrift stores provided. One day the white batting was streaming out of the shoulder pad of one of these fine suits. His eager students apprised him of this sartorial flaw. Persky calmly dipped his fountain pen in ink and blotted the contrast away before preceding on with his lesson. This is the Persky that for many years I thought I knew. .
         Luckily many different voices once rose to speak Persky's deeds. Dwight MacDonald profiled Persky in greater depth for the New Yorker in 1959. MacDonald wrote, "He buys good suits, but after that they're on their own. 'I can't be emptying my pockets all the time just to get a suit pressed,' he [Persky] says." (MacDonald, New Yorker, Nov. 28, 1959, p. 72.) MacDonald saw in Persky a man with little concern for the externals. His challenge was to understand how Persky could flourish outside of any version of a normal life.
         MacDonald, neither Jewish nor a speaker of Hebrew nor even Yiddish, was a left-wing writer and critic. He was the editor of the Partisan Review from 1937 to 1943, a position that put him at the center of New York Jewish intellectual life. By the time he wrote his profile of Persky he must have known him for some time. MacDonald appears to have first come in contact with Persky in Persky's own apartment. Persky serially sublet the majority of his apartment to various leftish tenants. MacDonald was visiting his friends Edith and Noah Greenberg when Persky wandered into one of the Greenbergs lively parties to pose a question relevant to his work on a large Hebrew-English dictionary. What possessed MacDonald to pitch (successfully) Persky as a good profile subject is unknown. Nevertheless, MacDonald's portrayal of Persky was still very much in the mind of many of those who wrote about Persky at the time of and after his death. Eisig Silberschlag even footnotes MacDonald in his entry on Persky for the Encyclopedia Judaica.
           In 1906, at age nineteen, Persky arrived in the US. He immediately sought work as a teacher of Hebrew. He was slowly able to accumulate private students. Some of their parents stepped up to offer financial support to his Hebraist organizing and publishing efforts. Bernard Isaacs, a longtime friend of Persky, was able to see Persky's idiosyncrasies even as he saw past them to appreciate his accomplishments.
           Isaacs founded the United Hebrew Schools of Detroit, Michigan. This was the first community wide entrenchment of the Ivrit be-Ivrit approach in America. The Detroit schools were for both girls and boys which was still a new thing. MacDonald mentions Eliezer Ben Yehuda's Jerusalem school, founded in 1891, where girls were educated. The local Orthodox community in Jerusalem considered his efforts borderline demonic. (MacDonald, 1959, P. 60-61). The first of the Bais Yaakov schools for Orthodox girls opened in Krakow in 1917 only two years before Isaac's United Hebrew Schools opened in Detroit. Isaacs founded the United Hebrew Schools two years before Moshe Feinstein established the Herzliah Hebrew Teachers' College. Persky was the first teacher that Feinstein hired. Persky had long since begun teaching Hebrew language to girls and he continued to do so at Herzlia.
           Isaacs gives a description of Persky's activities in a colloquy that I am guessing could be dated from 1945 or possibly 1961 (as it refers to Persky's 40th anniversary of "service to the Hebrew language and literature.") He described two essential activities that Persky performed outside of his teaching responsibilities. Firstly, "When it comes to his love and devotion to Hebrew authors, Persky knows no discrimination. Both the veteran and newcomer in literature are equally dear to him. He loves the budding author, he hovers over him and commands him to write, like the legendary angel who hovers over the sprouting plant and commands it to grow." (Sefer B. Issacs, P. 64). Isaacs describes Persky as a miniature paper bridge, a smaller version of a piece of architecture of the messianic times, a paper bridge that would carry the Jewish people back to the land of Israel from exile. But Persky's bridge carried two way traffic, "A veritable stream of books flows from his well-stocked room to Israel and a similar stream flows back from Israel to Persky."(Sefer B. Isaacs, P. 65).  "Persky is one of the biggest non-corporate customers of the Cooper Union post office."  (MacDonald, 1959, P. 75).
           MacDonald's picture of Persky's cultural transfer effort focused as much on the physical details - drawers full of used string and unkempt mounds of papers and books - as it did on the success of the mission for which these were only the means. Persky's parents ran a Kosher butcher shop and his technique in book shipping was probably derived from that experience. To my knowledge, the butcher paper and twine shipping technique is still in use at Y.L. Peretz Farlag in Tel Aviv, and despite my amusement seeing the Peretz Farlagers in action I am able to see past that and remember how vital their string-tied bundles are to today's Yiddishist enterprise. MacDonald failed to see a metaphor for sustenance that seems clear to me.
           Persky spent the years 1927-1933 traveling in Mandate Palestine and Eastern and Central Europe. His initial destination was the Fifteenth Zionist Congress in Basel. He traveled from town to town offering free lectures on Hebrew language and literature. Somehow he got by with no real source of income. This way of living never entirely ended for Persky even long after he had come in off the road. He saw some very difficult things in Europe and only avoided violent attack by a group of Nazi's because he happened to be in the bathroom when they attacked the restaurant he was in. He was also attacked by some Jews who mistook him for a Communist organizer. It seems possible that Persky's return to the US was motivated by a sense that America was the only physically safe place for his love of Hebrew though the entry on Persky in the Leksikon Ha-Sifrut Ha-Ivrit Ha-Hadashah suggests otherwise. Perhaps Persky really did return to the US because he felt that American Hebraism was doomed without him. But, things had changed in his absence. Persky's obsessive focus on Hebrew language and literature was no longer in sync with Jewish society even to the extent that it had been between the years 1910 and 1925.Persky was always at the center of American Hebraism. Sadly, after the 1920s the movement itself drifted farther and farther from the center of American life.
           There were quite a few Hebrew language newspapers and periodicals in the US starting in the 1880s. They were edited and produced by the Maskilim who arrived from Eastern Europe in the early part of the great Jewish migration. These publications, varying widely in their merit, flickered into print briefly and were swiftly snuffed out. With the rise of Chaim Bialik and then Yosef Chaim Brenner the younger generation of immigrants, among them Persky and nearly all of the group that I refer to as the American Hebraists, there was a desire to create a literature that reflected the new current that could be found in Ha-Shiloah and other European Hebrew periodicals.
          Along with Reuben Brainin, Persky was active in the Ahiever group. This group, formed in 1910, was involved with Silkiner's publication of Mul ohel Tumura: shiray po'ema (Before Timmura's Tent) and the Brainin edited anthology, Senunit: ḳovets-shirim. (Senunit is one of the Hebrew words for the bird name swallow.) Persky suggested the title for a new periodical that would carry on that work, "Ha-Toren," or "The Mast." He chose the name, "As a sign that our Hebrew ship sails here from beyond the sea." (Mintz, Alan, edited by. Hebrew in America: Perspectives and Prospects, Detroit, 1993, P. 74-75). "Ha-Toren" would become the main American Hebraist journal in the US in the critical period when a successful American Hebraist future seemed genuinely possible. It was the first long running Hebrew language periodical and ran until 1925. Only "Ha-Doar," which Persky later edited and wrote for lasted longer.
Image result for ha-toren
           Persky was one of the initial editors of "Ha-Toren," in 1913-1914. At that time it was a monthly. In 1915 "Ha-Toren," was reorganized for the first time and Y.D. Berkowitz became the editor. Under his editorship it became a weekly. Berkovitz was part of a cadre of European Hebraists and Zionists who arrived in the US fleeing from the chaos of the First World War. Berkowitz, of course, was Sholom Aleichem's son-in-law. Also arriving in that immigration with him were Shemarya Levin (and Mintz lists) "David Ben-Gurion, Itzhak Ben-Zvi, Eleizer Ben-Yehuda, Meyer Berlin (Bar-Ilan) and Judah L. Fischman (Maimon,)" (Mintz, 1993, P. 35) as some of the others in the emigre group. At that time the Zionist project in Ottoman Palestine was at a low ebb and it was unclear if Herzl or Ahad Ha'am would prevail in the conflict over the proper direction of Zionism. Persky was less involved in the production of "Ha-Toren," under Berkowitz. With the end of hostilities and the promulgation of the Balfour Declaration that cadre dissipated and leadership of the journal fell to Reuben Brainin. Brainin was at the time a Hebraist though in later years he transformed into a Yiddishist Territorialist and proselytizer for the Soviet Yiddish state in Birobidzhan. Brainin was unable to maintain the journal in the face of rising expenses and falling subscription. Persky was certainly very active in the distribution of the journal.
          The most important contribution that Persky made to "Ha-Toren" after his initial editorial stint was a letter by Persky that appeared in the March-April 1915 issue. Mintz discusses this letter in his contribution to Hebrew in America, "A Sanctuary in the Wilderness: The Beginnings of the Hebrew Movement in America in Hatoren." Persky wrote about his identity as a Hebraist. He states flat-out his alienation from traditional faith and plays at being a sort of simple soul. While Persky may have been a simple soul in his emotional life his dedication to his cause was already exceptional. Mintz explains that for Persky (and I quote here from Mintz at length in hope again for forgiveness for my presumptuousness), "...the struggles of belief belong to an earlier era. But yet the Torah and the commandments were the 'portable sanctuary' that Israel had brought with them into exile and that furnished them with a culture of daily holiness, a culture that was tangible, material, and deeply textured. Denied recourse to this culture by the failure of faith - a condition over which one can have no control - a Jew can make do with abstract talk about the ideals of Judaism (yahadut avirit = luft yiddishkeit), that is, tell the story without performing the practice, or a Jew can turn to the one element of the tradition that has not been invalidated by apostasy: the Hebrew language. The emphasis is on language as a concrete experience in the here and now, an ambient fluid of everyday life. Like the commandments, then, Hebrew enacts the paradox of the holy within the everyday. As the only salvageable component of the tradition, Hebrew becomes invested with all the sanctity and ultimate importance that inhered in the total system of which it was once a part. The Hebrew movement, Persky declares, is 'my Ohel Moed to which I repair to become sanctified and re-purified; it is the synagogue in which I pray.'" (Mintz, 1993, P. 42-43).
          Persky was not an enemy of religious faith. He could take pleasure among those who celebrated the joys of faith. MacDonald quotes Persky to good effect on this: "I had no need to lunch on Simhath Torah. The reason is a simple one. I was treated in every synagogue to goblets of liquor followed by a dessert of cookies and sponge cake. Some treated me to a bit of herring - until I had more than my fill....And if I did meet up with one or two victims of drink, what did they talk and sing about? These drunken Jews, who poured down their throats a dozen portions of hundred-proof stuff, opened their mouths and sang, 'Praises to the Holy One, Blessed by He of the Election of Israel!'" (MacDonald, New Yorker, P. 102). As long as Persky was among Hebrew speakers he was happy.
         With the specific land of Israel potentially optional and religious faith off the table the purpose of American Hebraism was difficult to explain. A few other writers in "Ha-Toren," attempted to explain the mission of the Hebraists in America. Mintz mentions the contributions of Moshe Halevi and Kalman Whiteman to the definitional cause. (Mintz, 1993, P. 52). The approaches of Halevi and Whiteman leaned heavily on a negative definition of American Hebraism. They proposed Hebraism as an antidote to a venality of the crude Yiddishist crowd and the larger crude and anti-spiritual American Nation as a whole. While this logic offered some appeal to Persky it was a logic that would serve the Hebraists poorly in the period after 1920. The Jewish historian M.Z. Frank sub-titled his obituary of Persky, "Hebrew Language Was His Wife." (Frank, M.Z., The National and Jewish post and Opinion, Friday, June 1, 1962). [Mintz has an extended discussion of an erotic emotion and expression particularly in his chapter on Abraham Regelson's Ḥaḳuḳot otiyotayikh: shirim in Sanctuary in the Wilderness: A Critical Introduction to American Hebrew Poetry.] Love offered a more potent sustenance than did angry disdain.
          Persky's letter offered a potential way of being that the American Hebraists could live for rather than against. For some it provided a model for a lifetime (Ephraim Lisitsky, Gabriel Preil and Eisig Silberschlag, for instance). For others the declaration of the state of Israel collapsed that possibility (Israel Efros, Simon Halkin and Abraham Regelson). In his later years Persky may have finally let the disappointment of the decline of the American Hebreaist's project get to him. He was always capable of a snarky remark. However, even from within his "mikdash me'at," the emotional aspect of Whiteman and Halevi's theories began to creep into in his later writings. (Waxman, Meyer, A History of Jewish Literature, Volume IV, Part Two, New York, 1960 [Second Edition], P. 1081).
          Image result for daniel persky hebrew  Persky was probably more important for his teaching, speaking, editing, advocacy and dissemination of literature than for his own literary contributions. His presence was seemingly everywhere and his column for "Ha-Doar," was sometimes a venue for Hebraist gossip. MacDonald quotes a variety of unnamed colleagues: "He is a fanatic, but a sweet-natured one. Everyone is indulgent toward him, and yet everyone respects him." "He is a kibitzer. At Meetings he stands around and tells everyone else how to do things." "...there is only one Daniel Persky. Un type as the French say,..." and "Persky is boring in a very interesting way." (MacDonald, 1959, P. 84-85).
          Persky's specialty as a writer was the feuilleton. The form was originally a French form, a light essay. It was very popular in Yiddish and early Modern Hebrew literature. Persky was a great practitioner of the form. Meyer Waxman described his work in that area:"The range of his theme is wide, a daily event, a date in the Jewish calendar, the appearance of a book, the celebration of a writer's jubilee or his demise, impressions of travels, and numerous other episodes. The humor is wholesome and much of it consists in puns and manipulations of the language. ... There is little depth in the thoughtful essays, but we meet frequently with a brilliant reflection that makes us pause. Of interest is also the numerous anecdotes relating to the life and activities of many Hebrew writers met by Persky ... he has preserves bits of conversation and bon mots of his chosen heroes." (Waxman, Volume IV, Part Two, P. 1081-1082).
           Among the collections of feuilletons are:

     Persky, Daniel. Li-khevod ha-regel: mo'ade Yisra'el bi-kedushatam uve-simhatam. New York, 1946. Octavo, black cloth with gold lettering against red panels with minor soiling at the base of the spine, 328 pp. Hardbound. Very Good. Text is in Hebrew. (48556)      $30.00

Persky, Daniel. Ivri anokhi (On Hebrew Language, Literature and Culture). Kitve Daniel Persky Kerakh Rishon. New York, 1947. Octavo, brown cloth with gold lettering, 315 pp., index. Hardbound. Very Good. Text is in Hebrew. (52254)      $25.00

  Persky, Daniel. Mat'amim le-hag: reshimot u-feletonim, bedihot ve-hidudim le-kol mo'ede ha-shanah. New York, Pardes , 1939. Octavo, green cloth with gold lettering, 256 pp. Hardbound. Very Good. Text is in Hebrew. (10488)      $25.00
  Persky, Daniel. Zemanim Tovim. New York, Hotzaat "Pardes", 1944. Octavo, pinkish cloth with black lettering, 272 pp. Soiling to the rear board. Hardbound. Good. Text is in Hebrew. Inscribed by the author on the title page. (11281)      $25.00

  Persky, Daniel. Le-Elef Yedidim. New York, Vaad Ha-Yuval, 1935. Octavo, tan cloth spine green cloth covered boards with blue lettering, 96 pp. With a portrait of the author by Saul Raskin. Hardbound. Very Good. Text is in Hebrew. (32262)       $25.00
                Persky was the house linguist for Camp Massad one of several Hebreaist summer camps that tried to advance the Ivrit be-Ivrit agenda. Summer camp took the children out of their English language environments and immersed them in Hebrew for weeks at a time. I don't know how many years Persky attended the camp, but for a certain number of years he was on hand to provide new words to fill out the lexicon needed for camp life. He created a dictionary for the Camp.

  Persky, Daniel, edited by. The Massad English-Hebrew Dictionary: A Classified Listing of Everyday Words, Cross Indexed/ Milon Shimishi Angli-Ivri le-fi Ha-Inyanim veha-miktso'ot. New York, Camp Massad, 1947. 16mo, brown cloth with gold lettering, xxii, 271 pp. Hardbound. Very Good. In Hebrew and English. Compiled by Shlomo Shulsinger and Hillel Rudavsky. Meant for use at an American Hebrew speaking summer camp. (34206)  $20.00
             The Massad Dictionary was not organized in ABC order. Rather it was organized by subject so that the campers could familiarize themselves with all the vocabulary related to a specific activity.
             Persky was always involved in the children's supplement of "Ha-Doar," where he was the resident vocalizer. He did publish some material for children such as below.

  Persky, Daniel. Tsehok me-Erets Yisrael. Kitve Daniel Persky: Kerakh Sheni/ Israel Laughs. New York, 1950/1. Octavo, grey cloth with gold lettering and illustration in green, 267 pp. Hardbound. Very Good. Text is in Hebrew. (55021)      $25.00
         Persky was not the most aggressive practitioner of "Amerikaniyut," but he did apparently have at least a minor moment of patriotism when he translated the US Constitution into Hebrew.

   Persky, Daniel, translated into Hebrew by. Hukat Artsot ha-Berit shel Amerikah/ The Constitution of the United States of America. New York, Ha-Histadrut ha-Ivrit ba-Amerikah, 1928. Octavo, stapled paper covers, 14 pp.  Softbound. Very Good. Text is in Hebrew. (78230)      $18.00
             Nowadays when the "Mikdash Me'at" for most people is an iphone or a tablet it comforts me to remember a man who loved words and good company more than data and social media. Daniel Persky offered an individual model for engagement with Jewish culture (whether one is religious or not) that still has something to say to today's American Jews and perhaps even to today's Israelis though few if any of them still are ready to listen.


Brown, Michael Gary. "All, All Alone: The Hebrew Press in America from 1914-1924," in American Jewish Historical Quarterly, Volume LIX, December, 1969, Number 2. Hebrew and Yiddish in America. Waltham, Mass., American Jewish Historical Society, 1969. Edited by Nathan M. Kaganoff. 

Frank, M.Z. "Persky Spurred Re-birth of Hebrew in U.S.: Hebrew Language was His Wife," in The National Jewish Post and Opinion, Friday, June, 1, 1962. Indianapolis, Ind., National Jewish Post, Inc., 1962

MacDonald, Dwight. "The Slave of Hebrew," in The New Yorker, November 28, 1959. New York, The New Yorker, 1959.

Mintz, Alan, edited by. Hebrew in America: Perspectives and Prospects. Detroit, Wayne State University Press, 1993.

Mintz, Alan. Sanctuary in the Wilderness: A Critical Introduction to American Hebrew Poetry. Stanford, California, Stanford University Press, 2012.

Nobel, Morris, editor. Sefer B. Isaacs. New York, Publications Committee, 1977. 

Waxman, Meyer. A History of Jewish Literature. (Five Volumes in Six Parts). New York, Thomas Yoseloff, 1960. Second Edition.

Another good bibliographical reference on Persky can be found in the 
                                          לקסיקון הספרות העברית החדשה 
edited by Yossi Galron at This entry, largely based on the work of the Israeli bibliographer G. Kressel details Persky's early years, his family, his education, his Zionist activities and his problems with the Russian authorities. It is a good source for some details of Persky's activities between 1927 and 1933. It also lists his publications and notes a variety of Hebrew language sources in him. It also reveals the pseudonyms, D. Daniel and Daniel Ben Rebecca, that he used when he wrote in Yiddish. 

The entry for Persky in the Encyclopedia Judaica is by Eisig Silberschlag and can be found online entire in the entry Persky, Daniel on the Jewish Virtual Library website.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Forgotten Men: American Hebraism. Part One

             David Park, a bookseller for decades, most lately at Bolerium Books, used to work for John Quinn at Quinn's last bookstore, Valencia Books. There is so much history in that last sentence an hour wouldn't unravel it all. But those are stories for another day. John pretty much let David organize the shop as he saw fit. Towards the back of the store in an alcove by the stairs to the loft David created a section entitled "Unpopular Fiction." There all of the novels whose readers had long since come and gone or perhaps had never come were assembled purposefully and respectfully. Plenty of other booksellers might tolerate these items in their shops for a time clueless to their truly humble history.  But in their shops these books would have hidden in among other books better known and more likely to sell. David imagined readers who themselves were unpopular readers and thus sources for a natural demand for books that matched their own essence. (He himself is at least partially such a reader himself).
                 Remembering the forgotten and sometimes rightfully forgotten is a task for eccentrics and it here that I reveal my purpose. I can't say what exactly was the impulse that set my mind upon the American Hebraists, a group of writers, by some account as many as two hundred in number, who are now almost completely forgotten. Here I intend to bring raise a small banner for them.*
                 A review of the new edition of the Encyclopedia Judaica finds no entry for American Hebraists or Hebraism. The entry on modern Hebrew literature is lengthy, but completely omits any mention of Hebrew literature in America. A short entry on the Histadrut Ivrit, the organization of the American Hebraists receives a short recognition that is new to the Second Edition. Some of the major figures among the Hebraists receive entries that were created for the first edition. All of the ones I found are authored by Eisig Silberschlag who was one among their number and also one of the longest lived member of their fraternity. While a more detailed review of the literature will wait for a later post, suffice it to say the American Hebraists have until recently been largely set aside.
                Stephen Katz, in his 2011 work Red, Black and Jew: New Frontiers in Hebrew Literature, focuses on the treatment of Native Americans and Black Americans as subject matter. His focus falls on three separate authors though he mentions others. These are Binyamin Nahum Silkiner, Israel Efros and Ephraim Lisitzky. Michael Weingrad discusses the same works in the third chapter of his work American Hebrew Literature: writing jewish national identity in the united states, "Going Native: The Indian in the American Hebrew Imagination. Both of these scholars, whose works were published in 2009 and 2011, are of a younger generation than Alan Mintz acknowledge Mintz's influence in writing and in fellowship. Mintz's, Sanctuary in the Wilderness: A Critical Introduction to American Hebrew Poetry, credits the work of Katz and Weingrad heavily in his discussions of this aspect of the work of Silkiner, Efros and Lisitzky. Mintz discusses the three author's lyrical poetry in addition to these larger works. In that Mintz fills out larger pictures of the three authors well beyond Weingrad and beyond Katz.
                Sanctuary in the Wilderness: A Critical Introduction to American Hebrew Poetry, published in 2012, is the first thorough introduction to the wider project of American Hebrew Literature (at least in the poetic realm). Eisig Silberschlag and Jacob Kabakoff wrote about American Hebrew Literature, but Mintz's work in lengthier. He is genuinely appreciative of the genre and admits to taking actual pleasure in American Hebrew Literature. His work is in English, but includes sample poems from a dozen authors (in Hebrew and with translations into English) and discusses them at length in order to illustrate important aspects of their poetics. His readings are close and glisten with clarity.
                In one of the longer introductory chapters he tries to explain the appeal of Hebrew Literature to its American practitioners. I hope he will forgive my quoting a bit of it at length:
"Yet indignation and ideological commitment are not sufficient to explain the phenomenon this study documents. Instead, I propose we understand Hebrew in the lives of the poets as an essentially religious and sensual experience that flooded their daily lives and provided them with direct access to the object of their desire. This may seem like a perverse claim given their professed secularism and the Puritanism of much of their verse; but this is only because we underestimate the wealth of personal meaning their derived from their private relationship to the Hebrew language. Yes, they were marginalized, ignored and provoked. Yet rather than being long-suffering martyrs, the American Hebrew poets possessed creative lives marked by a kind of linguistic jouissance that came from the intimate daily experience of kneading the language, reshaping it, and being enriched by it in return. The dimension of sensual pleasure was matched by the unofficial but tangible gratifications of a kind of religious experience. It is easy to see the transcendental authority provided by participation in and service to the Jewish nation and its historical tongue. Less evident are the benefits that accrued from the devoted daily praxis of the Hebraist, who lived within the rules and conventions of Hebrew even as he picked and chose from the language's vast resources to fashion his individual path. It is not an exaggeration to say that next to the world of the true ish hahalakhah, the practitioner of Jewish law, the Hebraist's practice of Hebrew was a key variety of Jewish identity that was genuinely transportable into the Diaspora in modern times, specifically because of the daily tangible discipline it provided." p. 67.
                Members of the European Hebraists arrived beginning in the 1880s with the mass immigration from Eastern Europe, but their production was neither great in quantity nor in quality. The strains of adapting to the new country were generally overwhelming. (I'll briefly return to this below.)

                Among the American Hebraists Binyamin Nahum Silkiner was viewed as the real father of a genuine American Hebrew Literature. Silkiner's major work was a novel in verse entitled Mul ohel Tumura: shiray po'ema (Before Timmura's Tent), Jerusalem, 1910, revised edition included in Shirim, New York, 1927. Silkiner arrived in the midst of the great era of Jewish immigration in 1905, but he was able to both Americanize himself enough to be employable and produce a work of significant size and seriousness. It is hard to say for certain how Silkiner found his way to the fantasized and idealized vision of Native American life that he entertain as the ground of his work, but once there his focus on the fading away of the Native Americans in the face of the encroaching of European settlement makes sense. His debt of influence to Longfellow is clear. Hiawatha was translated into Hebrew by Saul Tchernichowski (Odessa, 1903) and into Yiddish by Yehoash in 1910. Longfellow's Hiawatha clearly had a fix on the Jewish imagination.
                Katz makes a strong fair case that Silkiner's Native Americans are stand-ins for Silkiner's own concerns as a Jewish American (though Weingrad is less comfortable with that assertion). He discusses how Silkiner takes the very regular verses of Longfellow as a metrical inspiration. But despite the direction in both subject matter and poetic style Silkiner's approach departs in a fundamental way from Longfellow's. Despite Longfellow's fondness for his imagined Native Americans his ultimate conclusion sees them only as subject people's destined to disappear into the past or into a greater Christian nation. Silkiner sees his Native Americans as victims of European/ Christian oppression and corruption. Sadly I don't have a copy of either of the volumes of Silkiner's that include this poem to offer at this time.
               Silkiner was on of the editers of Ha-Toren, the main periodical of the American Hebraists in the period of their greatest relevance to the Zionist project. Mintz described his a kind of one man crusade for Hebrew literary periodicals in America. He promoted a plan to translate Shakespeare into Hebrew that ultimately succeed, though it did take decades. He went on to become a Hebrew and Bible teacher at the Teacher's College of Jewish Theological Seminary. Silkiner was a father figure for the American Hebraists that followed though he was not that much older than them. Though his followers were critical of his writing, he remained personally beloved. They helped him with his revision of Mul ohel Tumura. He was of more of a transitional figure than a man of the new generation. Though Silkiner died in 1933 his translation of Shakespeare's Macbeth was published Warsaw in 1939. I can offer one work of relevance to Silkiner:

Ribalow, Menachem. Sefer zikaron le-V. N. Silkiner. [New York], Histadrut Ivrith of America, 1934. Octavo, black cloth with gold stamped title on the front board, frontispiece photo, 96 pp.  Hardbound. Very Good. In Hebrew (37468)     $35.00
               [There ought to be some discussion here of Amerikkaniyut as called for by Simon Halkin in 1925. Briefly, Halkin one of Silkiner's young acolytes wrote a harsh critique of the American Hebraists for their failures to contribute anything truly American to Hebrew literature. Israel Efros, discussed below did really try to address that critique.]

               Israel Efros' primary contribution to the treatment of Native Americans in American Hebrew Literature is Vigvamim Shotkim, He established himself as an academic on Jewish subjects and his major philosophical works are still widely read. His first collection of poetry was published in Tel Aviv in 1932. Vigvamim Shotkim (Silent Wigwams), a long narrative poem was published the following year. Efros established the Baltimore Hebrew College and Teachers Training School in 1919 and remained the dean there until 1928 when he took a position as a congregational rabbi in Buffalo, New York.

              In his time in Baltimore Efros became well acquainted with the area and set Vigvamim... among an imagined version of Native life in Maryland. Efros also owes a debt to Longfellow's Hiawatha. The hero of the story (so to speak) is a European colonist drummed out of his Maryland colony for his unsocial ways. He is taken in by a Native tribe and marries the daughter of the chief. He leads the tribe in battle against the settlers, but ultimately, as a result of home-sickness returns to his English wife.  In his absence his Native wife bears a stillborn child and takes her life. He returns to the Natives in time only to mourn for what he has lost. It is a sad story that Stephen Katz characterizes as containing, "A strain of anti-European and anti-colonial romantic angst about human foibles, coupled with latent Zionism." Efros' mix of concerns lead to the creation of a complicated non-Native protagonist, but the Natives are far less complicated. Although Efros has a clear sympathy with Native Americans he still sees them in the stereotypes of their treatment in non-native literature. Mintz mentions what was apparently a common (and probably correct) critique of Efros's Natives - they were characters out of the movies.
             Efros returned to Native Americans in his novel of the Gold Rush era in California, "Zahav," New York, 1942, but the treatment is as part of a larger phenomenon. The hero of this story also has a relationship with a Native woman that ends tragically. The epic poem ends with the hero realizing the foolish nature of his quest for gold only due to the influence of the father of the Native women.
Efros, Israel. Zahav. New York, Hotzaat Sfarim, 1942. Octavo, reddish black cloth, 168 pp. Hardbound. Very Good. In Hebrew (10376)      $30.00
Other titles by Efros in my stock include:

Efros, Israel. Anahnu ha-dor... New York, Hotzaat Ogen, 1944. Octavo, brown cloth spine with gold lettering and soiled gray cloth covered boards, 124 pp. Soiled front endpaper. Hardbound. Good. In Hebrew. (37772)      $25.00
           This is another important work for Efros which takes into account the unfolding events of the Holocaust.

Efros, Israel. Dorot: Shirim. Tel Aviv, Dvir, 1966. Octavo, paper covered boards, 218 pp. Hardbound. Very Good. In Hebrew (47222)      $20.00

Efros, Israel. Elegyot bereshit. Shirim/ Ancient Elegies. Tel Aviv, Dvir, 1966. Octavo, printed paper covered boards, 144 pp. Hardbound. Very Good. In Hebrew (46213)     $20.00

Efros, Israel. Meh amok hu shatul. Shirim/ From the New World: How Deep He Is Planted Poems. Tel Aviv, Dvir, 1966. Octavo, printed paper covered boards, 156 pp. Hardbound. Very Good. In Hebrew (47221)     $20.00

Efros, Israel. Min Ha-Olam Ha-Hadash: Shene Shirim/ From the New World: Two Poems. Tel Aviv, Dvir, 1966. Octavo, printed paper covered boards, 251 pp. Hardbound. Very Good. In Hebrew (46214)     $25.00

         As a translator Efros published:

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet: Nesikh Denmark. New York, Hotzaat Ogen, 1944. First edition thus. Octavo, brown cloth with gold lettering, 243 pp..  Hardbound. Very Good. Translated into Hebrew by Israel Efros. (26581)      $20.00
        This was part of Silkiner's project to translate all of Shakespeare.
        Efros served a substantial term as the head of the Histadrut Ivrit. In 1955, he was asked to serve as the rector of Tel Aviv University. He held the post for four years before retiring.  He later became honorary president of the university. He remained in Israel for the rest of his life, fulfilling in his later years the implied intent of all Hebraists. He experienced more success and prominence in the wider Jewish community than any of the Hebraists.
         The last major treatment of Native Americans in American Hebrew literature is Ephraim E. Lisitzky's Medurot do‘akhot (Dying campfires), New York, 1937. Lisitzky was younger again by about ten years than Efros and his attitude towards America was ultimately quite distinct from Efros'. Unlike Efros and Silkiner, Lisitzky took the trouble to really feel himself of America even though that presence was a torment to him at times. Although in later years he did visit the new nation of Israel twice he never made aliyah. Lisitzky's first collection in Tel Aviv and all of his major works were republished in Jerusalem in the 1960s.
       The plot of Medurot do'akhot is too complex to reiterate. It includes Lisitzky's recasting of many different Native folktales though frustratingly not folktales from a single tribe. Rather, they derive from tribes greatly different in location and culture, though they don't cohere among themselves. These folktales add an element of authenticity that was entirely lacking in the work of Efros and Silkiner. However, Lisitzky's use of unrhymed trochaic tetrameter, as in Hiawatha and the Finnish epic, the Kalevala, is entirely unauthentic and even jarring in relationship to the material. (per Katz). Additionally, Medurot do'akhot, is mired in notion of the tragic Native. Even in his use of authentic Native material Lisitzky cannot keep himself from recasting the material into a more Jewish ethic. Katz refers back to Lisitzky's surce material and explains the shift. Even reading Native words Lisitzky cannot depict the Native Americans as they are. This is the result of one thing that Lisitzky had entirely in common with Silkiner and Efros - a complete lack of personal familiarity with any live Native Americans. (Mintz feels that Lisitzky, unlike Efros and Silkiner had too much textual information about Native American history, tradition and literature).
        Lisitzky's writings about African Americans like those of many other American Hebraists and Yiddishists were based on personal familiarity. Jews and Blacks often lived in the same neighborhoods. Some of their appearances in poetry and prose were sympathetic. Some portrayals occasionally drifted into racism (conscious or unconscious). None engaged with the African American community with the thoroughness of Lisitzky.
         Lisitzky's first writings about African Americans were composed while he still lived in the north. His interest began before he had substantial knowledge. However, when he was hired to teach Hebrew in New Orleans he had the opportunity to dive into a substantial community in a way that he never had before. This collection of long poems Lisitzky ultimately published as Be-Ohole Kush: Shirim, Tel Aviv, 1953. This collection shows a liveliness that Lisitzky's previous poetry had lacked. Lisitzky created his own iterations of spirituals and blues based poems. He attended services at Black churches. He wrote his versions of preacher's sermons rich with Biblical allusion. This cut two ways. It allowed him to use his strong grounding in Hebrew Bible but also tied up his representation of African American homiletics in an inevitably classicist and specifically Jewish register.
          Philip Hollander, a professor of Hebrew Literature, himself late of New Orleans and a critical reader, took his greatest pleasure in the moments where Lisitzky's poetic rhythm seemed to catch a New Orleans stride. It is counted against Lisitzky that he does not try to engage in a pure mimesis, somehow "going native," to mix a metaphor. My own absorption in African American culture ought to bias me in favor of such a criticism, but as I reflect I feel that the path that Lisitzky took was correct from a number of points of view. I think that it is presumptuous to take on an ethnic identity that is not one's own. There is a kind of problem that occurs when the imitation comes too close. In animation it is referred to as "the uncanny valley." Right starts to look terribly wrong. Alternately,  Lisitzky would be false to himself if he effaced his own history and sense of self. Black New Orleans is one of the world's great cultures. New Orleans culture as a whole is a polyglot culture and Lisitzky can be part of the polyglot culture and close to the African American without posing as an African American himself.
            Lisitzky brings African American culture into a genuinely Hebrew context and by doing so expands what can exist within Hebrew literature. His conservatism is precisely what keeps his work from losing touch with the larger body of Hebrew literature. It is deeply American text, deeply Jewish and in Hebrew.
         Be-Ohole Kush is one of many titles by Lisitzky that I have in stock:

Lisitzky, Efraim A. Shirim. [Tel Aviv], Eretz Yisrael, Hotzaat 'Chaverim', BeAmerikah al yad 'Dvir', 1928. Duodecimo, gray cloth with a worn spine slightly frayed at the ends, 282 pp. Bookplates and minor ink stamps on the endpapers. Hardbound. Good. Text is in Hebrew. From the library of Herzliah Teachers' Institute Library. Inscribed by the author to Abraham Goldberg on the title page (11357)     $40.00

Lisitzky, Ephraim. Be-ohole Kush: Shirim. Jerusalem, Mosad Byalik, 1953. Duodecimo in edgeworn dust jacket with a few tears, 304 pp. Hardbound. Good. In Hebrew. Inscribed by the authot on the title page (38147)     $25.00

Lisitzky, Ephraim. Negohot me-arafel. Tel Aviv, Hotsaat "Ogen" ve"Masada", 1957. Duodecimo in dust jacket, 206 pp. Hardbound. Very Good. In Hebrew (38203)     $25.00

Lisitzky, Ephraim A. Naftule Elohim. Tel Aviv, Hotsaat Ogen - Dvir, 1934. Octavo, maroon cloth with gold lettering with minor wear at the base of the spine, 510 pp., errata. Hardbound. Very Good. In Hebrew. Inscribed by the author to S. Niger on the free front endpaper (37433)     $40.00

Lisitzky, Ephraim E. Adam al Adamot: Poemot. New York, Hotsaat Ogen al yad Ha-Histadrut ha_ivrit ba-Amerikah, 1947. Octavo, blue cloth with gold lettering, 256 pp.  Hardbound. Good. In Hebrew. With an introduction by Menahem Ribalow (37413)     $20.00

Lisitzky, Ephraim E. Bi-yeme sho'ah u-mesho'ah: mahazot. New York, Ogen shel ha-Histadrut ha-Ivrit ba-Amerikah, 1959. Octavo, paper covered boards, 153 pp., errata. Hardbound. Very Good. In Hebrew (53765)     $25.00

Lisitzky, Ephraim E. Medurot do‘akhot. New York, Hotsaat Ogen, 1937. Octavo, red cloth with gold lettering, 326 pp. Yellowed paper. Hardbound. Good. In Hebrew (23595)     $20.00

Lisitzky, Ephraim Eliyahu. Eleh Toldot Adam. Jerusalem, Mosad Bialik, [1949]. Duodecimo in edgeworn dust jacket, 287 pp. Hardbound. Very Good-. Text is in Hebrew. (42418)     $20.00

Lisitzky, Ephraim E. Bi-shevile hayim ve-sifrut. Tel Aviv, Mahbarot le-sifrut, 1961. Duodecimo in edgeworn dust jacket, 192 pp. Hardbound. Very Good. Text is in Hebrew. (79675)     $25.00

Eleh Toldot Adam, Lisitzky's autobiographical work was translated into English in 1959. In both Hebrew and English it portrays part of the earlier years of his experience among Hebrew writers in America. The chapters about his meeting with the writer Menachem Mendel Dolitzky are mildly comic and vastly sad. Dolitzky was a leader among the first generation of Hebrew writers. He was an old style Maskil. In order to make money for himself he turned to writing Yiddish shund novels which he sold from door to door. His cynicism fails to dissuade the young Lisitzky. I have a couple of Dolitzky's titles in stock:

 Dolitzky, M.M. Milhemet ha-tehiyah: sipur yesodato be-divre yeme Yisra'el. New York, Dzshuish Pres Pob. Ko., 1911. Octavo, green cloth with gold lettering, front endpaper cracked at the hinge, 464 pp. Hardbound. Good. Text is in Hebrew. (44640)     $45.00

Dolitzky, Menahem Mendl. Shire Menahem. Hegyonot we-hezyonot, meshalim u-miktamim, yeshanim ve-gam hadashim. New York, Zigmund Bacharach Sonneborn, 1900. Octavo, quarter leather lacking most of the back-strip (spine), black cloth covered boards, 188 pp. Hardbound. Good-. In Hebrew (49430)      $65.00

         Lisitzky also participated in the Shakespeare translation project. He translated The Tempest:

Shakespeare, William. Ha-Se'arah/ The Tempest. New York, Hotsaat Ogen, 1941. Octavo, maroon cloth with green lettering, mild fraying at the spine ends, 158 pp. errata. Hardbound. Very Good. Translated into Hebrew by Ephraim E. Lisitzky (37493)      $25.00

and much later Julius Caesar.
         Lisitzky struggled through life. Unlike Efros, he lived thin, a bit of a luftmentsch. In the late 1950s and early 1960s particularly in Israel he began to get a recognition that largely evaded him in America. (Professor Hollander believes that these were vanity or near vanity publications. so perhaps my judgement here is poor.) Though he was not praised in the critical literature the interest in him suggests that readers and editors might have found more there than the critics did.


Chametzky, Jules; Felstiner, John; Flanzbaum, Hilene and Hellerstein, Kathryn, edited by. Jewish American Literature: A Norton Anthology. New York, 2001

Feldman, Yale S. Modernism and Cultural Transfer: Gabriel Preil and the Tradition of Jewish Literary Bilingualism. Cincinnati, 1986.

Katz, Stephen. Red, Black and Jew: New Frontiers in Hebrew Literature. Austin, 2009.

Lederhendler, Eli. Jewish Responses to Modernity: New Voices in America and Eastern Europe. New York, 1994

Mintz, Alan, edited by. Hebrew in America: Perspectives and Prospects. Detroit, 1993.

Mintz, Alan. Sanctuary in the Wilderness: A Critical Introduction to American Hebrew Poetry. Stanford, 2012.

Weingrad, Michael. American Hebrew Literature: Writing Jewish National Identity in the United States. Syracuse, 2011.

*A final note for now: I am not a "real" scholar. I have books to sell. I have them for reasons that are wise and reasons that are foolish. They reside on shelves and I live with them sometimes for days and sometimes for years or decades. Some I know well and other remain strangers. Here I've made an effort to get to know a group that I never knew well enough. The titles mentioned above are part of a larger social group that I will return to, perhaps with greater understanding.