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September 13, 1963 - Image 58

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1963-09-13

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Friday, Sept. 13, 1963 — THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS — 58

Jewish Publication Society's History Recalled on Its 75th Anniversary

For 75 years, the Jewish Pub-
lication Society of America has,
in accordance with its charter,
been devoting itself to "the pub -
lication and dissemination of
literary, scientific and religious
works, giving instruction in the
principles of the Jewish reli-
gion." More than five million of
its books have been distributed
all over the world, and its ros-
ter of authors, translators, and
researchers constitutes a verita-
ble "Who's Who" of notables
in Jewish learning and litera-
ture. Many documents pertain-
ing to the society are to be
found at the American Jewish
Archives on the Cincinnati
campus of the Hebrew Union
College - Jewish Institute of Re-
ligion. Prof. Jacob R. Marcus,
director of the Archives, has
himself written several books
for the society and serves as

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one of its vice-presidents.
AJP, as presently organiz-
ed, is the third venture of its
kind in American Jewish an-
nals. The original Jewish Pub-
lication Society was the brain-
child of Isaac Leeser, hazan
of 19th-century Philadelphia's
Sephardic Mikveh Israel Con-
gregation and later of the
city's Congregation Beth-El-
Emeth. Leeser wanted to se-
cure the foundations of Jew-
ish life in America and need-
ed material to fight the pros-
elytizing influences of the
Christian missionary pam-
phlets which were so widely
circulated in pre-Civil War
years. His first serious writ-
ing, provoked by a depreca-
tory newspaper article about
the Jews, grew into a book,
"The Jews and the Mosaic
Law," published in 1834.
Leeser was very much alive
to the need for developing
American Jewish writers, and,
under his leadership, a Jewish
publication society was estab-
lished in 1845, with subscribers
paying $1 a year and expecting
a new publication "as often as
the funds of the society will
admit such works as have been
approved of." Among the soci-

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ety's publications were Hyman represented the society, while
cc . . . I regard the Jewish
Hurwitz' "Hebrew Tales" and Kaufmann Kohler, David Philip- Publication Society as one of
two works by Grace Aguilar, son and Samuel Schulman rep- the most beneficial influences
"The Perez Family" and "Spirit resented the Central Confer- and the chief educational force
of Judaism." By 1851, 14 books ence of American Rabbis. The in English-speaking Jewry. For
had been published, but that complete translation appeared that great community, or rather
year a fire destroyed the soci- in 1917, but during the 1950s collection of communities, which
ety's books and plates, and the society undertook to super- finds itself in the midst of a
America's first Jewish Publica- sede its own work and initiated dominant culture, it (the soci-
tion Society, never very solvent, efforts to prepare a totally new ety) on the one hand preserves
was forced to disband.
translation, the third to be done the association with the heart
Leeser himself continued to in the United States for Jewish and mind of the rest of the
work tirelessly for his vision of readers. In 1962, the society Jewish people, and on the other
American Jewish life and is to issued a new translation of the hand it links up the present
be credited with introducing Pentateuch, the first step in the with the past and the future.
regular English - language ser- publication of a new transla- Literature has in every age
mons into the Sephardic syna- tion of the whole Bible.
been one of the supreme unify-
gogue, thereby paving the way
Another important Jewish ing forces of the. scattered Jew-
for the acceptance of English Publication Society contribution, ish communities, and in spread-
preaching as a normative fea- the first American Jewish Year ing a knowledge of Jewish lit-
ture of the American congrega- Book, edited by Cyrus Adler erature and in helping to create
tional scene.
and Henrietta Szold, appeared it in new form, the society is
In addition to the impor- in 1899 and has come out regu- satisfying our greatest need,
tant work he did in editing larly ever since. In 1908, the and providing our strongest bul-
the Occident, American Jew- society began to collaborate wark against disintegration."
ry's first successful periodical, with the American Jewish Com-
and in serving as co-founder, mittee in publishing the Year
Happy New Year
with Rebecca Gratz, of the Book. The first popular success
first Jewish Sunday school in enjoyed by the Society came in
America, Leeser prepared and 1892 with the publication of
Glendale Electronic
published the first English Israel Zangwill's "Children of
Supply Co.
translation of the Hebrew the Ghetto."
Wholesale Only
Bible to be made for Jewish
As a direct result of the ef-
readers. His translation, which
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forts of Cyrus Adler that the
became available in January,
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society acquired the Press
1854, remained standard until
Society, enabling it to print
the re-organized Jewish Pub-
its own books. In this en-
lication Society of America
Happy New Year To All
deavor, Jacob H. Schiff and
issued a new translation some
Louis Marshall acted as fi-
six decades later.
SOL and
For 22 years following the nancial angels, with some
demise of Leeser's Jewish Pub- assistance f r o m interested
lication Society, American Jew- people all over the country.
Your Pfeiffer, Budweiser and
ry had no organization for the
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dissemination of Jewish litera- society's valuable Schiff Li-
ture, but in 1873 a number of brary, which consists now of
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New Yorkers, among them Leo- seventeen volumes of selected
pold Bamberger, Benjamin Hart Jewish classics, many of them
and Myer Stern, joined with translated from Hebrew.
Happy New Year
In 1913, when the Society
William Hackenberg, of Phila-
TOLL and
delphia, and Simon Wolf, of celebrated its twenty - fifth
Washington, D.C., to establish a anniversary, the distinguished
new Jewish publication society, Anglo - Jewish litterateur Nor-


renamed the American Jewish man Bentwich, then at the be-
Canvas Products
Publication Society a year later. ginning of his career, wrote a
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This second publications ven- letter to Edwin Wolf, the so-
19015 Van Dyke
ture attracted the support of ciety's president:
scholars like Gustav Gottheil,
Moses Mielziner, Marcus Jas-
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trow and Moritz Ellinger and
initiated its brief career with
the publication of Rabbi James
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VI 3-9441
the society to suspend its achyi
ties in 1875, but thirteen years
later American Jewry's third
publication society came into
In May, 1888, 20 years after
Leeser's death, Joseph Kraus-
kopf, rabbi of Philadelphia's
Reform Congregation Kenes-
eth Israel, decided to have an-
other try at the formation of
an American Jewish publica-
tion society. With Solomon
Solis-Cohen, he urged Ameri-
can Jewish leaders to meet in
Philadelphia and organize a
new publications venture. A
hundred distinguished Jews
answered the call, and, with
the financial assistance of
Jacob H. Schiff and Meyer
Guggenheim, the present-day
Jewish Publication Society of
America was officially launch-
ed. Dr. Krauskopf acted as
secretary, a post he held for
ten years. The society's first
volume, issued in 1890, was
"Outlines of Jewish History"
by Lady Katie Magnus.
One of the society's most val-
uable contributions was its new
translation of the Hebrew Bible
into English—superseding Lee-
ser's work. The first book to
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translated in 1903 by Kaufmann
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the Hebrew Union College. Five
only thing taken out are the calories.
years later, the society decided
to co-operate with the Central
Conference of American Rabbis
in bringing out a new transla-
tion of the entire Bible. Solo-
mon Schechter, the president
of the Jewish Theological Sem-
inary of America, along with
Cyrus Adler and Joseph Jacobs,



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