Purely Commentary 1 1 :,hot
'The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself'—Major Classic of the Year
Holt, Rinehart and Winston has just issued a
volume that can be labeled as truly great.
"The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself," edited by
Stanley Burnshaw, T. Carmi and Ezra Spicehandler,
is a most unusual compilation. It contains the works
of 24 modern Hebrew poets, in the original Hebrew,
in phonetic English transliterations, with literal
translations and with explanatory accompanying es-
says by eminent and authoritative scholars.
A most expensive work to produce, made pos-
sible by financial aid provided by Dr. Nahum Gold-
mann, this tremendous work is patterned after "The
Poem Itself"vwhich was highly successful and which
Robert Frost acclaimed as "discussing foreign poems
into English." The 69 poems seected for this volume
introduce to the unknowing the outstanding works
that date from the age of Bialik to those of modern
Jewish poets who labored in pre-Israeli Palestine
and in present-day Israel.
Stanley Burnshaw, one of the book's editors,
the noted poet, critic and translator who was the
editor of "The Poem Itself," vice president of
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, states jm the opening
essay addressed to the reader that he came to
discover what "was the characteristic way in
whiCh many modern Hebrew poets use referents":
"Taking for granted a pervasive familiarity with
an immense traditional literature, they allude to
words, phrases, passages — to ideas, stories, atti-
tudes — with confidence that the originals will
also resound in the reader's mind. Or so it seems
to one who gradually -grows aware of the breadth
of the 'field' that a Hebrew poet can use to 'light
up' with a word or a phrase: more than 2,000
years of an oral and written tradition including,
along with compendia such as the Bible, the
Talmud (and its legends), the Midrashic com-
mentaries, the Book of Prayer, individual works
by philosophers, . poets and sages."
He adds the observations that "the reader will
not be surprised to find multiple meanings in a
single Hebrew word," that "in some ways the
nature of their language would seem both to help
and hinder modern Hebrew; and much of what
they have made of this mixed blessing is essen-
tially the substance of this book."
With the aid of the prose commentary, the
editors undertook to overcome obstacles that arise
out of attempts "to communicate the experience
of a modern Hebrew poem by means of a verse
translation only." They did what seemed necessary
"to remain faithful to the original Hebrew" without
attempting "to write a graceful English prose."
They used punctuation "as an instrument to clarify
and assist . . ."
This great work commences with Chaim
Nachman Bialik's "Bitsuvati" ("Upon My Re-
turn"), and continues with the following other
selections from the works of this "National Heb-
rew Poet": "Misirey Hahoref" ("From the Win-
ter Songs"), "Levadi" ("Alone"), "Im Dimdumey
Hahama" ("At Twilight"), "Tsanah Lo Zalzal"
.("A Twig Fell") and one of his best known poems
... and Me
that was written after the Kishinev pogrom,
"Al Hashita" ("On the Slaughter").
(Copyright, 1965, Jewish
Distinguished scholars contributed to this volume
Telegraphic Agency, inc.)
as commentators on the poets and their poems and
BEHIND THE SCENE: Don't be surprised if you learn that Pope
as translators, and the interpreter for the Bialik Paul VI will appear before the forthcoming session of the United Na-
poems is Tuvya Ruebner, a noted Hebrew scholar. tions General Assembly, which opens in September . . . Behind-the-
scene talks are going on between the Vatican and leading UN per-
It is appropriate that Bialik's poems, translitera- sonalities, while Jewish organizations in this country are trying to
tions and translations and the comments upon figure out the exact stand of Pope Paul on the draft declaration
exonerating the Jewish people from the charge of crucifying Jesus
them shauld be followed by the works of Saul Although this draft had been approved at last year's session of . the
Tchernichovsky, who, like Bialik, settled in Pales- Ecumenical Council by an overwhelming majority of 1992 to 99, it
tine for the final decade of his life. As in the in- has been felt in the liberal world for some time that Pope Paul him-
stance of Bialik, the Tchernichovsky selections are self maintains a cool attitude toward that decision . . . Suspicion that
preceded by biographical data about the poet. Prof. he lends himself to be influenced by the ultra-conservatives in the
Vatican who oppose absolving the Jews has been strong because of his
Robert Alter of Columbia University is the com- silence on this issue . . . This suspicion has become stronger after his
mentator on Tchernichovsky's works.
sermon on Passion Sunday, April 4, in which he stated that the Jews
The other poets whose works follow those of "not only did not recognize Jesus, but fought him, slandered and in-
Bialik and Tchernichovsky are Jacob Fichman, Avra- jured him; and, in the end, killed him". . . This sermon created an
ham Ben Yitzhak and Jacob Steinberg, who no longer altogether new image of Pope Paul among Jews and non-Jews alike—
are among the living, and the following living poets: an image far different from the one of his predecessor, the late Pope
Uri Zvi Greenberg, Simon Halkin, Abraham Shlon- John XXIII, who went down in history as "the good Pope" . .. By
sky, Yocheved Bat-Miriam, Avot Yeshurun, Yona- addressing the UN Assembly he stands to correct this unfavorable
tan Ratosh, Nathan Alterman, Lea Goldberg, Gab- image he created of himself in undermining the action of the great
riel Preil, Amir Gilboa, Abba Kovner, Tuvya Rueb- majority of the prelates at the Ecumenical Council who distinctly said
ner, Haim Gury, Yehuda Amihai, T. Carmi, Ayin that Jesus died "because of the sins of all men" . . . There will, o
Hillel, Dan Pagis, Nathan Sach and Dalia Raviko- course, be much explanation forthcoming from the vatican on Pope
Paul's views on Jews between now and the time he may appear before
the United Nations Assembly . . . Only a clear-cut statement from
The co-editors with Burnshaw are prominent the Pope himself can clear the air and restore the confidence of the
in the Hebrew literary world. T. Carmi, a native liberal world in the top hiearchy of the vatican.
New Yorker, who settled in Israel after fighting
EYES ON VATICAN: An attempt to explain Pope Paul's reasser-
in the Israeli War of Independence, has authored tion of the charge that the Jews killed Jesus was made in New York by
and translated Hebrew works and is an editor in Cardinal Bea, chief fighter in the Vatican for the exoneration of the
an important Israeli publishing house. Ezra Jews from that charge . . . Cardinal Bea's explanation was, to speak
Spicehandler, also born in New York, a noted mildly, confusing and left much to be desired, although the Jews know
author, is professor of Hebrew at Hebrew Union that they have a great friend in him .. • The eyes of the Jewish world,
College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cin- as well as of the entire liberal world, therefore are turned now toward
the plenary meeting of the 30 prelates who compose the Vatican's
Christian Unity Secretariat, of which Cardinal Bea is the head
The other commentators who have translated Their session will take place at the Vatican May 9-15 to review
the poems in this volume and have written the proposed revisions of the draft Declaration on the Jews which exon-
commentaries and biographical sketches are Haim erated the Jews from the deicide calumnies and was approved by the
Blanc, Arnold Band, Robert Friend, Lea Goldberg, almost 2,000 of the cardinals and bishops who attended the 1964
Benjamin Hrushovski, Abraham Huss, David Mirsky, meeting of the Ecumenical Council . .
While the' Jews have no
Dan Pagis, Dalia Ravikovitch, Arieh Sachs, David doubt where Cardinal Bea himself stands in the matter, the question
Seraph, Harold Schimmel — all famed as poets, is now being asked to what extent other members of his Secretariat
teachers, Hebrew scholars, several of whom are have been influenced by Pope Paul's insistence that the Jews killed
Included among the 24 poets whose works were Jesus . . . The meeting of the 30 prelates will deal with the recom-
selected for inclusion in this volume.
mendations of a Vatican four-man ad hoc committee appointed at the
Arthur A. Cohen, one of the editors of Holt, will of Pope Paul to make suggestions on the draft text of the Declara-
Rinehart and Winston, makes an interesting com- tion on the Jews . . . And these recommendations—adopted by a vote
ment about "The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself." of 3 to 1—urge that the text of the Declaration be altered to merely
"forgive" the Jews rather than to absolve them from deicide .. .
The head of the ad hoc committee, Bishop Luigi Carli, was the
"It has become a commonplace observation that personal appointee of the Pope to this committee . . . An ultra-con-
young nations and literary traditions still inter- servative, he advanced the idea that the Jewish people should not be
mittently connected to sources in the folk imagina- exonerated but should only be "forgiven" . . . Worse perhaps is the
tion produce poetry far more generously than they fact that he succeeeded in influencing two other members of the ad
do other forms of literature. This is certainly true hoc committee, one of whom was among those named by Cardinal Bea
in South America and in Central and Eastern who is determined to see the Jews exonerated by the Catholic Church
Europe. It is, however, remarkable that the Hebrew . . . Under such circumstances, who can foretell how many of the
language redivivus, enjoying a rebirth only since other members of Cardinal Bea's Christian Unity Secretariat will
the late 19th Century, should have, in a short space change their minds after Pope Paul's public reassertion of the insidious
of time, produced an extraordinarily varied, if not charge that the Jews killed Christ? . .. The answer to this question
hinges on clear indications from Pope Paul personally whether his
"The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself" proves his reassertion of the deicide charge was a deliberate hint of his stand
point, And it. serves the distinct purpose of intro- on the Declaration of the Jews, or whether it was -a reflection of an
ducing a great literature to an unknowing world. unintentional but deeply ingrained bias.
Michigan Week Acclaimed by Romney, Marked by Many Events
This year's Michigan Week observance, the 12th annual, takes on international
color with special programs and events focusing attention on the state's role in world
affairs and world trade and on its contributions to the social and economic advance-
ment of people around the globe.
While the actual celebration is from May 16 to 22, the objectives of Michigan
Week are 'carried forward throughout the entire
year, and many projects are continuous.
"Michigan — Dynamic in World Progress,"
theme of the 1965 Michigan Week, not only
serves to emphasize the state's international im-
portance to its own people, but affords an oppor-
tunity to tell the Michigan story in other nations
of the free world.
Many outstanding programs during Michigan
Week will emphasize the theme, recognizing the
part of industry and business in international
trade; highlighting Michigan products sold in
all parts of the world, and recognizing foreign
students and visitors in our state.
General Chairman Woodward C. Smith,
vice president of Central Michigan University,
Mt. Pleasant, sounded the keynote for the ob-
servance when he said: "Michigan Week is the
climax of a great year around effort to show
Michigan's advantages to the nation and the
world and to inspire Michigan people to know
their own state better, take pride in it, and
work together for their state's future."
Mayors and village presidents of approximately 350 cities and villages will
trade places for a day (Our Government Day, May 17) in Michigan's 12th annual
Michigan Week is sponsored by all the people of Michigan through the Greater
Michigan Foundation, a charitable-educational foundation, of which Edwin 0. George,
senior vice president of the Detroit Edison company, is president. The organization
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
2—Friday, May 14, 1965
has a board of governors of 75 leaders from education, religion, labor, business and
other major facets of life in Michigan.
Objectives of Michigan Week, as adopted by the foundation's board of governors
1. To give Michigan citizens a greater knowledge and appreciation of their
2. To expound the state's assets and resources for industry, business, educa-
tion and recreation and to afford the nation and the world an inspired view of
3. To foster a spirit of cooperation among all communities and people to
the end that all of Michigan will work together to make the state even more
livable and attractive.
Governor George Romney, honorary chairman of Michigan Week, declared in ..n
statement regarding Michigan Week:
"Michigan IS dynamic in world progress! The days of isolationism in the American
Midwest are long past—if our people were as isolationist as they were said to be.
Today, our citizens are vigorously aware of being an important part of an inter-
"Our most important resource is our human resource—we have great people.
Studies have shown our workers to be among the most productive in the world. We
have been blessed with many responsible leaders in all fields of endeavor as well as
innumerable active, concerned citizens. We can also point with pride to the contribu-
tions Michigan people have made and are making in communities around the world
—helping other people to help themselves.
"I am proud to be from Michigan—a state 'Dynamic in World Progress! And I
hope that Michigan Week 1965, coming on the eve of our summer tourist season, will
serve as a reminder to all of us to demonstrate to all visitors the hospitality and
friendliness that is inherent in the 'Spirit of Michigan.' "
The Detroit Edison Company will help observe Michigan week with an open
house in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Edison's Conners Creek Power
Plant, home of the famous "Seven Sisters."
The giant power plant at the foot of Lycaste on Detroit's east side will be open
to visitors from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, May 21, and Saturday, May 22, and from
noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 23.