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May 05, 1967 - Image 40

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1967-05-05

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Leaves Wheel Chair to Wed, Teach:Sarah Bernhardt's Genius Depicted by Miss Skinner;

'Story of Actress as Dreyfusard Related in Biography

A great actress has produced
a great biography of one of the
greatest actresses of all time.
"Madame Sarah." the biography
of Sarah Bernhardt. pub. hed by
Houghton Mifflin Co.. is a master-
ful work. brilliantly written • and
its significance is in the fact that
a woman who is a great artist in
her own right, Cornelia Otis Skin-
ner, has written it.
The reader learns from this
work who Madame Sarah really
was, her genius, her skills. And
he becomes acquainted with the
important personalities who fig-
ured in the life of that great
actress. lie learns about the time

and Miss Skinner ably collected
all the relevant data about a
1 genius and her time.
Sarah did not have a religious
education. The trend was toward
Catholicism, which she professed
and in which, Miss Skinner states,
she was undoubtedly sincere, but
"she never lost sight of the fact
that she was of Jewish origin."
Miss Skinner states:
"She never allowed a word of
anti-Semitic talk, and during the
hysteria of the Dreyfus case she
had the courage to take a stead-
fastly pro-Dreyfus stand. Once
when a reported asked her if she
were a Christian she answered,
and the conditions of the era
`No. I'm a Roman Catholic, and
during which Sarah Bernhardt
a member of the great Jewish
had labored to make the stage
race,' then added with a sweet
so vital.
smile. 'I'm waiting 'til Christians
Sarah's actual name was Rosine become better'."
—a name used only during her
In her account of Sarah Bern-
early childhood. She "was the hardt's role in the case in defense
illegitimate daughter of Judith of Dreyfus, Miss Skinner states:
Van Hard, a Jewish Dutch woman,
"The rift caused over 1'Affaire
who lived for a time in Berlin.
in her own family brought
The Van Hards were of bourgeois
Madame Sarah much anguish.
middle class although one ro-
All her life she hated any form
mantic rumor has it that Judith
of tyranny or injustice and from
was the love-child of a Belgian
the start of the famous trial she
Marquise, Thieule de Petit-Bois
had been convinced of the com-
de la Nieville, who ran away from
plete innocence of Dreyfus. She
a chateau named Saint-i_ubin-de-
had followed the r2r.,rts daily
Corbier with a German oculist—
the papers and had gone to
which sounds suspiciously like a
witness the unhappy captain's
legend Sarah herself might have
public degradation. After the
thought up."

Frieda S., a social welfare case condemned to a wheel chair
through a birth deformity, has fought her way out of the wheel
chair to he•ome a teacher, a wife and mother. She now lives with
her family at the Ben-Shemen Agricultural and Vocational Train-
ing School in Israel. She is shown in the bottom picture in 1957,
during ti.•at•,ient at the JDC-Malben's Machne Israel Rehabilitation
Center. The insert shows her today with her infant in her home in

Sarah's turbulent life, her re-
lationships with many famous
peopl e, among them Baron
Adolphe de Rothschild, Victor
Hugo and others; her genius as
a modeler of busts as well as
an actress (she made a bust
also of Baron Rothschild) —
these make a fabulous story,

Giora Josephthal's Life, Collected Writings,
Speeches Included in 'Responsible Attitude'

w ho took an interest in

brated Jewish holidays, but, as
the pre l,raid Palestinian develop-
was common in assimilated
ments and in the activities of the
households, they used to put up
Jewish Agency and those who I a Christmas tree."
played important roles in the af-
Such was Giora's childhood ex-
fairs of the United Jewish Appeal
perience in the German Jewish
will remember
home. But at 14 he joined a Jew-
t h e impressive
ish youth organization. He was 17
messages that
when he urged his group's affilia-
were brought to
tion with the Jewish Agency. He
American Jewry
joined the Zionist ranks, soon be-
by an eminent in- came
a leader in the Socialist-
terpreter of the
Zionist liabonim movement.
Zionist idea —
He studied law and economics to
Giora Josephthal.
His life was cut prepare himself for a career but
short in 1962 — he continued his Zionist activities.
he was only 50. He met his wife a few weeks be-
But by that time fore Hitler rose to power and they
he had rendered shared their Zionist interests dur-
great service to ing the remainder of his life.
the Jewish cause.
Upon the rise of Nazism, Jos-
His life's work
ephthal became active in the
is excellently de-
Aliya activities and in the
picted in "The
course of time he rose to major
Josephthal Responsible Atti-
tude: The Life and Opinions of
political roles, serving as secre-
Giora Josephthal," a well edited
tary of Mapai in 1956, becoming
Schocken volume which contains
minister of labor in the Israel
the papers and addresses of the
government in 1960. He traveled
noted leader. Ben Halpern and
widely in behalf of the Zionist
Shalom Wurm ably compiled the
movement and of the UJA and
Josephthal material, and the vol-
his messages inspired increased
ume contains an impressive bio-
interest in philanthropic Jewish
graphical sketch of Josephthal by
efforts in behalf of the refugees
his widow, Senta Josephthal.

from Nazism.

His wife's account of his life is
a deeply moving story. It relates
his dedication to the great tasks
that emerged from the Hitler era.
It reviews his self-education in
Zionism, his mastery of Hebrew
and of Yiddish, his leadership in
Histadrut, his attainment of one of
the most recognized roles as a
leader in Jewry as well as in
The collection of essays, ad-
dresses, papers and the documents
related to Josephthal's life supple-
ments Zionist history and gives an
account of the events covered by
the creative life (1912-62) of a
brilliant leader.

The editors subdivided the col-
lected essays into three categories:
The German Period 1932-38, the
Jewish Agency Period 1951-56 and
Party and Government Service
1956-62. In every instance the
philosophical ideas relevant to the
periods are elevated by brilliant

Each of the sections is preceded
by editorial introductions review-
ing the periods covered and pro-
viding data necessary for an under-
standing of the views quoted from
Giora Josephthal's speeches and

Giora's family background was
steeped in Jewish traditions. His
grandfather headed the Nurem-
berg Jewish community for 35
years. But his immediate exper-
iences were assimilationist. As his
wife describes it:

Bloch Publishing Company an-
nounces three of its forthcoming
spring summer publications, each
authored by a noted rabbi and

tion in terms relevant to the mod-
ern age, and underscores the three
basic areas concerning Judaism
and the Jewish people: "The
World, Israel, and Man."

"Giora's father retained mem-
ories of a Jewish childhood in
his father's house, but his
mother came from a completely
assimilated family. She was very
intelligent and well educated,
but did not know as much as the
Hebrew alphabet, and Jewish
customs were totally foreign to
her. Giora's parents never cele-

"Rabbinical Counseling," edited
and with an introduction by Earl
A. Grollman, contains contribu-
tions by six rabbis who give the
benefit of their research and ex-
perience with relationship to the
crucial problems of youth and
sexuality, intermarriage, suicide
and the mentally' ill.
"Leave a Little to God: Essays
in Judaism," by Rabbi Robert
Gordis, interprets the Jewish tradi-

"Faith and Destiny of Man":
Traditional Judaism in a New
Light" by Rabbi Joseph H. Look-
stein, is a volume of selected
essays, dealing with the situation
of man in the 20th Century,
with his emotional problems, his
intellectual needs and his moral
dilemmas. The author is especially
concerned "with the Jew in his re-
lation to the society of which he
is a part, to his ancestral faith and
to the peoplehood of Israel whose
destiny he shares."

40 Friday, May 5, 1967

Three New Bloch Books Announced


ghastly sentence to Devil's
Island she had campaigned for
his vindication. To come out
openly as a Dreyfusard took
tremendous courage at that time.
She went to see Emile Zola, and
it is said that it was she who
had persuaded him to write his
fulminating outcry for justice,
`J'Accuse!' Next day a paper
came out with the headline

`Sarah Bernhardt had joined the
Jews against the Army.' Her
coterie of friends were divided
into warring factions. To her
great distress Francois Coppee
and Jules Lemaitre were in the

other camp, both belonging to
an idiotically prejudiced organi-
zation called La Ligue de la
Patrie Francaise, which, accord-
ing to the 'Oxford Companion
to French Literature,' typified
all that was bigoted, anti-Semitic
and reactionary in public life.'
But Victorien Sardou protested
along with her the innocence of
Dreyfus and of course the fiery
Octave Mirbeau was vociferous
in his demands for justice. She
stuck to her stand even when it
came to open rupture with her
nearest and dearest. Maurice
Bernhardt (her son) was an out-
spoken anti-Semite and a violent
anti-Dreyfusard, as were most
members of the Parisian smart
set. Mother and son quarreled
bitterly, so much so that Maurice
moved with his wife and daugh-
ter Simone to live in the South
of France for well over a year,
during which time there was no
communication between them."
A later incident is recorded,
even after Dreyfus was exonerated

and reinstated in the army, when
Sarah and Maurice battled, Maur-
ice charging all Dreyfusards with
treachery and Sarah smashing a
Sarah Bernhardt emerges from
this work like a miracle of the
stage, as one of the very great
personalities. Miss Skinner treated
her subject with such skill that
the fairness of her evaluative work,
its completeness, its all-embracing
elements, make "Madame Sarah"
stand out as one of the great life
stories of the century.




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Reading material in vocalized Easy Hebrew, and also material fat
advanced students may be obtained through your local Hebrew
Organization or by uriting to: Brit lvrit Olamit, P.O.B. 7111,
Jerusalem, Israel.

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