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December 08, 1967 - Image 35

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1967-12-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

JPS Publishes Dr. Morris Epstein's English Jarring Postponing Mission
Translation of Medieval Wicked Tales Until After Arab Summit

A medieval romance so full of
humor about the wiles of women
that it has been described as "the
Jewish Boccaccio," has been
translated from Hebrew into Eng-
lish for the first time.
The work's publication by the
Jewish Publication Society of
America under the title "Tales of
Sendebar" marks the culmination
of an unusually fruitful search for
unknown Hebrew manuscripts by
a Yeshiva University scholar who
found some of them in such far-
apart places as the Saitykov-
Schedrin Public Library in Lenin-
grad and the Vatican Library in
Translator, editor, and com-
mentator on the romance, the
first critical edition based on
hitherto unknown manuscripts,
is Dr. Morris Epstein, professor
of English and chairman of the
English Department at Yeshiva
University's Stern College for
Women and an editor of World
Over Jewish youth magazine
published by the Jewish Educa-
tion Committee of New York.
The stories in Hebrew, known
as "Mishle Sendebar," are derived

from a collection of tales believed
to have originated in India in the
5th Century before the Common
Era. Highly popular for centuries,
they were translated and reshaped
into many Eastern and Western
languages. In the Western ver-
sions, the romance is best known
under the title "The Seven Sages
of Rome."
In his research, Dr. Epstein
found single manuscripts of the
work in such Eastern languages
as Greek, Syriac, Old Spanish,
Persian and Arabic, but a re-
markable total of 18' in Hebrew,
several previously unknown. Even
more' interesting is the fact that
the Hebrew was the intermediary
between Oriental and Occidental

"It seems likely," Dr. Epstein
said, "that the tales were car-
ried from East to West by Jew- j
ish merchants known as Ra-
d anites. This is historically
significant as another instance
of how medieval Jewry conveyed
the fruit of Eastern culture to ,
the Western world for the bene-
fit of mankind."

Jewish Orientation of Children Seen
as Major Concern of American Jewry

A two-year old study by 30 Bnai
Brith task forces, working inde-
pendantly of one another, took a
look at the future of Jewish life
in America and agreed that the
major and priority concern of
American Jews in the 1910's will
be the Jewish orientation — or
lack of it — of their children.
The results of the study, which
involved '700 persons, were re-
ported here by Dr William A.
Wexler of Savannah, president of
Bnai Brith, at the opening of the
annual meeting of its board of
govenors. The study indicated that
the strengthening of the cultural
loyalties and Jewish identifications
of qoungsters, and means to cope
with "impoverishments in Jewish
education" are already the domi-
nant concerns of the Jewish com-
The problems of anti-Semitism
and related issues arising from the
civil rights movement and racial
conflicts, church-state disputes and
political extremism, rank second
in frequency among major issues
likely to claim the attention of
American Jews during the next
decade, the task force studies
American Jewery's relationship
with Israel ranked third, but, it

The romance is set in a story-
within-a-story framework similar
in form to "The Canterbury Tales"
and "The Decameron."
With the wickedness and wiles
of women as its central motif, the
romance tells of a young prince
who is tempted to indiscretion by
one of his father's wives. The
queen, rebuffed, accuses the prince
of attempted rape. In all versions
but the Hebrew, the queen is ulti-
mately killed despite the efforts
of seven wise men who delay the
verdict by competing with the
queen in a kind of thousand and
one nights storytelling marathon.
The "Sendebar" of the title is the
chief sage.
In the Hebrew version, first
printed in a Constantinople edition
in 1516 but extant in manuscripts
dating back to the 12th cent
the queen is spared when the
prince exhorts his father to ob-
serve HMO's Golden Rule—"do
not do unto others what you would
not have them do unto you."
In the course of his search
for manuscripts, begun more
than a decade ago, Dr. Epstein
bartered four books for pho-
tographs of a manuscript in a
deal with the library in Lenin-
grad. Another manuscript, pre-
viously unknown, was culled
from the Vatican Library in
Rome. In still another, belong-
ing to the Jewish Theological
Seminary of Hungary, "Mishle
Sendebar" is written In tiny
script in the margins of an
essay on Hebrew grammar.
"This particular manuscript,"
Dr. Epstein remarks, "attests to
the wide interest of the romance to
medieval Jewry—a surprisingly
strong interest, one might say, in
a work of secular fiction, even if
the authors did place a strong
religious overlay on the stories."

was pointed out, this subject was
investigated prior to last June's
Six-Day War.
Dr. Wexler said the study
showed that "more affirmative
activities in organized Jewish
life" are required to keep Jewish
youth from "drifting away from
Jewish moorings toward a more
humanistic society." He urged
Jewish federations and welfare
funds to give greater emphasis
in their allocations to Jewish
educational institutions and pro-
grams, since medical and social
He added with a smile that the
welfare services "are increas-
script in the margins might also
ingly subsidized by public
to a shortage of paper."
A page from this manuscript was
The task forces listed the follow- recently on display as part of an
ing areas of concern which, they exhibition on "Jewish Folklore:
forecast, will increase in intensity
radition and Transformation" on
in the next decade: The loss among the second floor gallery of the New
Jewish youth of involvement wit,york Public Library.
authentic Jewish expression, open-
Dr. Epstein based his English
ing paths toward assimilation; the translation on two previously un-
domineering influence of Christian published manuscripts in Oxford
culture over Jewish experience of University's Bodleian Library. One
family life; the estrangement of Is dated 1325, the other somewhat
Jewish intellectuals from Jewish earlier. They include three tales
communal life; the present lack of not found elsewhere.
"contemporary relevance" in Jew-
Describing the romance as
ish education; and a "floating by
"sometimes bawdy, frequently
Jewish college youth" into a new
amusing and always fascinat-
kind of Jewish identification
ing," Dr. Epstein said he regards
without religious emphasis.
it not only as a source book for
students of literature, but as a
source of delight for every
Presented in parallel Hebrew
and English texts, it includes foot-
notes and critical and historical
Dr. Epstein has been with Yes-
hiva University's Stern College
for Women since 1955 and editor
of World Over since 1947.

Refugee Shelter Overcrowded

— Reports circulated here that
Ambassador Gunnar Jarring is
considering a postponement of his
mission to the Middle East until
after the Arab summit conference,
which is scheduled to open in Ra-
bat. Morocco, Dec. 9.
According to reliable sources,
Ambassador Jarring, Secretary-
General Thant's special represen-
tative to the Middle - East, will
stress the need for more time to
study the problem a UN head-
quarters here. Ambassador Jarring
met with the representatives of the
United States, Britain and France.
In another development, Thant
summoned the Syrian representa-
tive, presumably to discuss Am-

British Premier Expected
in D.C. for Mid-East Talks

(Direct JTA Teletype Wire
to The Jewish News)

bassador Jarring's mission to the
Middle East. Syria rejected the
Security Council's resolution under
which Jarring was appointed.
Israel introduced a new formula-
tion in presenting the question of
freedom of navigation that is de-
signed to counter the threat by
the leaders of the newly indepen-
dent South Arabian Federation
(Aden) to close the entrance to the
Red Sea to Israeli shipping.
In discussing the threat which
was raised in the General Assem-
bly's committee on trusteeship
matters, the Israel delegate, Arieh
Ilan, stressed the need for "free
navigation for all shipping in all
waterways leading to and from the
Red Sea." Previously Israel's de-
mand for guaranteed freedom of
navigation referred only to the
Straits of Tiran and the Suez

- WASHINGTON—Prime Minister
Harold Wilson of Great Britain is
expected to visit Washington next
month for talks with President
Johnson that will cover the reopen-
ing of the Suez Canal, an Arab-
Israeli settlement and other issues.
Talks have opened on the agenda
and the date of the meeting. It is
now lexpected that the Wilson visit
will occur about mid-January.


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