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March 20, 1987 - Image 34

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-03-20

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Legends As Inspirations

Continued from Page 2

her few years of devotion to Jewish ac-
tivism, in the aim of rescuing the vic-
tims of Nazism, she recorded an
equally great loyalty and dedication to
her legacies as a Jew, and as a Zionist.
This is among the major lessons of her
life, as a signal to the youth of our
people to know their history, to learn
their lessons, to emulate a devotion
that has recorded the name Hannah
Szenes among the most honored in
modern history.
In the assembled volumes dealing
with her remarkable career as a
Jewess, brief as it was, the story of her
inspirational aims indicated the mark
she left in Jewish history. The earliest
of the works dedicated to her, referred
to in that collective review, was Marie
Syrkin's Blessed Is the Match, pub-
lished 40 years ago by the Jewish Pub-
lication Society. Now this important
publishing house makes available an-
other Hannah Szenes biography. This
tome is for young readers.

The very title of the JPS book for
young readers is an invitation for in-
tended readers as well as their elders.

Hannah Szenes — A Song of Light

traces genius in the young martyr.
Maxine Schur, the author, has an envi-
able record as author of children's
books and as book critic. Illustrations
by Donna Ruff add interest to the
Schur book and its heroine.
The story of Hannah, the legacy
from her father, who was noted as
playwright and author, is told in detail.
A girl empties a chamber pot on Haman as he leads Mordecai through the
It leads to the poetic nature of the
youth who, inheriting skills from her
father, wrote poetry as a mere child.
richly illuminated work is in the in-
reveal the patriarchs in a less
The poetry of her life is retained and
than perfect light.
formation provided on how the Jewish
- recited by the youth of Israel as a trib-
legendary and therefore also the his-
For the Jews, however, the
ute to her skills and courage.
toric has become a part of world liter-
heroes of the Scriptural narra-
Hannah became a Zionist adherent
tive are fallible human beings,
ary teachings. Christianity and Islam
and loyalist when she became aware of
also absorbed the Jewish legendary, as
struggling to overcome their
the anti-Semitism that dominated her
well as historic and biblical, as Dr.
failings in the service of the one
native Hungary. She settled in Pales-
Goldstein indicates:
God, whose preeminence and
tine and became a Zionist advocate.
sovereignty they were the first
On the other hand, mid-
Agonized by her people's sufferings
to recognise. No man is perfect.
rashic interpretations found
she joined the resistance, became a
their way into European
parachutist, and her activities ended in
attitude of the Jewish tradition
folklore, sometimes through the
her being executed by the Hungarian
literature of Judaism's two
Nazis in 1944.
daughter religions: Christianity
She rejected offers by her murder-
and Islam. Early Christian liter-
Dr. Goldstein's classically assem- ers to beg for clemency.
ature is, of course, very close in
bled legends are published on a very
Maxine Schur describes Hannah's
nature to Jewish texts, and it is
timely basis. Appearing before the life in detail. She shares the martyred
not surprising to find both in
Passover, this volume attains great girl's poems with her readers. She
the Gospels and in the- writings
merit in the 30-page essay on "Moses."
commences her story with a poem
of the Church Fathers elabora-
Then there is an important essay Hannah wrote in 1944, before her
tions of Scripture which can be
on "Esther," illuminating the Purim death. This is the poem in which is re-
paralleled in Jewish sources.
flected the spirit of the courageous and
Thus, for example, the Jewish
Dr. Goldstein indicated that only a talented Hannah Szenes:
idea of Elijah as a forerunner of
limited number of legends have been
We gathered flowers in the fields
the Messiah occurs in Luke 1:17.
utilized by him in this volume, espe-
and mountains
The Koran displays many
cially to serve as explanatory of the il-
We breathed the fresh winds of
examples of the influence of
luminations and pictorial material. It is
midrash. Mahommed gained
apparent that he has merely scratched
We were drenched with the warth
much of his knowledge of the
the surface for his themes.
of the sun's rays
Bible and of Judaism from
Dr. Goldstein's Jewish Legends
In our Homeland, in our beloved
Jewish sages in his immediate
merits being treated in homes and lib-
environment, and they would
raries as a genuine treasure. Such re-
naturally embellish the Biblical
spect and appreciation will most cer-
We go out to our brothers in exile,
narratives in the traditional
tainly be shared by readers of all faiths
To the suffering of winter, to frost
midrashic way. There is, how-
who will recognize in it a notable con-
in the night.
ever, a major difference in the
tribution to historical and legendary
Our hearts will bring tidings of
research and authorship.
approach of the two religions to

the Hebrew Scriptures. To the
Muslims the patriarchs are in-
variably perfect human beings,
consistently and unimpeachably
righteous in their moral con-
duct. Muslim authorities even
accused the rabbis of tampering
with the text of the Bible, and
interpolating episodes which


Friday, March 20, 1987

Hannah Szenes'
Courage Serves
As Call To Youth

Hannah Szenes was only 23 when
the Nazis in Hungary ended her life in
punishment for her Jewish loyalties. In


Our lips sing the song of light.

It is in the epilogue to her well-
compiled account of Hannah's life that
author Schur summarizes the tributes
to her by her generation in Israel. It
indiccates, as follows, where her mem-
ory is perpetuated:

Although Hannah's life was

cruelly ended in the grim yard
of a military prison, the spirit of
her life — its courage and hope
— remained to light the way for
those still alive. Among the last
pockets of Jewish Resistance
fighters, in the rotting prison
cells and in the bombed, death-
ridden ghettos, the story of the
woman who left the safety of
Palestine to save Jews in
Europe was told from survivor
to survivor.
By the time the war ended
in Hungary in February 1945,
over 450,000 Jews — 70 percent
of the Jewish population of
Greater Hungary — had been
At the time when great na-
tions hesitated to interfere,
when churches remained silent,
and when many Jews them-
selves were paralyzed by fear,
Hannah's actions loomed ex-
traordinary. She was young, in-
experienced, and often
foolhardy, but she tried. "I'm
conscious-stricken that I have it
so good and easy here while
others are suffering," Hannah
wrote in her diary. In the end,
her responsibility to the op-
pressed made her a martyr. But,
more important, in a time of
pervasive inhumanity, it
marked her as human.
Hannah did not live to see
the land she loved become a na-
tion, but that nation has shown
its love for her. Today in Israel,
nearly every schoolchild can re-
cite "Blessed Is the Match."
Numerous plays and books
have been written about Han-
nah. Thirty-two streets are
named "Hannah Szenes," as
well as a forest, two farming
settlements, and a refugee ship.
Overlooking Jerusalem, in
the highest of the Judean hills,
Hannah is buried. There, in the
National Military Cemetery, a
circle is etched into the earth.
Within the circle, in the shape of
a "V", lie the graves of the
seven parachutists who did not
return. on each headstone is
carved a parachute.
Throughout the year, vis-
itors place flowers at Hannah's
grave. And when the visitors
leave, winding their way down
the hill, the memory of Hannah
does not end. Her words are
read and re-read in countries
around the world, inspiring
ever-new generations with their
gentle wisdom and hope —
Hannah's song of light.

There are stars whose radiance is
visible on earth though they have
long been extinct. There are people
whose brilliance continues to light
the world though they are no
longer among the living. These
lights are particularly bright when
the night is dark. They light the
way for Mankind.

This is how literature for youth
encourages knowledge of history,
further study, Jewishly recorded
knowledgeability. This is what must be
encouraged in the treatment of this

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