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September 01, 1989 - Image 40

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-09-01

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PURELY COMMENTARY

JPS

Continued from Page 2

1919 to 1922. He was the honorary
Spanish consul here. He was the son-in-
law of David W. Simons, the Orthodox
Jewish dignitary who was among the
early presidents of Shaarey Zedek and
was 'one of the elected members of the
first Detroit nine-man City Council and
was closely associated with Supreme
Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis in the
Zionist movement. (D.W. Simons was
the father of Federal Judge Charles C.
Simons).
I believe I succeeded Rosenberg as
the second Detroiter to serve on the JPS
board of governors and I was in that
category for 24 years — 1950 to 1974 —
10 years as vice president.
The Sarna-edited JPS lists the
other Detroit activists: Leonard N.
Simons, Judge Theodore Levin and
most recently Erwin "Toby" Holtzman.
Simons and Levin were among the
leaders who in 1955 succeeded in enroll-
ing some 150 Detroit sponsors of the
financing of the second revised transla-
tion of the JPS-published Scriptures.
With the appearance of the Sarna-
edited JPS I became curious to trace my
membership in JPS. Many years ago
the American Jewish Year Book
published the JPS membership lists.
My name began to appear there in the
1914 volume. Until my Ann Arbor,
Mich., address, I was listed at 438
Avenue C. Bayonne, N.J.
Membership in the society was then
$5 a year for which we received three
important JPS volumes.
My membership, therefore, began in
1913, two years after my arrival in this
country. I came with a Russian diploma
and a knowledge of Hebrew and Yid-
dish. Permit me, therefore, to give
leadership of JPS books a great
measure of credit in having made
English my living and professional
language.
As part of the American Jewish
community I owe a deep debt of
gratitude to JPS. The masters who
began it were responsible for the
publication of the great classics which
include History of the Jews by Heinrich
Graetz. Henrietta Szold, later founder
of Hadassah, was its translator from the
German. She was JPS editor for two
decades. I had the privilege of being
associated with her and her col-
laborator, Dr. Emanuel Neumann, who
was associated with her in the educa-
tional tasks of the Zionist Organization.
In the Sarna JPS history are
valuable records. The reader will find
the lists of all the published books in
the 100-year history, the authors,
translators and illustrators.
Many of the names are famous.
Solomon Grayzel was among the most
prominent editors of the society, after
Henrietta Szold whose sharing in ac-
complishments was enormous. Grayzel
was a man of great charm. He inspired
many of us and remains unforgettable.

How can anyone, reaching the name
of Salo Baron, fail to stand in awe with
an expression of many debts still due
this living nonagenarian!
The list of notables unrolls, on and
on, with a request by the reviewer that
readers turn to them in the book's
chronology to keep up an admiration for
notable gifts to Jewish scholarship.

40

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 1989

You can't speak of JPS directorial
skills without taking into account the
labors of Ed Wolfe II, who was president
and a major factor in sponsoring the
revised Bible translation in the 1950s,
and Les Zussman, the executive vice
president at that time. They were in-
Detroit to encourage the formation of
the local pioneering group that spon-
sored the revised translation.
In recalling important episodes in
JPS history, how can those of who who
shared in very many functions in this
century's occurrences overlook the
name of Israel Zangwill? It was a great
event, in 1923, to share in the an-
nouncement of a new series of books
that included Zangwill's translation of
the Hebrew poems of Solomon Ibn
Gabirol.
Solomon Zeitlin was among the
famous in the list of JPS authors. He
was the acknowledged leading world
authority on the Second Com-
monwealth and the history of that era.
He challenged the many who adhered
to the view that the Dead Sea Scrolls
were of antiquity. He disclaimed it and
I shared his view and findings.
Therefore I was among the very few
who gave him a platform. Harry Orlin-
sky was among the few who agreed with
us. He was the scholar who acquired the
Dead Sea Scrolls from Arabs for Israel.
Orlinsky is among the most emi-
nent in JPS history, with his leading
role in the ranks of scholars who
directed the second revised Bible
translation.
Dr. Sarna is elated over most recent
creativity in the society. He applauds
the publishing of the many children's
books, the 34 most recent as a land-
mark which will help assure continui-
ty of interests by the children.
Sarna asks many questions, about
the manner of conducting a publishing
project, the unavoidable competitions,
now that so many other publishers are
issuing books by Jews and on Jewish
subjects, the selection of authors and
topics, etc. Therefore, in his epilogue, he
provides a credo. He sets forth a people's
commitment to one of its great under-
takings, now 102 years old. He asserts
it as a people's duty by declaring:
Meanwhile, JPS could take
pride in its past achievements.
Over the century it had helped
to stimulate, propagate, and
Americanize Jewish culture;
served as a medium for bringing
together writers, readers, and
patrons; initiated and funded a
host of important literary and
scholarly projects; worked to
maintain high cultural stan-
dards; brought Jewish culture
to bear on significant contem-
porary issues; and succeeded in
translating some of the choicest
fruits of Jewish scholarship in-
to terms that laymen could
understand and appreciate.

As American Jewish culture
blossomed forth, the society's
role — like that of so many other
Jewish cultural organizations --
necessarily changed. Cultural
maturity, so beneficial to
American Jewry as a whole,
posed formidable difficulties for

JPS — ironically so, for it had
helped to bring the new situa-
tion about. The task of read-
justing was, in a sanse, the
reward for a job well done.
If there were new challenges
to overcome, there were also old
responsibilities that, even after
one hundred years, remained as
urgent as ever. The society's
broad cultural and educational
mission for American jews, its
general goal of promoting a
more learned and culturally
vibrant community, as well as
its specific efforts to further
Jewish unity, improve communi-
ty relations, and stimulate the
Jewish consciousness of young
people — all of these were
timeless concerns that no
Jewish community could long
afford to ignore.
Others might publish Jewish
books as a sideline, or to be
fashionable, or to make a profit,
or for prestige, but none would
do so for the same community-
minded reason that the Society,
now with one hundred years of
experience behind it, upheld as
its continuing goal: "To provide
significant, worthwhile, and in-
formative books of Jewish in-
terest in the English language,
so that the Jewish religion,
history, literature, and culture
will be understood, and read,
and known.
Sarna's JPS was a serious under-
taking and he accomplished
challengingly.

Commentaries Newest
Literary Treasures

The second century of the JPS has
already begun with another treasure
that enriches the tremendous
achievements of a history-making
publishing project that developed into
a creative movement in Jewish
peoplehood.
The Commentary has already com-
menced circulating with Genesis and
Leviticus already off the press.
Numbers will appear this November
and will be followed by Exodus and
Deuteronomy in 1990 and 1991.
With a notable history of two revis-
ed translations of the Bible and the
publishing of some 900 titles of interest
to all faiths as well as the Jews for
whom this was originally intended,
there are great landmarks in the con-
tinuing history.
lb review so monumental an ac-
complishment would be absurd. Im-
mense studies provided in the new com-
mentaries call for comparable learning
by those acquiring these scholarly
achievements.
Therefore, the most logical at the
outset is to welcome the great literary
treasures newswise, in the hope that the
leadership will be qualified to the tasks
undertaken. Therefore the facts to be
quoted from the publisher:
Chaim Potok, literary editor
of the project, calls the work
"undoubtedly one of the most

important commentaries to ap-
pear since the publication of the
Rabbinic Bible nearly five hun-
dred years ago."
Nahum M. Sarna, professor
emeritus from Brandeis Univer-
sity, served as general editor of
The Commentary and wrote the
commentaries on Genesis and
Exodus. Jacob Milgrom, Univer-
sity of California — Berkeley,
wrote the commentary on
Numbers; Baruch Levine, New
York University, prepared the
commentary on Leviticus. Jef-
frey Tigay, University of Penn-
sylvania, wrote the commentary
of Deuteronomy.
Commentaries enbracing new
discoveries involving archaeology and
sociology and other discussions that
suggest human interests unavoidably
enter into consideration. The newly ac-
cumulated commentaries assuredly
have a wide interest that will certain-
ly influence Bible studies.
The fact that perhaps all factions in
Jewish religious life have already in-
dicated a concern in the new commen-
taries emphasizes their new values for
the generations to come.

Definitive Sarna
Comment On Genesis

Prof. Nahum M. Sarna, general
editor of the JPS's The Commentary,
commences the book of Genesis with
this definitive comment:
The Hebrew name for the
first book of the Bible is
Bereshit — the first word of the
book. In rabbinic sources, this
name is sometimes expande
d to
Sefer Bereshit (The Book of
Bereshit). The practice of nam-
ing a book by its opening word
or words was widespread in the
ancient Near East. Occasional-
ly, other titles for this book were
current among Jews, such as
Sefer ha-Yashar (To Book of the
Upright) which refers to the
patriarchs, whose lives inform
the bulk of the work. A tenth-
century C.E. composition, the
Dikdukei ha-Te'amim by Aaron
be Moses Ben-Asher, mentions
"The Book of Bereshit, the First
Book, which is the Sefer ha-
Yesharim" (The Book of the
Upright Ones). Still another title,
found in medieval manuscripts,
is Sefer Beri'at ha-'Olam (The
Book of the Creation of the
World).
The English title Genesis is
derived from the Latin version
known as the Vulgate. This, in
turn, goes back, via the Old
Latin (pre-4th century C.E.) to
the Greek Bible — the Sep-
tuagint. A famous manuscript
copy, the mid-fifth-century
Codex Alexandrinus now in the
British Museum, features the ti-
tle Genesis Kosmou (The Origin
of the Universe). This Greek
name may well derive from the
pre-Christian Jewish communi-
ty of Alexandria in Egypt.

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