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On Maurice Samuel's twenty-fifth Yahrzeit.

During a recent visit to Israel, my wife Mindell and I entered the Old City of Jerusalem through the Zion Gate. A short walk brought us to Rechov Ha-Yehudim (Jewish Quarter Road). At the beginning of a row of businesses on our left - the entrance to the famous Cardo, the now-underground street of stores dating from Roman times is located less than a block away - we saw a book shop. We had gone inside that book shop at least once in previous visits to Israel. But this time when we entered I asked the man tending the place if he were Maurice Samuel's son. (Mindell had read somewhere that Maurice Samuel's son owned a bookstore in the Old City.) "My wife and I are fans of your father," I added. "We like his books."

The man, of somewhat less than average height and slightly overweight, white-haired and of round face, seemed about 75 years old. He acknowledged that Maurice Samuel was his father and told us his own name is Gershon.

So began a conversation that lasted approximately 45 minutes, interrupted only by one man who purchased an English-language volume and several persons who wanted pages duplicated on the copier. We thanked him for taking so much time to speak with us. He responded, "I enjoyed talking with people who know my father's works. The young people today don't know him."

Before leaving, I purchased a book that, actually, we already owned: Forward From Exile: The Autobiography of Shmarya Levin. Maurice Samuel, the volume's editor and translator from the Yiddish, had inscribed the book, "To Gretel, with love." At my request, Gershon Samuel added a few words of his own. Mindell snapped a picture of Gershon and me. We then said our goodbyes and left.

It is the sad truth that most of today's young American Jews, and even a high percentage in the over-65 category, know neither the name nor lifework of Maurice Samuel. And that is to be regretted for at least three reasons. One, he played a major role in re-Judaizing American Jewry from the 1920s to his death in 1972. Two, he still has much to teach us. Three, his books - informative, delightfully literate, and witty - make excellent reading.

Who was Maurice Samuel?

He was born in Macin, Rumania, on February 5, 1895. When he was five, his family moved to Paris and, about a year later, to the Rumanian:Jewish section of Manchester, England.

His father, who had left cheder when only eight, earned a very meager living most of his life as a shoemaker. But he was extremely charitable for one existing on the poverty level. A fond memory that Maurice carried into adulthood was his father's evening practice of reading to the family in Yiddish (the language of the home) from the writings of the great triad of Yiddish literature - Mendele Mocher Seforim, Y. L. Peretz, and Sholom Aleichem - as well as from the works of Yiddish writers of much less talent. Overall, however, father and son did not get along well, although they reconciled when Maurice was in his late 20s.

In her youth, Maurice's mother was a lively, sweet-voiced, intelligent woman who enjoyed going to plays and operas by Abraham Goldladen, father of the modern Yiddish theater. But she changed as an adult. Village life in Rumania, giving birth to nine children (three of whom died as infants), home chores, and poor health wore her down. She continued to possess a sensitive understanding of right and wrong, and her son Maurice liked chatting with her.

All food in the Samuel home was kosher; however, there were no separate dishes for dairy and meat products, although meat and milk were not eaten at the same meal. Maurice's father neither worked nor smoked on Shabbes. Candles were lit, a special Shabbes meal was eaten, and on Shabbes afternoon Maurice received his weekly half-penny allowance.

Maurice attended what we would call public school until 4:30 P.M. on weekdays. He went to cheder those days from 6:00 to 8:00 P.M., plus Shabbes afternoon and part of Sunday. He was an indifferent, low-achieving student in both schools.

In August 1929, when 34 years of age, Samuel was in Palestine. He was accompanying Colonel Frederick Kisch, Palestine Chairman of the Jewish Agency, in an investigation of that year's anti-Jewish riots. In Safed, the two of them made time to seek out Samuel's old rebbe, his Manchester cheder teacher, now retired. Here is what happened:

We found him in one of the narrow, crooked, sloping alleys on whose gray, crumbling walls centuries of Jewish learning, piety, poverty, and Messianic conjuration are almost visibly encrusted. When he came to the door I recognized him at once, though his beard was now completely snow white. He stared at me, puzzled, until I said, in my recently acquired Sephardic Hebrew - a pronunciation he would associate with Christian priests: "Rebbe, eincha makir oti - don't you recognize me?" Then his eyes brimmed over, he uttered a loud cry, and answered in Yiddish (for like all religious Jews in those days he reserved Hebrew only for prayer and study): "Moishe! Redst takke loshen koidesh, ober fort vi a goy - you do indeed speak Hebrew, but it's still like a gentile!"(1)

Samuel's attitude toward study in elementary school changed in grade five. He became enamored of Miss Kate Clarke, the English teacher, and to please her Maurice became the top student. He also joined the debating club, where he discovered his ability to speak well and the delight of sharing ideas with an audience. Miss Clarke encouraged him to try for a five-year tuition-free scholarship to Manchester Municipal Secondary School. He won it.

In the high school years his extensive reading included English literature and astronomy (both of which remained lifelong interests), and socialist tracts. At age 13 Maurice became a speaker for the Socialist Party in small towns near Manchester. He remained a socialist in Manchester University, to which he won a three-year scholarship.

One of the chemistry teachers at Manchester University was Chaim Weizmann. Samuel applied for admission to Weizmann's class. After being asked a few questions by Weizmann, the teacher suggested that Samuel sit in on a few of his lectures. Maurice had difficulty understanding Weizmann's Yiddish-accented lectures, so Weizmann recommended that Samuel study physics instead with Ernest Rutherford, a Nobel Prize winner. He did - but in later years regretted that he had not taken better advantage of the opportunity to learn more from Rutherford.

In 1922, Samuel was working for the Zionist Organization of America. Chaim Weizmann, by then leader of the world Zionist movement, came into the Z.O.A.'s New York City office and saw Samuel. Weizmann smiled and said, "Why, yes, you're the fellow I chucked out of my chemistry class."

Serving as Weizmann's secretary, Samuel accompanied the Zionist leader on fund-raising trips to many American Jewish communities. In 1947, Samuel lived in the Weizmann Institute of Science where, collaborating with Weizmann, he edited and typed Trial and Error, Weizmann's autobiography. The two men became close friends. Samuel wrote in his own autobiographical Little Did I Know: Recollections and Reflections: "If Weizmann's outstanding quality was his sense of form, his outstanding spiritual characteristic was his identification with the [Jewish] folk; he confirmed in me the link between me and my people."(2) Samuel considered Weizmann the greatest living Jew of the time.

But that is not the end of the Weizmann-Samuel connection. Gershon Samuel told my wife and me in his Jerusalem bookstore that Gershon's son had majored in physical chemistry at the Weizmann Institute, earned a doctorate, and won a prestigious academic prize. So the grandfather who was a Weizmann class dropout in chemistry had a grandson who was an award winner in chemistry at the school named in Weizmann's honor!

Maurice Samuel did complete three years at Manchester University. However, tired of the academic life, he left without a degree. In the summer of 1914 he headed for Paris, determined to become a writer. He stayed only a few months, for World War I broke out while he was living in the French capital. Returning to Manchester, after a few months he departed for the United States.

Throughout his teenage years Samuel remained largely indifferent to his Jewish heritage. His wide non-Jewish reading had opened other worlds. Among his allegiances were socialism, atheism, and universalism. Yet, soon after his arrival in the United States at age 19, he began to change. Further reflection, childhood memories, and experiences in America resulted in a reawakening and deepening of his Jewish commitment.

His first friend in the new country was Meyer Weisgal, who later served as national secretary of the Z.O.A. and president of the Weizmann Institute of Science. The two of them were early members of Ha-Shachar, the Bronx Zionist Society.

Samuel was greatly influenced by the Zionist orator Shmarya Levin. He listened with awe to Levin's fiery Yiddish speeches, following the Yiddish at first with great difficulty, for he had virtually forgotten whatever Yiddish and Hebrew he once knew. But his facility increased from reading, visits to the Yiddish theater, and conversations. In later years Samuel translated Levin's multi-volume Yiddish autobiography into English.

In 1917 Maurice Samuel was drafted into the United States Army; the former pacifist was willing to serve his new country. Sent to France, he was assigned to counter-espionage work because of his ability to speak French. (French had been his best subject at the university.) In France he hired a Palestinian Jew studying there to give him Hebrew lessons.

While in the army he spent seven weeks as secretary and interpreter with the Polish Pogrom Investigation Committee headed by Henry Morgenthau, Sr. He was appalled by the discrimination against Polish Jews and by the terror they had to endure. But Samuel was profoundly enlivened by his contacts with Jewish intellectuals, performances of the Vilna Theater Group, and what he read in his spare time. Looking back on that experience, Samuel wrote: "I read, through half the nights, the works of Peretz [then but recently dead] and of the generation of younger writers who had come under his influence;..."(3) He determined to bring some of those Yiddish authors to the attention of English-reading Jews, which he eventually did.

Discharged from the army in 1919, Samuel stayed in Europe. After working as an interpreter at the Peace Conference in Versailles and with the Reparations Commissions in Berlin and Vienna, he lived for a year in Paris. He returned to New York in 1921 and quickly became an American citizen. That year also marked the publication of his first book, The Outsider, a novel about demobilized American soldiers in postwar Paris.

Samuel found work with the Zionist Organization of America, then under the leadership of his friend Meyer Weisgal. His duties included writing, lecturing, and other political work. As mentioned, one assignment was to serve as Chaim Weizmann's secretary on fund-raising trips. Another was to translate some of Chaim Nachman Bialik's Hebrew poems into English. The volume of translations was published by the Zionist Organization of America in 1926, the year of the poet's first visit to the United States. Samuel accompanied Bialik on a speaking tour, Bialik talking in Yiddish and Samuel in English. Bialik spurred Samuel to deepen his mastery of Hebrew, even as Shmarya Levin had inspired him to relearn Yiddish and Chaim Weizmann had stimulated him to reconnect with love to the Jewish people. Samuel called those three men his "teachers in Zionism and Jewishness."(4)

He worked for six years for the Z.O.A., leaving in 1928, when 33, to become an independent lecturer and writer. He remained both for the rest of his life, residing primarily in the United States - although he spent ten years in Palestine, from 1929 to 1939 - and traveling to many countries.

Anyone who heard Maurice Samuel lecture (as I did), or who has read some of his books, can attest to his facility with words and delight in wrestling with ideas, his readiness to polemicize, his sharp wit coupled with a seriousness of purpose. He was a forceful, well-received lecturer. Professor Milton Hindus considers him "the most popular platform personality of American Jewry."(5) He may also have spoken in more Jewish communities than any other Jewish lecturer of his time. Samuel saw himself in the tradition of the Maggid, the popular preachers who wandered from one community to another in Eastern Europe. Once, his lecture was introduced with these words: "We have with us tonight Mr. Maurice Samuel, who is well known throughout America and in the Bronx as well. As the chairman of the evening, I will not bore you for long, since we have brought Mr. Samuel here for that purpose."(6)

In addition to the lectures, he wrote many essays and articles and some poems, and published at least six books of fiction, twenty of non-fiction, and twenty-two of translations from the original French, German, Yiddish, or Hebrew. Among his translations were: from the French, Edmund Fleg's The Jewish Anthology (1933); from the German, Emil Ludwig's Roosevelt: A Study in Fortune and Power (1938); from the Yiddish, I.J. Singer's The Sinner, also known as Yoshe Kalb (1933) and The Brothers Ashkenazi (1936), as well as Sholem Asch's The Nazarene (1939) and The Apostle (1943) - but not Asch's Mary, which Samuel refused to translate because of the book's "cloying sentimentality"(7) about her and the author's "Christological sentiments";(8) - from the Hebrew, Haggadah of Passover (1942). A prolific writer indeed!

Although most of Samuel's work concerns Jewish topics, he also wrote on matters of general interest. His essays include perceptive analyses of Saul Bellow, James Joyce, Thomas Mann, and Marcel Proust. Among his books are volumes on mass psychology, a man who was kidnapped by pygmies, and an examination of the Italian Renaissance. Concerning the last mentioned, he studied the Italian Renaissance for ten years in order to write Web of Lucifer (1947).

But what of his specifically Jewish writings? Which subjects did he address and what did he say about them? In the main, Samuel dealt with matters involving modern Jewry-Jewish identity, Jewish values, anti-Semitism, Zionism, the Hebrew Bible, and Yiddish.

Especially before 1945, the year that the Second World War ended, many American Jews wanted to escape Judaism and their Jewishness for a secular cosmopolitanism, or were uncertain about how to integrate being Jewish with loyalty to America. Samuel had a message for such Jews: "If humanity is trying to create One World, Jewry is the pilot plant. At the same time, in the tenacity with which it has held on to its identity for some three and a half millennia, it proclaims the vital principle that One World does not mean One Face."(9) As for America, it is "sympathetic to the value of additional attachments."(10)

Here is a clear defense and assertion of the rightness of pluralism, of an overarching unity of diverse, cooperating groups rather than the "melting pot" homogeneity of a monochromatic humanity. In maintaining their Jewish identity for so many centuries, Jews have served as the praiseworthy vanguard of this desired, mosaic world. For Samuel - and for me - Jews must continue to do so for humanity's sake! Moreover, American Jews need not worry that by retaining "dual loyalties" they are being faithless to the United States. This nation willingly accepts the varied associations of its citizenry.

Granted, then, the Jewish group's right to exist. But what function does Jewish peoplehood serve for the individual Jew? Answered Samuel: "My people is my instrument for cooperating with mankind, my channel to humanity. It organized my affections and hatreds and brings them to effective focus.... Love of humanity, when not implemented by love of a people, is usually gushy and diffused sentimentality."(11)

Samuel reminded the Jewish-born universalists of his day (and ours) that love of humanity is too nebulous and superficial, even mawkish. Concern for all begins with caring for the specific. Let the individual Jew hold dear the Jewish people, the natural group into which he or she is born, and through that affectionate regard and loyalty reach out to the other persons and people comprising humanity. Utilize the values and way of life learned in association with that people and its religious-secular culture to live in the world as one should.

Even Jews who are atheists should hold fast to their ties with the Jewish people for "Jewishness, unlike Christianity, regards peoplehood as an expression of religion. And peoplehood does not mean nationality or nationalism; it means a group-cultural personality within which the individual comes to birth, and this in turn means being rooted in the culture."(12) (Samuel himself, incidentally, believed in "the One God of whom I get glimpses....")(13)

To Samuel, therefore, even atheist Jews might still benefit from being part of the Jewish people. They could become better individuals by taking into their lives the Jewish people's worthwhile values, ideals, and patterns of behavior - its "group-cultural personality" - learned from Jewish culture.

For Samuel, the basic purpose of the Jewish people and Jewish identity is to help fashion a spiritual-moral person. He saw this goal as old as Genesis 18:19, where God commands Abraham to instruct his posterity "la'asot tzedakah u-mishpat" ("to do what is just and right"), as a result of which the nations will be blessed.(14) Although he did not hold that God literally communicated this message to Abraham, Samuel argued that this was the challenge that Abraham and his descendants took upon themselves: "I suggest that instead of God having spoken to Abraham (or Abram), He put into the heart and mind of the primitive group, no doubt through a prophetlike figure, the myth of His having spoken to Abraham. What He is thus purported to have said to Abraham concerning the destiny of the group, namely, that in it the families of the earth should be blessed (what a mad notion!), the group accepted as the raison d'etre for its existence."(15)

Samuel maintained that one learns the Jewish values that characterize a spiritual-moral Jew by acquiring Jewish knowledge.(16) He saw his lectures and writing as vehicles for teaching Jewish culture.(17) Some of the values he considered particularly stressed in Judaism are: justice, goodness, learning and respect for learning, decency, cooperation, peace, hope for a better tomorrow, and "a sense of the sanctity of history."(18) Such values, as Samuel elaborated in his book The Gentleman and the Jew,(19) are indicative of the moral seriousness with which the Jewish people approaches life. This contrasts with pagan, Gentile civilizations - he really means Christian ones - which see life as a by-the-rules, competitive, but essentially frivolous game. (It seems to me that Samuel draws too sharp a dichotomy here.)

Samuel pinpointed the specific pagan element in Christianity. Jew-hatred is the triumph of the pagan principle in a Christianity devoid of its Jewish aspects. Anti-Semitism constitutes an expression of the Christian's pagan soul that yearns to live in a primitive, pre-Christian world of no moral (Jewish) restraints.(20) It is a manifestation of the Christian's seething rage and resentment for the Jew's having fettered him with Christianity's ethical precepts.(21) In reality, anti-Semitism reveals "the concealed hatred of Christ [the Jew] and Christianity."(22)

Therefore, anti-Semitism will not be eliminated by improving the Christian's economic situation, changing the kinds of jobs most Jews take, copying Christian manners, or, least of all, proclaiming that Jesus was a Jew and pointing out Christianity's borrowings from Judaism. Church leaders need to educate their followers "that it is sinful and anti-Christian to hate anyone,"(23) and Christians should engage in a "self-purgation ... [of the] sympathetic, superstitious dread of Christ, lying concealed within the heart of Christianity itself."(24)

But Samuel realizes that such talk is unlikely to be heard from Christianity's religious leaders. Nevertheless, anti-Semitism must be combated at "its first public appearance anywhere" for it is a danger not only to Jews but "a threat to the whole Judeo-Christian world."(25) Pagan immorality can wreak indiscriminate havoc.

Samuel accused Arnold Toynbee of perpetuating "demonological anti-Semitism"(26) in the famous British historian's A Study of History. Toynbee's massive work had denigrated Jews and Judaism, the former as "fossilized relics"(27) of Syriac society and in need of "moral emancipation,"(28) the latter as "a fossil of the extinct Syriac civilization"(29) which "not only stultified its spiritual past but forfeited its material future into the bargain"(30) by "deliberately refusing the opportunity that was offered it of realizing its manifest destiny of flowering into Christianity by opening its heart to the gospel of its Galilean step-child,..."(31)

In The Professor and the Fossil, which in Gershon Samuel's opinion had succeeded more than any of his father's other books in bringing his name to the attention of the general public, Maurice Samuel wrote a slashing, polemical, fact-filled attack on Toynbee. He showed the historian's biased classical Christian outlook and other prejudices, his erroneous assumptions, contradictions, and outright errors, his omissions, frequent lack of evidence, and ignorance of much of Jewish history. Samuel noted, for example, how the Jewish "fossil" had gone on to produce the Talmud, Yiddish language and literature, a Maimonides and Spinoza, Chasidism, a revival of Hebrew as the language of daily communication in its old-new homeland, and, through Zionism, a reborn national life.

Sloughing off his teenage universalism, Maurice Samuel dated his becoming a Zionist to the year 1914,(32) when he was still only nineteen. As has been mentioned, he worked for the Zionist Organization of America (1922-1929), lived in Palestine for ten years, and spent time in Israel editing and typing Chaim Weizmann's autobiography. He also made other visits to Eretz Yisrael. Beginning more than thirty years before the 1948 establishment of Israel, Maurice Samuel lectured and wrote about Jewish accomplishments in Palestine and the case for a Jewish state. Speaking to hundreds of audiences in the United States and abroad, he was a very popular and influential disseminator of Zionist ideology. At a time when some Jews were uncertain about the propriety of a citizen of one country supporting by money and other means the effort to rebuild and regain the Jewish homeland, Samuel's logical arguments and passionate eloquence won adherents to the Zionist cause.

He saw two primary sources of Zionism: the old belief that settling the Holy Land "would hasten the coming of the Messiah and therefore of the Restoration"(33) and the much later "folk feeling that the something drastically new which was needed in Jewish life was a specific center in the Holy Land, ... against the threat of assimilation presented by specifically modern conditions."(34) His Harvest in the Desert (1944) is an excellent popular history of Zionism and the pre-state's waves of immigration.(35) It is enhanced by Samuel's personal experiences and observations in Palestine.

In Level Sunlight (1953) he declared that Israel must be more than a "normal," powerful state with a profit-oriented society.(36) Rather, Israel must strive to become an exemplary moral commonwealth dedicated to justice, righteousness, and cooperation; a country whose Jewish citizens would know the Jewish heritage; a nation that would help regenerate and intensify Jewish life in the Diaspora; a state that would prove a blessing to the world.

Level Sunlight, like his other books, gives evidence of his skill as a master stylist. In writing and speaking Maurice Samuel sought the exact word, precise phrase, and logically structured development.

In a lovely essay, "My Three Mother-Tongues," Samuel expressed gratitude for having been born a Jew and therefore exposed to Yiddish and Hebrew, and also "born into the English language and [so I] did not have to read Shakespeare and Gibbon in a foreign language or, God forbid, in translation."(37) He believed that "the educated American Jewish Jew must be grounded in the English of Shakespeare and the King James Version [of the Bible], the Hebrew Bible, and Yiddish. At a pinch he can substitute for Shakespeare quite a number of geniuses all the way from Chaucer to W. H. Auden, but the King James translation and the Hebrew Bible (and yes, the siddur) are indispensable."(39)

Why was the Hebrew Bible so important to Samuel? Because, he asserted: "Judaism is meaningless without the Jewish Bible, not because it tells of the discovery of God, but because it mirrors the struggle of recalcitrant man with the consequences of his discovery."(39) Viewing the Bible's essence as the Jewish people's understanding and telling of what they had experienced,(40) Samuel wrote: "The man who does not see in the prophets, in the Moses narrative, in the Ruth story, in Job, in the Song of Songs, the highest type of individual genius, should apply his literary faculties exclusively to the study of crossword puzzles."(41)

Maurice Samuel's love affair with the Bible became evident to thousands of listeners of his radio discussions on biblical people and subjects. Beginning in 1953 and continuing for twenty years, he and Mark Van Doren, a noted professor of English at Columbia University, carried on delightfully literate Sunday radio dialogues on the Bible. After Samuel's death his wife Edith edited two volumes of those conversations.(42) Samuel's own interpretations of some biblical personalities - a number of them characterized by refreshingly different rifles (e.g., Rebekah, "the manager"; Joseph, "the brilliant failure"; Balaam, "perverted genius"; Jezebel, "the hellcat") - appeared in his 1955 Certain People of the Book.(43)

Especially in the last ten years interest in the Bible has mushroomed in our country. This is evident from the many Bible study groups that have been formed, the numerous books dealing with Scripture, and the virtually daily television programs and series dealing with the Bible. Maurice Samuel foreshadowed this latter-day fascination with the Bible. He was a pioneer example of a secularly educated, lay person who took the Bible seriously.

Samuel had written that the American Jew should be Jewishly "grounded" on the Hebrew Bible and Yiddish. Of all the languages he had mastered, none was dearer to him than Yiddish. This was not, primarily, because Yiddish was the language of his childhood home and earliest memories. Rather, as Samuel acknowledged, "What happened when I got around to the study of Yiddish was that I fell in love with it, . . . Yiddish is so much the alter ego of Yiddish-speaking Jewry, it is so perfect - and indispensable - a replica of that Jewry's life-experience, that one can hardly know the one without the other."(44) To Samuel: "Yiddish is the most important of all the exile languages. It has been spoken by far larger numbers than any other; . . . It is the only one to have spread as a lingua franca to all the five continents, and the only one to have produced a solid literature, unless we consider the Talmud a Judeo-Aramaic work."(45) Yiddish is "the custodian of the Jewish idea."(46)

Maurice Samuel was the first person to translate into English the work of so many Yiddish writers: Sholom Aleichem, Sholem Asch, Y. L. Peretz, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Israel Joseph Singer, and others. Yiddish literati came to believe that if Samuel translated a book, the author was guaranteed a success. Some persons actually advised Samuel to write his own books in Yiddish so he himself could translate them into English!

The World of Sholom Aleichem, Samuel's book about the most famous of Yiddish writers, was published in 1943 and won several awards.(47) In it he gives an account of the main characters Sholom Aleichem portrayed in his books, describing them against the life-background of East European Jewry's religion, values, and superstitions from approximately 1870 to 1910.

Two other fine books by Samuel are Prince of the Ghetto(48) (1948), which comments on and translates some of Y. L. Peretz's folk and Chasidic stories, and In Praise of Yiddish (1971), which aims to convey "the inside feel of the Yiddish language . . . the peculiar Yiddish intellectual-spiritual experience"(49) by analyzing specific Yiddish words and expressions.

Professor Milton Hindus has correctly called attention to the quality and pace-setting nature of what Samuel did in this area: "It was Maurice Samuel's pioneering and, to my mind, his still unsurpassed studies that prepared the way for the spate of notable expositions of Eastern European Jewish culture that followed: Life Is with People (by Mark Zborowski and Elizabeth Herzog), Abraham J. Heschel's The Earth Is the Lord's, Lucy Davidowicz's The Golden Tradition. His influence can even be traced in such popular works as Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish (indeed the author indicates explicitly his indebtedness to The World of Sholom Aleichem), Fiddler on the Roof and Ronald Sanders's The Downtown Jews."(50)

One must also acknowledge that Samuel was a forerunner of the current recognition by a significant segment of American Jews that Yiddish is worthy of study in itself as a fascinating language and as a depository of Jewish ideas and emotions. He did not live to see the wonder of Yiddish courses in a goodly number of American universities, the resurgent popularity of klezmer music, and the dedicated work of those associated with the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. But Maurice Samuel was their precursor.

Professor Emanuel S. Goldsmith has accurately summarized Samuel's overall contribution to American Jewry: "He played a major role in the emergence of the American Jew's sense of Jewish identity and in the evolution of the American Jew's definition of Jewishness. He was the leading spokesman of Jewish rejuvenation and creative survival in America for half a century, beginning his work in the 1920s when first-generation American Jews scrambled to divorce themselves from their immigrant forbears. Yet in large measure because of his own contributions, he lived to witness the dawn of an American Jewish intellectual and cultural renaissance, both academic and popular, of magnitude and significance."(51)

Maurice Samuel died on May 4, 1972. Hopefully, this year of his twenty-fifth yahrzeit will spur the publication of articles about his life, writings, and ideas. It would be even better if individuals were motivated to read one or more of his books and, if visiting Israel, to stop in that Jerusalem book shop and tell his son Gershon that they like and appreciate the work of his father, Maurice Samuel.


1. Maurice Samuel, Little Did I Know: Recollections and Reflections (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963), p. 50.

2. Samuel, Little Did I Know, p. 188.

3. Maurice Samuel, The Professor and the Fossil: Some Observations on Arnold J. Toynbee's A Study of History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956), pp. 10-11.

4. Samuel, Little Did I Know, p. 218.

5. Milton Hindus, ed., The Worlds of Maurice Samuel: Selected Writings (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1977), p. 236.

6. Samuel, Little Did I Know, p. 294.

7. Samuel, Little Did I Know, p. 295.

8. Samuel, Little Did I Know, p. 295.

9. Maurice Samuel, Light on Israel (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1968), p. 198; quoted by Emanuel S. Goldsmith, "The Education of Maurice Samuel," in The "Other" New York Jewish Intellectuals, edited by Carole S. Kessner (New York: New York University Press, 1994), pp. 239-240.

10. Samuel, Little Did I Know, p. 296.

11. Maurice Samuel, Jews on Approval (New York: Horace Liveright, 1932), p. 264; quoted by Sol Liptzin, Generation of Decision: Jewish Rejuvenation in America (New York: Bloch Publishing Company, 1958), pp. 251-252.

12. Samuel, Little Did I Know, pp. 298-299.

13. Samuel, Little Did I Know, p. 308.

14. The last point is made in Genesis 18:18; cf. Genesis 12:3, 22:18, and 26:4-5.

15. Samuel, Little Did I Know, p. 308.

16. Samuel, Little Did I Know, p. 306.

17. Samuel, Little Did I Know, p. 307.

18. Samuel, The Professor and the Fossil, p. 37.

19. Maurice Samuel, The Gentleman and the Jew (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1950).

20. Samuel, The Gentleman and the Jew, p. 257; cited by Goldsmith, p. 236.

21. Maurice Samuel Level Sunlight (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1953), p. 253; cited by Goldsmith, p. 236.

22. Maurice Samuel, The Great Hatred (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1940); no page given when quoted in Hindus, The Worlds of Maurice Samuel, p. 152.

23. Samuel, The Great Hatred; no page given when quoted in Hindus, The Worlds of Maurice Samuel, p. 153.

24. Samuel, The Great Hatred; no page given when quoted in Hindus, The Worlds of Maurice Samuel, p. 154.

25. Samuel, Little Did I Know, p. 265.

26. Samuel, The Professor and the Fossil, p. 194.

27. Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol. I (London, New York, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1934), p. 35; quoted in Samuel, The Professor and the Fossil, p. 18.

28. Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol. II (London, New York, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1934), p. 240; quoted in Samuel, The Professor and the Fossil, p. 150.

29. Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol. II, p. 402; quoted in Samuel, The Professor and the Fossil, p. 69.

30. Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol. V (London, New York, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1939), p. 658; quoted in Samuel, The Professor and the Fossil, p. 88.

31. Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol. V, p. 658; quoted in Samuel, The Professor and the Fossil, p. 88.

32. Samuel, Little Did I Know, p. 215.

33. Samuel, The Professor and the Fossil, p. 191.

34. Samuel, The Professor and the Fossil, pp. 196-197.

35. Maurice Samuel, Harvest in the Desert (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1944).

36. Samuel, Level Sunlight; no page given when reviewed by Mordecai S. Chertoff, Judaism, Vol. 3, no. 1 (Winter 1954): 89.

37. Maurice Samuel, "My Three Mother-Tongues," Midstream (March 1972); reprinted in Hindus, The Worlds of Maurice Samuel, p. 374.

38. Samuel, "My Three Mother-Tongues"; reprinted in Hindus, The Worlds of Maurice Samuel, pp. 381-382.

39. Samuel, The Professor and the Fossil, p. 106.

40. Samuel, The Gentleman and the Jew, p. 178; cf. Goldsmith, p. 242.

41. Samuel, The Gentleman and the Jew, p. 168; quoted by Goldsmith, p. 242.

42. Edith Samuel, ed., In the Beginning, Love: Dialogues on the Bible (New York: John Day Company/Thomas Y. Crowell, 1973); Edith Samuel, ed., The Book of Praise: Dialogues on the Psalms (New York: John Day Company/Thomas Y. Crowell, 1975).

43. Maurice Samuel, Certain People of the Book (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1955).

44. Samuel, Little Did I Know, p. 135.

45. Maurice Samuel, In Praise of Yiddish (Chicago: Cowles Book Company, 1971), p. 7.

46. Samuel, Little Did I Know, p. 155.

47. Maurice Samuel, The World of Sholom Aleichem (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1943).

48. Maurice Samuel, Prince of the Ghetto (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948).

49. Samuel, In Praise of Yiddish, p. xii.

50. Hindus, The Worlds of Maurice Samuel, p. xxvii.

51. Goldsmith, p. 288.

Louis Kaplan, a Conservative rabbi, is Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Obey Shalom in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, and has retired as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Judaica at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania.
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Title Annotation:death anniversary of Jewish author
Author:Kaplan, Louis
Publication:Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought
Date:Sep 22, 1997
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