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Sanctuary in the Wilderness

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Sanctuary in the Wilderness

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Sanctuary in the Wilderness
A Critical Introduction to American Hebrew Poetry
By Alan Mintz
Stanford Studies in Jewish History and Culture
Stanford University Press, Stanford: 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8047-6293-9

Reviewed by Herbert White - January 25, 2012

For scholars and lay readers alike, Sanctuary in the Wilderness: A Critical Introduction to American Hebrew Poetry provides a detailed introduction to American Hebrew poetry and Hebrew literature in general. In this monumental work, Alan Mintz delves into the lives and works of twelve key American poets who composed in Hebrew, as well as examining the rise of a Hebrew literary movement in the United States. Mintz is the Chana Kekst Professor of Hebrew Literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary. This is the seminal work on American Hebraism currently available, and the information in this book is connected to the Hebrew literary movement that arose in Israel and throughout the world after the re-emergence of Hebrew as a modern language.

The twelve poets highlighted in this text are Benjamin Nahum Silkiner, Israel Efros, Ephraim E. Lisitzky, Abraham Samuel Schwartz, Hillel Bavli, Shimon Ginzburg, H. A. Friedland, Moshe Feinstein, Eisig Silberschlag, Simon Halkin, Abraham Regelson, and Gabriel Preil. In the course of telling the story of these poets, Mintz also examines the development of the Hebraist movement in the United States. In addition, numerous works by these poets are also presented in Hebrew along with English translations and a critical analysis of each poem. These selections are not meant to be a comprehensive anthology of these poets' works, rather merely to be representative of the style and themes of their poems.

This book does not suppose any prior knowledge of American Hebrew poetry, nor a familiarity with Hebrew literature - hence the use of 'introduction' in the book's subtitle. The purpose of this book is to expose readers to this understudied area of Hebrew literature, while also putting it within the context of the greater Hebrew literary movement, both within the United States and abroad. Mintz also examines in-detail the use of 'American' themes, from Native Americans to life in New York City, in the poems of these Hebraists, and the reception that their poems had in America and Israel.

Throughly engrossing and authoritative, Sanctuary in the Wilderness will be of interest to any concerned with the study or enjoyment of Hebrew poetry. It will also serve well in Jewish Studies courses in the fields of history and literature, as well as immigration studies, Hebrew language, and cultural studies. This volume includes extensive endnotes from which a bibliography can be created for those wishing to delve more deeply into the lives and works of these often overlooked poets.

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