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GEORGE ALEXANDER KOHUT
MELANCHOLY interest attaches to the publication of this work. Its compiler, after de
voting many arduous years to its preparation, had read the last proofs, when death summoned him. Like the prophet Moses, who was permitted to get a glimpse of the Promised Land ere he was translated to Eternity, this modest, patient scholar, toiling with touching devotion and sublime unselfishness in the vineyard of the Lord, was destined only to vision the rich vintage he had sown, but not to taste of its fruits.
This Anthology will serve as a fitting memorial of the man, whose profound love for his people was the keynote of his life and whose keen appreciation of Hebrew melody make him a worthy critic and historian of the art of Jewish song.
It is with pleasure, not unmixed with some poignancy, that I recall the early days of our comradeship, when, as incumbents of almost adjacent pastorates, we were privileged, far away from the centres of culture and learning, to discuss matters that deeply interested us both. It was then that I learned how rich was his mind, how mature his judgment, and how ardent his faith in the future of his people, for whom he cherished such deep love and devotion. Isolated though he was in a small hamlet, with no
congenial spirits to bear him company, he lived a life full of idealism and noble activity, esteemed by Jew and Gentile alike; cherished and revered no less for his lofty character than for his charity and sweet human nature. Though a staunch and uncompromising Jew, he did not exclude from the fellowship of his heart men of all creeds, and among the host of those who mourn for him today, will be found many men, not of his own faith, who beheld in him an “Israelite without guile.” It may be truly said of him that he was a man of God, possessed of rare simplicity and a spiritual passion which more than once sapped the well-springs of his vitality and hurried him to an untimely grave.
Joseph Friedlander was born in 1859, at Edinburgh, Scotland. He received his early education at New Castle on Tyne and at Middlesborough, graduating from Jews' College, London, England. His first charge was at Victoria, Australia. Returning to England, he became minister of the North West London Synagogue. For four years he served as Secretary to the Chief Rabbi of the British Empire and likewise as Secretary to the English Zionist Federation. He came to America in 1895, and for ten years occupied the Rabbinate of Congregation Emanu-El, at Beaumont, Texas. He also held pastorates at Waco, Texas; Ontario, Hamilton (Canada); Greensborough, N. C.; Orange and Plainfield, N. J., where he died, after a brief illness, induced by overwork, incident to the preparation of this Anthology. He was a frequent contributor to the religious and secular press of England and America, and, judging from his single venture in Jewish journalism, he was particularly well qualified for literary work. Had he lived, he would undoubtedly have produced several books of lasting merit. From May, 1906, to September, 1907, during his incumbency at Waco, Texas, he issued a periodical which he entitled The Jewish Hope. It was published, at San Antonio, first as a monthly, then as a bi-monthly, and the twelve numbers it comprises give ample evidence of his intellectual fertility, poise, discrimination and scholarship. Only one complete file of this paper has been preserved. It is now a part of the Jewish collection at the New York Public Library.
This journal was his organ and oracle. Into it he poured all the wealth of his rich mind, and those who read its pages with discerning eyes may almost feel the beating of his heart. The earnestness and fervency of his appeals; the integrity of his convictions; the candor with which he met squarely every issue and problem which agitated American Jewry; his unflinching courage and uncompromising loyalty, are all elements which make the newspaper he created a distinctive human document, to which lovers of Zion will yet have to go for counsel and inspiration.
Being himself a man of exceptional poetic gifts, he had a fine appreciation of poetic values. Already in the "old Texas days," when we discussed books and bookmen, and occasionally scanned together a fine hymn of some mediæval Hebrew bard, he was full of enthusiasm over the plan of bringing together, in a compact and convenient form, poems that were the most typical of the varying moods of Jewish genius. The present collection, therefore, may be said