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In Memoriam David Goldstein (1933-1987)

<plain_text><page sequence="1">In Memoriam Rabbi David Goldstein MA, PhD (1933-87) David Goldstein, Rabbi in the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues, Deputy Keeper and Curator of Hebrew Manuscripts and Printed Books at the British Library, and past President of the Jewish Historical Society of England, died on 26 July 1987, in his fifty-fifth year. It is fitting that this learned society, over which he presided with distinction and for which he laboured with devotion, should commence its programme for the year 1987-8 with a tribute to his memory in the form of a brief appreciation of his scholarly achievements, and an expression not only of the intense sadness experienced by the society at its loss but also of its real sense of gratitude that Jewish scholarship in this country was, even for the relatively short period of some two decades, enriched by the results of his energy and productivity. Although David Goldstein applied his Jewish knowledge and his mastery of Hebrew sources to an impressive array of diverse topics, there are a few distinctive trends that may be identified in his research, publications and general scholarly activities, and that should be particularly noted in the present context. His writings clearly reveal a special sensitivity to the aesthetic element in Jewish literature, an enthusiasm for its wider transmission, and a penchant for creating system and order where little or none had existed before. It is possible to exemplify these characteristics by reference to some of the books he produced, some of the academic responsibilities he undertook, and some of the ways in which he chose to express himself. For David, poetry, art and folklore were part of a cultural mosaic created over many centuries by Jewish spirituality. It is hardly surprising that an Oxford honours graduate in English should have been sensitive to the poetic element in Hebrew literature or should have traced it back to the Book of Books. In his own words: 'To say that the poetry of the Jews has its beginnings in the literature of the Bible is true in more than one sense. It is true chronologically; it is also true from the point of view of artistic and spiritual inspiration.'1 It was as editor and translator of Hebrew Poems from Spain2 that he first established his reputation as a scholar and author, and he penned the introduction to Peter Jay's translation of one of the world's finest collections of love poems, the biblical Song of Songs.3 The link that was forged between the intellectual, the spiritual and the romantic was also apparent to him in the chain of colourful and diverse legends preserved in the Jewish tradition, and he made available a delightful selection of these in xv</page><page sequence="2">In Memoriam his Jewish Folklore and Legend.* As he himself expressed it in the introduction to that volume: '[Torah] is even more than the solid and revered bedrock of Jewish faith. It is also an object of love.'5 But literary art in its broadest sense was as important for David Goldstein as artistic literature. Aware as he was that 'art has been an important element in Jewish creativity from the earliest times',6 he played his part both in preserving the historical record and in ensuring the current continuity by editing publications such as a facsimile of a medieval Passover Haggadah, a volume of manuscript illuminations and another on early printed Hebraica.7 Unlike some specialists, David was never selfish about the results of his scholarship, or solicitous for the maintenance of its intricacy and obscurity. While others might have regarded popularization, translation and public education as chores, he set about them with a will, and the beneficial effects of his endeavours were felt not only in Leo Baeck College and other academic institutions and societies in which he was active, but also among the Jewish reading public in general and in the wider world beyond. By describing various aspects of Judaism to the less well informed, both Jew and non-Jew, on the air and in print,8 and by translating classic Jewish articles and books, especially in the difficult area of mysticism,9 for those without the competence to read the originals, he built educational and social bridges that will be gratefully employed for generations. For one who regarded Judaism as 'an extremely resilient and sensitive instrument for the expression of religious experience',10 this obviously mattered. The selflessness that he demonstrated in his willingness to undertake the joint editorship of the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, and to edit a collection of essays by a late teacher at University College, London, Professor J.G. Weiss,11 stands testimony to that same devotion to his fellow that impelled him to provide such stalwart service to the Jewish Historical Society of England, Anglo-Jewish Archives and the Wiener Library. David taught that in Judaism man's relationship to his fellow should be 'ideally based on love, respect and understanding'12 and he practised what he preached. There was, however, another motive in much of his scholarship, one that explains why historical records, archives, special collections and libraries should have figured so prominently in his various professional activities. He applauded the availability of full, up-to-date and accurate information about scholarly sources and made it one of his special tasks to detect and eliminate bibliographical lacunae that frustrated such an ideal. Some of his most technical scholarship concerned the identification and description of Hebrew manuscripts and early-printed books,13 and the leitmotif of such scholarship can be detected in his introductory remarks to his preliminary census of Hebrew incunables in the British Isles. 'The first thing to do,' he writes, 'was to compile a list... more detailed information will be gathered and published as time goes on.'14 By making many such forays into poorly charted territory he cleared a path for xvi</page><page sequence="3">In Memoriam others to follow and, particularly in the British Library, made a major contribution to the location and classification of precious materials. He gave every encouragement to efforts being made there and in similar institutions to maintain, conserve and develop Hebrew and related collections in a spirit of cooperation and with a commitment to sound administration. To that end, he took joint initiatives with professional colleagues to form the Hebraica Libraries' Group in this country and endeavoured to raise the profile of Hebrew bibliographical scholarship in various academic contexts. However noteworthy his scholarly, communal and professional achieve? ments, they never altered the basic gentleness, fairness and humanity of a devoted husband and father, who also loved stamp-collecting, keenly followed cricket and enjoyed playing the guitar. David Goldstein combined the finest traits of both the English gentleman and the learned Jew. His translation of the elegy written by Samuel Ha-Nagid for his brother provides a concluding note on which to recall the tragedy of his premature demise: If an enemy had taken hold of him, I should have repelled him with all my strength. If a large ransom could bring him back, I should redeem him with all my wealth. But, now, today, what can I do? For such is the ordinance of my God.15 Stefan C. Reif NOTES 1 Hebrew Poems from Spain (London 1966) 1. 2 Revised as The Jewish Poets of Spain (Harmondsworth 19 71). 3 The Song of Songs, translated by Peter Jay (London 1975). 4 London, 1980, revised as Jewish Mytho? logy (London 1987). 5 Page 7 6 Hebrew Manuscript Painting (London 1985) 5. 7 E.g. The Ashkenazi Haggadah (London 1985); The Book of Proverbs, with the Commen? tary of Immanuel of Rome (Facsimile of ed. Naples 1487; Jerusalem 1981); 'The Barcelona Hag? gadah', FMR 10 (April 1985) 93-124; and the works cited in n. 6 above and n. 14 below. 8 E.g. The Religion of the Jews (1978) and The Passover of the Yemeni Jews (TV programme) for the Open University; 'Judaism' in Man and his Gods: Encyclopaedia of the World's Religions, ed. G. Parrinder (London 19 71) 332-57; 'The Jews' in Our Religion, ed. H.A. Guy (London 1973). 9 E.g. the articles 'Kabbalah' and 'Zohar' in the Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem 1972) and The Wisdom of the Zohar (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). 10 'Judaism' (see n. 8 above) 339. 11 Studies in Eastern European Jewish Mys? ticism (Oxford 1985). 12 'Judaism' (see n. 8 above) 346. 13 See his articles in Journal of Jewish Studies 26 (1975) 105-12; Studies in Bibliography and Booklore 13 (1980) 17-19; Hebrew Union College Annual 52 (1981) 203-52; The British Library Journal 7 (1981) 182-6; and Miscellanies of the Jewish Historical Society of England 12 (1982) I5I-4 14 Hebrew Incunables in the British Isles: A Preliminary Census (London 1985), introduc? tion, p.v. 15 Hebrew Poems (see n. 1)37. xvii</page><page sequence="4">^^^^^^^ David Goldstein (1933-1987)</page></plain_text>