top of page
< Back

Nina Salaman, 1877-1925

Herbert M. Loewe

<plain_text><page sequence="1">228 nina sal aman. Nina Salaman, 1877-1925. By Herbert M. Loewe, M.A. The inclusion, in the Transactions, of an official obituary of Nina Salaman needs no justification, even on the grounds of precedent. Nina Salaman was to have been the President of the Society in 1922. The fatal illness which carried her from us, in the prime of her life, three years later, had already sapped her strength and she was unable, for physical reasons, to accept the office. Her place was in no sense taken by her husband, who was elected in her stead. Dr. Salaman admirably filled the position, but he was no understudy of his wife. Their individualities were complementary. Husband and wife repre? sented two distinct aspects, science and art, of the Society's activities, and much as we need and appreciate the one, we can never cease to regret the fact that Nina Salaman was not spared to be the first woman to occupy our presidential chair. Nevertheless we may call her de jure president. Indeed her works entitle her to the honour, for besides her poetical gifts she possessed a strong sense of history and a love for historical research. Her lectures, delivered at Toynbee Hall and elsewhere, await republication ; one of these has indeed appeared as an Arthur Davis Lecture, but when the others are issued in book form, it will be recognised that Nina Salaman had a real aptitude for historical study : indeed nothing less was to be expected from one who, equipped with the full outfit of a scholar, was also inspired with an almost holy passion for accuracy. The facts of her life are few and may be told briefly : her memory is secure in the hearts of her many friends and in the permanent custody of the printed pages of her songs. For record here we may recall that her father was the late Arthur Davis, of Derby and London, and that her late mother's maiden name was Louisa Jonas. Arthur Davis was an engineer who taught himself Hebrew. He became a highly proficient Hebrew scholar and an observant Jew. His best known works are his book on Hebrew accents and his edition, jointly with Mr. Herbert Adler, of the Festival Prayer Book according to the AshJcenazic rite of England. But those who have conned the pages of press-cuttings,</page><page sequence="2">NINA SAL AM AN. 229 containing his contributions to the Jewish and general Press, will recognise how sound and how many-sided was his scholarship. This book, once the treasured possession of Nina Salaman, will, one hopes, find an abiding home in the Mocatta Library, together with literary and other relics of his daughter. It is necessary to emphasise the characteristics of Arthur Davis, because his thoroughness, his taste, his love for Judaism and Jewish learning were transmitted to Nina Salaman. He was an inveterate foe to superficiality : what he touched he adorned. And so there were no half-measures in the Hebrew education of his children. An hour's lesson before breakfast, regular attendance at Synagogue, study of the lectionary of the week were features of their early training. Nina Davis was born on July 15,1877 : she had one sister, Elsie, now the wife of Prof. S. Schryver, F.R.S., but no brothers. Mrs. Schryver shared in the paternal heritage : her poetical contributions to the Jewish Quarterly Review and to the Mahzor made her merits recognised at an early date. Nina Davis made her first appearance in print at the age of seventeen. The Jewish Chronicle for June 22,1894, contained her rendering of Ibn Ezra's " Song of Chess " : in the same year she contributed to the October issue of the Jewish Quarterly Review an essay and a poem on " The Ideal Minister of the Talmud." From this time until 1901 her literary output was regular, and it was enhanced in that year, when her marriage to Dr. Kedcliffe Salaman took place. Henceforward womanhood and motherhood added strength to her pen. To her poetic genius she brought a fuller knowledge of life, and her works, till now echoing with a note of expectancy or of adventure, began to be infused with a sense of experience, content and repose. For her marriage was a consummation of felicity. The union was blessed with four sons and two daughters, and in their education, especially in Hebrew and in a love of Judaism, she strove to implant the lessons of her childhood. Seven grandchildren of Arthur Davis are growing up in the Anglo-Jewish Community, to perpetuate his tradition of Jewish scholarship and love of Judaism. Dr. and Mrs. Salaman lived first at Berlin, then in London, and finally at Barley, Herts, close to Cambridge. Their coming to this little village made an immense difference to Cambridge Jewry. First of all there was the splendid hospitality which at least five generations of undergraduates will recall. Barley was a real home, besides being a</page><page sequence="3">230 NINA SAL AM AN. salon. Mrs. Salaman kept in touch with the students in Cambridge, where she was constantly to be seen?on one occasion she preached on Friday night after service?and in Barley, where men came to her : to visit her was a highly esteemed privilege. She took her place in the larger Cambridge world and in the county. The grounds of Homestall were not only the centre of social gatherings but many charitable causes were there promoted by fetes and entertainments. When on her death-bed Nina Salaman was occupied by the interests of her Women's Institute ; her last letter, a day or two before she passed away, was an appeal for Sir W. Treloar's Hospital at Alton for crippled children. She engaged in many causes, general and Jewish. The Federation of Women Zionists and the Tottenham Talmud Torah for Girls were among her favourite institutions, and to these she devoted all the profits of her pen. Editors occasionally wondered why she accepted cheques for her literary work : this was the reason. Herein, too, she followed her father's example. The Arthur Davis Memorial Fund represents the proceeds of the income from the Mahzor, devoted, in accordance with Arthur Davis's principles, to furthering Jewish literature and sacred studies. They would not make of the Torah a golden crown. Those who would realise the range of Nina Salaman's output should consult the full bibliography of her works in the Jewish Guardian for Feb. 27, 1925. This issue, which appeared three days after she passed to rest, as well as the parallel issue of the Jewish Chronicle, contained, in addition to biographies, tributes from two life-long friends and collaborators, both Presidents of this Society, both destined soon to follow Nina Salaman, as though in answer to her call their spirits yearned to take up anew the work in which they had been associated in this life. We recall in this connection the close of the tractate " Blessings " : " Scholars," said R. Hiyya b. Ashi in the name of Rab, " know no rest, either in this world or in the world to come, as it says ' they go from strength to strength till they appear before God in Zion.' " Sons of the Wise, they know not rest Throughout this life, And when they rise, amid the blest Renew the strife.</page><page sequence="4">NINA SAL AM AN. 231 The path they trod before them lies, They view their goal: By grace of God with eager eyes They see lif e whole. Earth's dreams proved true, earth's phantoms laid, Earth's labours done, To visions new, to words unsaid Now call them on. The books of old, the empty lines They might not write, R/ewrit in gold from heaven's own mines, Now send us light. Door after door they open wide, But not alone: They go before, but side by side We face the throne. These two friends were Israel Zangwill and Israel Abrahams, both of whom she had known since youth. With Israel Zangwill she had collaborated over the Mahzor. A voluminous correspondence passed between these two, whose deep friendship for each other was never dimmed by their diversity of views on Judaism or Zionism ; in later years they strengthened each other's hands in their respective transla? tions of ibn Gabirol and Jehudah hal-Levi. With Israel Abrahams she had for years held a weekly Shiur. Eoom 12 in the Cambridge University Library was sanctified by their studies every Tuesday. It would be a fitting act of the Jewish Historical Society to hang their pictures in that room, where the bust of Taylor already adorns the walls, haunted by the spirits of Schiller-Szinessy and Schechter. When, after three years of struggle against disease, Nina Salaman finally kept to her home, Israel Abrahams used to go there, and so their studies remained uninterrupted till the end. Even when strength began to fail him, he would always save himself for a journey to Barley to see and cheer his beloved friend and pupil. With Abrahams she planned her Toynbee Hall lectures and her Jehudah hal-Levi. It was vouchsafed to her to live long enough to handle the published volume : with that her life's work was crowned. Had she been spared she would have</page><page sequence="5">232 NINA SALAMAN. produced more, but nothing better. Yet this is poor consolation to us who have lost her work. What her writings can never preserve is the record of her person? ality, of that extraordinary influence for good that she radiated. This only her contemporaries know. It is a precious secret in their lives. Her outstanding qualities were dignity, kindness and efficiency. Her English was as perfect as her household. There was never a slipshod expression in the most casual note she penned, in the most trivial saying she uttered. She opened her mouth with wisdom, and one never found her repeating the commonplace or the purposeless. Barley was a haven of rest. When she was in health or when she lay grievously stricken, she welcomed those who came to her with difficulties, and her sympathy, her understanding, her counsel and her help inevitably drove anxieties away. Of this sacred gift it is impossible to speak. Those who know cannot lift the veil. Those who were with her at the end treasure, but cannot reveal, the memory of her calmness, her readiness to face her Maker, her steadfastness in faith and her thought for others. She died with the divine kiss, and her latter end is peace everlasting.</page><page sequence="6">Nina Salaman Frontispiece]</page></plain_text>

bottom of page