Cinncinnati (Dec. 20)
Prof. David Neumark, who died here the other day, was one of the greatest Jewish scholars of our time. Yet, because of his deep modesty and his complete devotion to his studies, his reserved nature and his refusal to mix in public life and politics, his life is little known to the average Jew. Now that he has passed away it will not be out of place to give a few details of his career.
David Neumark was born in Sczerec, near Lemberg, Galicia, on August 3, 1866. His earliest education was received in “Chedar” and partly from his father, who was famed in that region of Galicia as a profound Hebrew scholar and as a Cabalist.
The young David was very ambitious and studious. He eagerly absorbed every bit of knowledge be came across and it was not long before he became known beyond the limits of his own town as a prodigy. He was not content with studying the Talmud only. He felt an urge to go out into the world and study general philosophy and the sciences.
At the age of 21 Neumark left his home town and went to Lemberg where he entered the High School and studied until 1892 when he successfully passed the examinations and received his diploma. This opened the road for him to the greater fields of knowledge for which he had been craving. He went to Berlin now and entered the University, taking up the subject of philosophy, at the same time attending the school for the study of “Jewish science”. He worked very strenuously and got by materially thanks to the numerous prizes which he won at the university. In 1896 he graduated from the University with the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
In 1897 Neumark assumed the post of Rabbiner in the city of Rakonetz, near Prague. At that time the young scholar was already known in many circles for his great knowledge and abilities and was called the “Jewish Kant”. But he soon realized that he had to be in a large city in order to develop his personality and his potentialities to the full. He therefore returned to Berlin.
That was in 1904. At that time the Warsaw Hebrew organization, “Achiosef”, was preparing to publish “The Treasures of Judaism” and for this purpose a branch was opened in Berlin in order to collect and edit the material for the books that would be contributed by European scholars. As soon as Dr. Neumark appeared in Berlin he was appointed editor of the department of philosophy and Talmud.
David Neumark’s first work of importance was written in Hebrew on the subject of Friedrich Nietsche. In those days Nietsche was little known among the Jews and his clear vigorous analysis of the Nietschean philosophy created quite an impression. This, of course, was but the beginning. Neumark’s real greatness as a Jewish thinker was demonstrated later in his works on the history of Jewish philosophy.
Those who have heard anything at all about Professor Neumark know that his “History of Jewish Philosophy” is considered to be a monumental work; which no student of Judaism can fail to read. Professor Neumark also wrote “The Philosophy of the Bible, in which book he attempts to describe in a popular style the philosophy of Biblical Judaism and its lofty principles. He is also the author of critical works on Jehuda Halevi, Spinoza and others.
It may be interesting to add that in his youth Professor Neumark wrote Yiddish dramas and stories. One of his dramas was accepted by Abraham Goldfaden, who promised to stage it, but the play disappeared and no one knows what happened to it.