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B’nai B’rith Announces Republication of 57 Volumes of Haskalah Literature

Publication of the first 57 volumes of “Literaria Judaica,” a 10-year B’nai B’rith “rescue project” to avert a total extinction of much Haskalah literature, was announced today by Dr. Harold Weisberg of Brandeis University, chairman of the organization’s adult Jewish education commission. The project, begun last year, involves reproducing, through a low-cost offset printing process, limited editions in facsimile of novels, histories, dramas, periodicals and books of poetry that are Jewish classics of the “enlightenment” era published between 1784 and 1884. Only scattered copies of more than 1,000 historic volumes, most of them yellowed by time, their pages decaying and bindings torn, still exist in the original.

Mrs. Lily Edelman, B’nai B’rith director of adult Jewish studies, told the commission that a survey of the “Living Room Learning” program begun by B’nai B’rith seven years ago, has shown that many self-learners “who were troubled by unresolved relationships to their Jewish background, have been encouraged by the group discussions to ventilate frustrations and hostilities they have felt as Jews, and work out a receptive attitude toward their Jewishness.” She said several thousand “Living Room Learning” groups are now functioning in more than 500 communities. They are generally self led, utilizing a wide variety of special texts – from contemporary fiction to the Bible and from current social problems to ancient history – provided by the B’nai B’rith adult study program.

The $1,000 B’nai B’rith award for “excellence in Jewish literature” was presented to novelist Saul Bellow at a luncheon attended by 300. Maurice Samuel, who won the prize last year, made the presentation.

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