Sackler, Harry

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SACKLER, HARRY (1883–1974), U.S. Hebrew and Yiddish author. Born in Bohorodczany (Bogorodchany), Galicia, Sackler emigrated to the United States in 1902. An attorney by profession, he served as secretary of the Kehillah in New York City (1917–18); member of the staff of the Zionist Organization of America (1918–23); administrative secretary of the Jewish Education Association (1923–26); executive secretary of the Brooklyn Jewish Community Council (1940–44); and member of the executive staff of the Joint Distribution Committee (1945–55) in whose public relations office he later served. After his retirement in 1955 he devoted himself entirely to his writing.

The most eminent exponent of historicism in Hebrew letters in the United States, Sackler, a prolific writer, endeavored to fathom the mystery of Jewish existence. In story, novel, play, and essay he recreated a panorama of Jewry throughout the ages, and asserted, above all, the strength and the innocence of Judaism's spiritual leaders. His themes are drawn from remote times, e.g., the patriarchal period and the conquest of Jericho, and from recent times, e.g., the lot of the immigrant in the United States. Messianic and Ḥasidic innovations intrigued his imagination. He wrote mainly in Hebrew and Yiddish. Festival at Meron (1935), however, his best novel, was published in English. It depicts the period of the *Bar Kokhba revolt and is almost pure fiction, since the primary sources are sparse. Its central figure is the paradoxical and fascinating *Simeon b. Yoḥai.

Sackler's other works include the novels U-Sefor ha-Kokhavim (1961), about the patriarch Abraham; Bein Ereẓ ve-Shamayim (1964); Sefer ha-Maḥazot (1943), and Masakh u-Masekhot, various plays (1964); the autobiographical Sof Pasuk (1966); and, in Yiddish, Dramen fun H. Sackler (4 vols., 1925–28).


E. Silberschlag, in: Bitzaron, 9 (1944), 249–56; A. Epstein, Soferim Ivrim ba-Amerikah, 2 (1952), 273–90; M. Ribalow, Im ha-Kad el ha-Mabbu'a (1950), 221–30. add. bibliography: Y. Kabakoff, "H. Sackler," in: Biẓaron, 65 (1974), 168–171; E. Silberschlag, "Harry Sackler – Mystical Rationalist on the Centenary of his Birth," in: Jewish Book Annual, 40 (1982), 105–199.

[Eisig Silberschlag]