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Samuel, Maurice


SAMUEL, MAURICE (1895–1972), U.S. author and translator. Born in Macin, *Romania, Samuel spent his boyhood in Manchester, England, migrating to the U.S. in 1914. At home in both Jewish and Anglo-American culture, he tried to maintain an equilibrium between them, but before long saw dangers in this bicultural experience. In provocative volumes beginning with You Gentiles (1924) and I, the Jew (1927), and continuing with Jews on Approval (1931), The Great Hatred (1941), and The Gentleman and the Jew (1950), he came to the conclusion that Jewish and gentile approaches to ultimate questions were antithetical. Antisemitism was not a Jewish problem, but an affliction of the gentiles to which Jews had to accustom themselves. It was "the great hatred" in the amoral pagan soul in Western man for the Jewish-Christian jailer who had bound it with fetters of moral law. Samuel also contrasted the Jewish with the gentile ideal of man. During the years between the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948, Samuel was a most influential and popular exponent of Zionist ideology. Having spent ten years in Ereẓ Israel, he believed that the Jews would succeed in building a moral commonwealth and gave expression to his faith in Harvest in the Desert (1944), calling upon American Jews to assist this venture on their ancient soil. In Level Sunlight (1953) Samuel reiterated his faith in the messianic aspects of Zionism, maintaining that the objective of classical Zionism went beyond the mere building of a state. It included the regeneration of the Jewish people in all lands with the help of the Jewish center in Israel, and in this process American Jewry had a vital part to play. Samuel also wrote fiction, including the novels, Beyond Woman (1934); Web of Lucifer (1947); The Devil That Failed (1952); and The Second Crucifixion (1960), the story of a Jewish girl in Hadrian's Rome. Among other works of Jewish interest are On the Rim of the Wilderness (1931), a study of the Palestine Arabs and the Zionist movement; The World of Shalom Aleichem (1943); Prince of the Ghetto (1948), on I.L. *Peretz; Certain People of the Book (1955), studies of biblical figures and biblical morality; Little Did I Know (1963), recollections and reflections on the worthwhileness of being a Jew; Blood Accusation (1966), a reexamination of the notorious *Beilis trial; Light on Israel (1968); and In Praise of Yiddish. Samuel translated novels by Sholem *Asch and Isaac Bashevis *Singer; *Bialik's Selected Poems (1926); the Passover Haggadah (1942); and works by Peretz and Shemaryahu *Levin. In The Professor and the Fossil (1956) he wittily and effectively answered Arnold J. Toynbee's treatment of the Jews in his Study of History (1934–54). A brilliant orator and conversationalist, he reached a wide audience through his broadcast discussions on biblical topics with the poet and critic Mark van Doren.


S. Liptzin, Generation of Decision (1958), 249–54; idem, Jew in American Literature (1966), 176–9, 221–2; S.J. Kunitz, Twentieth Century AuthorsFirst Supplement (1955), index; A. Lelyveld, in: jba, 22 (1964), 109–14; R. Alter, in: Commentary, 37 (1964), 50–54.

[Sol Liptzin]

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