A Jewish Life on Three Continents: The Memoir of Menachem Mendel Frieden (Stanford Studies in Jewish History and C)

A Jewish Life on Three Continents: The Memoir of Menachem Mendel Frieden (Stanford Studies in Jewish History and C)

Language: English

Pages: 520

ISBN: 0804783632

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This remarkable memoir by Menachem Mendel Frieden illuminates Jewish experience in all three of the most significant centers of Jewish life during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It chronicles Frieden's early years in Eastern Europe, his subsequent migration to the United States, and, finally, his settlement in Palestine in 1921. The memoir appears here translated from its original Hebrew, edited and annotated by Frieden's grandson, the historian Lee Shai Weissbach.

Frieden's story provides a window onto Jewish life in an era that saw the encroachment of modern ideas into a traditional society, great streams of migration, and the project of Jewish nation building in Palestine. The memoir follows Frieden's student life in the yeshivas of Eastern Europe, the practices of peddlers in the American South, and the complexities of British policy in Palestine between the two World Wars. This first-hand account calls attention to some often ignored aspects of the modern Jewish experience and provides invaluable insight into the history of the time.

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those days, like his brothers, except that his diligence and his sharp-mindedness elevated him somewhat above his brothers. Father knew how to study a page of Talmud, read midrashic texts and Hasidic books, and he was thoroughly familiar with several tractates of the Talmud. Justifiably, he was called “a Jew who knows a book,” among the best in this select group. He excelled at assimilating new material and he had great common sense. He wrote Hebrew in the old style without errors and he knew

part. ­Issues of health seem to be on Frieden’s mind, as well, perhaps because during his lifetime he himself was often plagued by illness, and because he was over seventy when he completed work on his memoir. One cannot fail to notice in this chapter, as elsewhere, Frieden’s lack of attention to careful editing and to comprehensiveness. The author’s failure to record the Americanized names of his siblings is but one example of his inattention to details that might have been considered important

along 11.  Here Frieden refers to the challahs placed on the Sabbath table as lechem mishneh, “double bread” or “extra bread.” This term derives from the account in Exodus 16:4–5 explaining that God provided the Israelites wandering in the desert with a double portion of manna for the Sabbath. 12.  This expression appears in the Babylonian Talmud in tractate Pesachim 68b and elsewhere. In general, however, this Talmudic concept is applied to the celebration of festivals. Frieden seems to be

it, the more you find it interesting, and the more joy and satisfaction you get from it, as in the explication of the verse “let her breasts satisfy you at all times.”14 As our sages explain, “her breasts” are the Oral Law and the Written Law, which are intimately connected to each other and complement each other; one cannot understand the Written Law without knowing and understanding the Oral Law.15 In recent generations, the study of the Written Law has been neglected. It was considered beneath

aside for him.9 How appropriate it is for the Haggadah to associate the Festival of Freedom, going back more than three thousand years, with the prophet who will appear to announce the arrival of the Messiah and the salvation that is destined to come. How much hope and encouragement have we Jews drawn from Passover eve, year after year during our thousands of years of exile, by connecting the first Festival of Freedom with the celebration of freedom and salvation yet to come. The call of “next

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