Guenzburg was different from most of his contemporaries in another respect. He was a voluminous writer, but only a few of his books and essays bear on what we now call Jewish science. Zunz, Geiger, and Jost, seeing that Judaism was gradually losing its hold upon their Jewish countrymen, resorted to exploring and narrating, in German, the wonderful story of their race, in the hope of renewing its ebbing strength. Levinsohn, living amid a different environment, deemed it best to convince his fellow-Jews that secular knowledge was necessary, and religion sanctioned their pursuit thereof. Guenzburg, the man of letters, determined to teach through the vehicle of Hebrew the true and the beautiful wherever he found it. He felt called upon to reveal to his brethren the grandeur of the world beyond the dingy ghetto, to tell them the stories not contained in the Midrash, Josippon, or the biographies of rabbis and zaddikim. He translated Campe’s Discovery of the New World, compiled a history of ancient civilization, and narrated the epochal event of the nineteenth century, the conflict between Russia and France. He taught his fellow-Jews to think correctly and logically, to clothe their thoughts in beautiful expressions, and revealed his innermost being to them in his autobiography, Abi’ezer. As a writer he appears neither erudite nor profound. We cannot apply to his works what we may safely say of Elijah Vilna’s and Levinsohn’s, that “there is solid metal enough in them to fit out whole circulating libraries, were it beaten into the usual filigree.” But he was elegant, cultured, intelligent, honorable; one who joined a feeling heart to a love for art; a Moses who struck from the rock of the Hebrew tongue refreshing streams for those thirsting for knowledge; a most amiable personality, and an altogether unusual character during the century-long struggle between light and darkness in the Jewry of Russia.
[Illustration: PEREZ BEN MOSHEH SMOLENSKIN, 1842-1885]
(Notes, pp. 318-322.)
RUSSIFICATION, REFORMATION, AND ASSIMILATION
The year 1856 will always be remembered as the annus mirabilis in the history of Russia. It marked at once the cessation of the Crimean war and the accession of the most liberal and benevolent monarch Russia ever had. On January 16, the heir apparent signified his consent to accept Austrian intervention, which resulted in the Treaty of Paris (March 30), granting the Powers involved “peace with honor”; and in August, in the Cathedral of the Assumption at Moscow, amidst unprecedented rejoicing, the czarevich placed the imperial crown upon his head. From