This text was prepared by William Gross:
Historical work by the 19th century bibliophile and historian Ephraim Deinard. Massa Krim deals with the history of Jews in the Crimean peninsula, focusing on the legend of the Khazars and the later Karaite community.
Ephraim Deinard (1846–1930) was one of the greatest Hebrew "bookmen" of all time. He was a bookseller, bibliographer, publicist, polemicist, historian, memoirist, author, editor, and publisher, all rolled into one.
Deinard produced some 70 volumes whose subjects range from Jewish history and antiquities (especially of the Crimea, Russia, America, and The Holy Land), to treatises against Hasidism, Christianity, and Communism, parodies, medieval and modern Hebrew literature, Jewish religion, and especially booklore.
Deinard's antiquarian activities, which involved constant travel throughout Europe, the Orient, and America, gave him a unique acquaintance with scholars, private collectors, fellow booksellers, and libraries. He came into contact and conflict with numerous Hebrew writers and Jewish communal and political figures. His wide-ranging knowledge and experience are fully reflected in his own voluminous writings, mostly in Hebrew, produced over more than half a century. His scope of interests, the intensity of his sentiments, the acerbity of his remarks, all coupled with his bibliophily, render Deinard's works a source of contemporary Jewish historical and literary controversy, as seen in the margins of the Hebrew-reading world, before and after World War I.
Devoted to many periods and genres of Hebrew literature, Deinard published, aside from new or revised editions of early polemical tracts, various medieval and modern Hebrew texts, works by American Hebrew authors, and sharp critiques of modern Hebrew writing. Involved in Hebrew journalism since his youth, Deinard made several brief attempts to publish his own journals, including one of the first Hebrew papers in America, and a Zionist Yiddish paper in Newark, New Jersey, of which no copy survives. Deinard did not neglect Yiddish, and in the time he lived in Odessa, he published both Hebrew and Yiddish works by the Podolian-born historian and belletrist M. N. Litinsky. Some Yiddish texts appear in his Hebrew books, and he deals with Yiddish in his catalogs and bibliographies. One of his last books, Devir Efrayim, which was published just after the founding of the Yiddish Scientific Institute (YIVO) in 1925, contains a chapter on Yiddish.
His books were printed in eleven towns in Europe, Ottoman Palestine, and America, including Odessa, Pressburg, Warsaw, Vienna, New York City, Newark, Kearny, Jerusalem, Jaffa, St. Louis and Arlington. In his time Deinard was the most prolific Hebrew author-publisher in New Jersey. At the end of his career, Deinard had sixteen volumes printed at the Moinester Press in St. Louis, more than he had printed in any other town. This press catered almost exclusively to immigrant rabbinic authors from Eastern Europe. Of the books printed in St. Louis, some were "published" in New Orleans, a Hebraist center where he spent his last twelve years.
Deinard's works stand out for their secular subject matter, among them the first Hebrew book on local American Jewish history.
A number of Deinard's books are bibliophilic curiosities; several were printed in limited editions of 50 or 100 copies, some have survived in only a handful of copies, and one was said to survive in only a single copy. Reviving an old tradition in Hebrew printing, five of his books were printed on colored papers (blue, green, red, yellow, and gold), two of them using a variety of these papers, and one using red ink. Some of his books are unusual in their dimensions: several are very small octavos, and one work, appropriate to Moses Montefiore, is an oversize folio on gold paper. The narrow miniature Zemir `Aritsim on colored papers is known as one of the great oddities of Hebrew booklore. Some books are enhanced with illustrative plates or other reproductions or fold-out leaves. The Kundes, another octavo on multicolored papers, contains cartoons taken from Abraham Goldfaden's first illustrated Yiddish periodical. A few volumes make use of unusual or complex typography.
Following a long tradition of false and fictional imprints in Hebrew publishing, especially in Eastern Europe, one of his books bears the imprint "Sodom" and another "Boltunovka" ("Chatter-town"), although in fact both were printed in Newark, New Jersey. A third rarity, on colored papers, bears the imprint "Tsevu'im" ("the painted capital of hypocrites"), "at the press of the Raziel the angel". Deinard's eccentric and combative personality is reflected in another textual-bibliographic idiosyncrasy: he is known to have printed special copies for specific individuals, with variant texts depending on the intended recipient, some copies differing considerably from each other.
Deinard is remembered today as both a bookman and a prolific polemicist, two careers inextricably linked in his singular personality. Indeed, his works are devoted in large part to religious, political, and even bibliographical polemics. He attacked Hasidism and Christianity in equal measure, with plenty of bile left over for Communism, Reform Judaism, Kabbalah, Jewish apostates, and Karaism. Deinard reissued several early anti-Hasidic works, including two tracts of diverse authorship entitled Zemir 'Aritsim, as well as his own Hebrew translation of Israel Ubel's German diatribe. He edited another polemical text preserved in manuscript in the Bodleian Library (one of several Oxford manuscripts edited by Deinard), and printed a previously unpublished anti-Hasidic work by the Russian maskil Isaac Baer Levinsohn. His two-volume Alatah, which is of bibliographic interest, attempts to show the Zohar to be a forgery, and that Hasidism is Catholicism in disguise.
After Hasidism, Deinard's biggest bugaboo was Christianity. Over the course of 40 years, he published seven volumes of anti-Christian polemics, beginning with his first book in America, an edition of medieval Judeo–Christian disputations. He later reissued Hasdai Crescas' 14th-century refutation of Christian beliefs, though his accompanying edition of an 18th-century anti-Christian polemic by David Nassy of Surinam was destroyed by fire. Deinard wrote several attacks on the Jewish biography of Jesus by Joseph Klausner, and his last printed book, A Zoo Without an Animal, questioned the existence of Jesus. Several of his books contain essays directed against Jewish converts to Christianity, among them the ill-fated antiquarian Moses Wilhelm Shapira, who attempted to sell ancient Biblical fragments of questionable authenticity to the British Museum.
Deinard's particular literary genius and satirical gifts are displayed in his Kundes ("Prankster") and Ployderzak ("Chatterbox"), written in the tradition and style of earlier maskilic or anti-Hasidic parodies. The latter, with its Yiddish title, mocks the flawed Jewish journalism of his day. These works are among the earliest of a whole genre of Hebrew parodies written in America shortly before and after 1900.