A Treasure Chest on Y.N. Epstein
Manuscriptboy links to a high school (!) paper from on Y.N. Epstein that was written by his granddaughter. This paper gives us a taste of what hopefully still exists from Epstein’s papers. It includes descriptions of correspondence with dozens of scholars and public figures over decades. Among those Epstein corresponded with were H.N. Bialik, R. Yehiel Yaakov Weinberg, and many others. One of the most interesting sections was a description of a correspondence with Dr. Bernard Revel which discussed the possibility of Epstein coming to teach at Yeshiva University. There are a number of letters between the two and Epstein was eager to know how much academic freedom exists in the university. This possibility came to an end when Epstein was offered a position at Hebrew University. See pp. 32-33 of this paper for a description of this exchange. There is also a discussion of the desire to translate the Babylonian Talmud into Hebrew. If I am not mistaken, a few tractates were translated. What is also mentioned is a dictionary of Talmudic terminology which was over 600 typed pages! There is a lot more material that is referred to in this work and anyone who is interested in the modern study of rabbinic literature has much to gain from reading it, if not publishing (!) these letters.
Update: I have finally had a chance to go through most of paper on Y.N. Epstein and it is even better than I had thought. In the appendix there are a number of Epstein’s letters which are simply fantastic. There are two letters from Rabbi Hayyim of Brisk to Rabbi Hayyim Ozer Grodzinski recommending that he find some way to support the young Yaakov Nachum and let him study Torah in his school. There are lots of letters which shed light on the founding of the Institute for Jewish Studies at Hebrew University and the different directions that it was being pulled in. There are even a number of letters about changing it into a seminary for the training of rabbis. There’s one about making sure that the cafeteria at Hebrew University was kosher and letters which he received after he began to publish Mavo le-Nusah ha-Mishnah. Rabbi Yehiel Yaakov Weinberg was extremely excited about the book and said that there hasn’t been anything like it either in this generation or the previous one.