Page 67 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 19

Basic HTML Version

L
i p t z in
— T
h e
Y
id d ish
P
r e s s
61
Nor could a Yiddish press arise and flourish outside Russia at
this time, because the struggle of the talented Maskilim, under
the influence of German Enlightenment, was directed towards the
extirpation of Yiddish or at least its degradation to the level
of a jargon, spoken but not written.
It was only after the death of Czar Nicholas I and the advent
of a spirit of liberalism in Russian government circles that
Alexander Zederbaum, the enterprising editor of
Hamelitz,
was
able to obtain in 1862 permission to append to this Hebrew
organ a Yiddish supplement,
Kol Mevasser.
It is true that, in
dealing with the Russian authorities, Zederbaum found it neces­
sary to emphasize the assimilationist possibilities of such a sup­
plement. He had to resort to the strange argument that, since
Yiddish was yielding too slowly to Russian, a periodical in
Yiddish was a good means of hastening the death of this jargon
by making it more obnoxious in the eyes of Jews. In reality, how­
ever, Zederbaum was as vigorously opposed to the shallow
enlightenment of the Russifying assimilationists as to the fana­
ticism of the overcredulous Hassidic mystics. He felt that the
true blessings of cultural regeneration could best be brought to
the unenlightened majority through the tongue most easily under­
stood by them. He wrote that Yiddish was for Jews the language
of the heart, that its picturesque idioms were untranslatable into
any other tongue, and that to assume its voluntary abandonment
by the millions who still communicated in it was unrealistic.
The Influence of Kol Mevasser
During the decade of
Kol Mevassefs
existence, from 1862 as
a supplement of
Hamelitz
and from 1869 to 1872 as a separate
publication, this journal exerted an enormous influence in
standardizing spelling, in enriching vocabulary, in evolving
stylistic patterns. Its correspondents reported on Jewish life in
numerous communities. It surveyed and interpreted the European
political scene with special emphasis upon possible repercussions
of changing events upon Jews. It printed lengthy articles on
geography, science, nature, education, history, and literary criti­
cism. It sponsored activities to relieve the needy. It furnished
biographical sketches of famous Jewish personalities in all eras.
It brought to wider notice the achievements of Ettinger, Aksen-
feld, and Gottlober, who had already pioneered in Yiddish
letters, and it introduced new writers such as Mendele Mokher
Sforim, Goldfaden, and Linetzky. It paved the way for other
Yiddish periodicals.
In 1875, Linetzky and Goldfaden founded in Lemberg the
weekly
Der alter Yisrolik.
This Galician periodical featured enter­
tainment far more than news, and might have prospered beyond
a single year; but when the Russian government forebade its