Page 94 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 23

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J
e w i s h
B
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A
n n u a l
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in Odessa in the sixties, the first three Russo-Jewish periodicals
in the country. In short, Pinsker had been a staunch integration-
ist in the American sense of the term, a Russian patriot who saw
in this course the salvation of Russian Jewry.
The Odessa Pogrom of 1871 shocked him to the degree that he
abandoned all public interests and devoted the time he could
spare from his medical practice to review privily the Jewish
position in the Empire and in Europe. The final jolt was the
series of pogroms in 1881. He felt ashamed, frustrated and an-
gered. Tha t summer he attended a routine meeting of the Odessa
branch of the Society for the Diffusion of Culture which at that
point in its history was reduced to supporting Jewish indigent
university students. He rose to protest: “Our honor is shamed,
our substance plundered, our homes disarrayed, the poor of our
nation are in flight without means in search of a refuge, and you
men are toying with the spread of culture. Give up this fatuous
labor; go out and bring help to your people.”
When one of the members rebuked him, “The society will not
turn aside from its agenda,” Pinsker retorted, “I am not address-
ing myself to members of the society but to men, the sons of
their people; my purpose in coming here is to inform you that I
no longer consider myself a member of this society and I am
done with this type of work.”1
After brooding over the Jewish problem for ten years, Pinsker
came to a decision which reversed his former convictions and
admitted their futility. As a man of integrity, he did not fear to
change his philosophy of Jewish destiny. I t takes courage to alter
one's basic outlook on life, especially at the age of sixty. Accord-
ingly, he now affirmed that there is only one road to the salvation
of the Jewish people—the establishment of a Jewish territorial
center in Palestine or elsewhere, so that the existence of the Jew-
ish nation would be secure and normal, like that of any other
nation.
Before publicizing his decision Pinsker, a careful man, deemed
it wise to consult with prominent Jews in the West to acquaint
them with his new viewpoint and to try to win their aid and
cooperation for his plan of national redemption. To these ends
he toured the chief capitals of Western Europe and met with
celebrated scholars and men of affairs. Their reaction was alarm-
ing. They were pained at his loss of faith in human progress and
enlightenment; he was pained in being considered a deserter
and a doddering old man.
1
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142
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