Page 92 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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I t is true that there are now Hebrew writers who no long
know Yiddish. Some even boast that they have no kinship
Yiddish and to Galut Jewry, but such writers have not yet creat
any great works. I believe this is equally true of Yiddish write
who do not know Hebrew, who scorn
and t
ancient sources. Among Ashkenazic Jews Yiddish and Hebre
are really one language. Naturally, there were several talent
Yiddish writers who knew little Hebrew, for example, I.
Weissenberg, Yona Rosenfeld and A. M. Fuchs; bu t even the
Yiddish is full of Hebraisms. Yiddish writers who eschewed H
brew from their beginning and courted the Soviet
mained spiritually naked and subsequently dried up. The pe
sistent effort to convert Yiddish literature into a tool of t
Leftists failed everywhere. The language was rooted in Jewis
ness, in Jewish history, in the Jewish book, in the Jewish la
and customs, in the hasidic court. The literary talent of write
like Bergelson and Moshe Nadir disintegrated when harness
to Stalinism.
Not everybody will agree with me that the spiritual cris
which Jews in Israel are now undergoing is largely due to the
forgetting Yiddish. But I still believe this to be true. Amnes
is a dangerous malaise for the human spirit. For the people
Israel, whose entire survival is based on remembering, amnes
is fatal. I t is not chauvinism or boastfulness when I assert th
Ashkenazic Jewry carried on its shoulders Jewish progress
the last five or six centuries. In trying to forget or ignore t
language of these Jews, their creativity, their problems, hope
traits, peculiarities, we are succumbing to a national psychos
to complexes that can lead to national dementia. Yiddish is o
memory, the bridge between our yesterday and our toda
between the diaspora and Israel. This holds both for the la
guage and for its genuine literary productions. The
prides himself on not knowing Yiddish negates the Jewish pas
he speaks and behaves like an Hebraic convert. He has exco
municated himself and destroyed his roots. I t is not enou
to trace one’s lineage to Abraham or even to the heroes of Ma
sada and to Yehuda Halevi. We cannot disclaim centuries
Jewish existence in Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Galicia, R
mania, Russia, and wherever Ashkenazic Jews lived, struggle
suffered, worked. Generations before Ben Yehuda began to ta
Hebrew in Eretz Israel, Jews conversed in Yiddish in Jerusale
and Safed, and interpreted the Torah in Yiddish. When Rab
Nahman Bratslaver visited the Holy Land, he spoke Yiddi
with its Jews.
We are living in an age of physical and spiritual catastrop
but also of glorious resurgence. Our grandchildren will look ba