Page 93 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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7 3
— T
h e
u t u r e
o f
id d ish
again and again to that period when, on the one hand, millions
of Jews broke away from Jewishness and reared a generation of
assimilationists while Hitler and Stalin annihilated a large part
of our people, and when, on the other hand, Jews stubbornly
and heroically built a Jewish state and created a Jewish litera-
ture in Yiddish and Hebrew. To understand the enigma of our
age, its incredible dilemmas and contradictions, they will have
to turn back constantly to the shtetl, to Yiddish literature, and
to that portion of Hebrew literature which is linked with the
shtetl and with Yiddish. What is genuine in Yiddish literature
will be studied and analyzed not merely as literature but also
as a source to help them understand our wild impulse for self-
destruction and our colossal will for renewal, two antithetical
forces which arose simultaneously and exist side by side.
Both literatures, Hebrew and Yiddish, mirror our will to life
and our will to oblivion. What the
and their fellow-
travelers did to Yiddish, certain young Hebrew writers are now
doing to Hebrew: trying to transform the language into a me-
dium for forgetting, into a narcotic which obliterates memory.
Both are tools of national suicide. The Jew for whom Jewish
history ends with Massada and begins again with Herzl or with
the founding of the Jewish state is as much an assimilationist
as the Yiddishist for whom Jewishness begins with Edelstadt and
Bovshover or with October 1917. Both attempt to force Jews
into a Procrustean bed and to perform a kind of surgery on Jewish
culture which can only result in its death. Yiddish cannot serve
as an instrument of Leftism nor can Hebrew serve as an instru-
ment of Canaanism. Secular Yiddishism and secular Hebraism
are both assimilationist ideologies.
Nobody can foresee exactly the fate of Yiddish. The present
situation does not appear to be promising. Nevertheless, who-
ever succeeds to the heritage of Yiddish will not be able to forget
the Yiddish language, Yiddish literature,
shtetl, Yiddish proverbs, everything associated with life in East-
ern Europe during the past six centuries. Genuine Jewish
literature in Hebrew and other languages will necessarily be
rooted in Yiddish literature and will derive from it inspiration,
insight, the ingredients which provide the vitamins of a people
and a culture.
It is not a fortuitous phenomenon if nowadays, when Yiddish
appears to be in decline, it is being enriched by works from
which the Jewish j>eople will draw sustenance so long as it
endures. Stutchkoff's
Thesaurus of the Yiddish Language, The
Great Yiddish Dictiojiaiy,
History of Literature Among
and other works by contemporary Yiddish writers open
new vistas and have a new significance for Yiddish literature.