Page 147 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

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HILLEL ZEITLIN: PUBLICIST AND MARTYR
On the Occasion of His 100th Birthday
B
y
A
vraham
H
oltz
T
his year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the birth
of Hillel Zeitlin. Since a biographical sketch and a sur-
vey of his major volumes are available to the English reader,
this study will review the recurrent themes in Zeitlin’s publi-
cistic essays and monographs1.
After serving as staff columnist on the Hebrew daily,
Ha-Zeman
(Vilna), Zeitlin was invited to Warsaw to join the
Yiddishe
Vochenblatt
and
Hein t,
and later to serve as co-editor of the
widely circulated newspaper,
Der Moment.
To this daily alone
he contributed at least three weekly articles which, in the course
of his career spanning the most cataclysmic epoch in Jewish his-
tory, totalled thousands of items still unindexed and uncollected2.
From these journal forums he spoke out boldly on current Jew-
ish national, social, economic, educational, theological, psycho-
logical, literary and aesthetic questions. His realistic, albeit pat•
ently subjective evaluations and challenging frames of reference
were welcomed by a large cadre of devotees. Inevitably, how-
ever, his non-conventional positions and inimical views fre-
quently precipitated vehement controversy which subsequently
involved him in continued polemics.
Assimilationism, the heresy of this age, Zeitlin insisted, was
an anathema, weakening Jewish dignity and breeding self-hate.
It eroded the Jewish ethos and was to be ranked, next to anti-
Semitism, as the most formidable menace to Jewish renas-
cence. Furthermore, it was directly responsible for the tragic
apathy and alarming infidelity to Judaism and the Jewish peo-
pie among Jewish university students. Therefore, he ruthlessly
struck out against its supporters, and at each local and country­
1See this author’s, “Hillel Zeitlin: Critic, Mystic, Social Architect,” Con-
servative Judaism,
XX, no. 35, Spring, 1966, pp. 50-65.
2I thank the staff of the National and University Library of the Hebrew
University in Jerusalem for graciously having made their collection of Yiddish
periodicals available to me. Since there are no bibliographical data of this
material, it meant leafing through every page in order to cover all refer-
ences. This task was facilitated by daily courtesies of the librarians and
administrators. I express my gratitude, too, to the Jewish Theological Semi-
nary of America for the “sabbatical year” and to the Hebrew University in
Jerusalem for the Advanced Studies Research Fellowship. This article may
serve as a mini-report of my year’s research in this area.
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