Page 148 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
wide election he urged Jewish voters to elect candidates who
manifested unequivocal anti-assimilationist positions.
As a reporter with unusual insight and sympathy, he often
sketched the nightmarish conditions of the impoverished Jew-
ish masses. His objective was to move the more fortunate to
pity and, more important, to charity. Employers who maltreated
their indigent employees were mercilessly scathed. To alleviate
the plight of the Jewish unemployed and impoverished, Zeitlin
suggested that Jewish capital be invested in new industrial ven-
tures and in large-scale technical and agricultural retraining.
These fresh sources of gainful employment would serve as
antidotes to the oppressive anti-Jewish boycott sweeping across
Poland after World War I and imperilling Jewish craftsmen
and shopkeepers. The precarious economic and social stratifi-
cation of Polish Jewry would be normalized, and a national
catastrophe averted.
Two examples will illustrate the special nature of his argu-
ment. Invoking religious categories, he admonished the employers
to consider the sinfulness of their actions. “Worker lockouts,”
resulting in a loss of livelihood and culminating in widespread
starvation, violated the biblical injunction against murder. In
the 1930’s, against the background of endemic Jewish pauperiza-
tion, he likewise claimed, that rent reduction in Poland’s urban
centers was a Jewish ethical imperative. To evict tenants unable
to pay their rents because of the economic depression, was to
commit a felony against God and His dicta.
The spate of suicides and conversions out of Judaism also
shocked him. Both, he argued, derived from an invidious sense
of vacuousness. Stripped of personal dignity and collective pur-
pose, modern Jews were swirling in a chaotic vortex of inhu-
manity and indifference. Time and again Zeitlin urged a sen-
sitive and empathetic study of the Torah could counteract the
devastating moroseness and apathy that were consuming modern
Jewish youth.
Another clear symptom of communal deterioration according
to Zeitlin, was the polarization of Jewish society: the ritually
observant Jews loathed the non-observant, the
of one
execrated the followers of another, ideologists on the right
detested those on the left, Hebraists held Yiddishists in con-
tempt, and Zionists berated the non-Zionists. Mounting ran-
cor and discord weakened resistance to the burgeoning centri-
fugal forces beleaguering the Jewish community. In order to
reunite the people, Zeitlin called for the immediate formation
of a democratically elected world Jewish congress to harmonize
the factions and to buttress the Jews for their confrontations
with the more imminent foes. He also proposed that another