Page 35 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 33

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measure of stability, a structure of institutions, a sense of com­
munity life with its landsmanshaftn, its press, its theatre, its
literature—in short, a culture and a linguistic base. As early as
1890, an editorial in the
Yidisher Herold
had proudly pro­
claimed: “Here in America, especially in New York, we now have
the era of Yiddish.”9 As Moyshe Shifris recalls: to the immigrant
fresh from the tyranny of Russia, a city “where you could discuss
socialism in an old-country Yiddish truly felt like a Jewish land”;
a city where you could watch a procession of Jews carrying a new
Torah Scroll to a synagogue, “a Jewish celebration just as it
would have been in the shtetl,” was a world where “the thread
was not broken.”
By the turn of the century the poets of the eighties and nine­
ties, those socially-committed spokesmen for the people, had
either ceased writing poetry or had died. Even Morris Rosenfeld
had already done his best work and seemed to be trying to re­
capture his earlier passion.
Among the new immigrants, especially after the widespread dis­
illusionment with Russia following the Kishinev pogram in 1903
and the failure of the Duma of 1905, were dozens of young men
who hoped for literary careers in Yiddish. Many had even gone
to consult with Peretz. In this new and contoured world of the
early twentieth century, there arose a clamor of new voices, a
group of young writers who expressed the fresh mood of the
American Jewish community. The spirit of the new century was
heard in the literary revolt of the Yunge, the varied band of
young rebels who had little in common except their rebellion
against the social poetry and fiction of the nineteenth century.
Though these young men brought with them, as some of their
predecessors had done, the influence of European literature, and
though, unlike their predecessors, they were well-read in Yiddish
literature and schooled in Jewish learning, it was soon America
that spoke through them in rich and supple Yiddish, free of
“daychmerisms.” Beyond any doubt, for them America was
home; none dreamed of returning to Europe. They had brushed
9 Shlomo Noble, “The Image of the American Jew in Hebrew and Yiddish
Literature in America, 1870-1900,”
YIVO Annual of Jewish Social Science,
New York, YIVO, 1954, vol. IX, p. 96.