Page 80 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

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Y idd ish c u l tu re in th e 1890’s w hen he seemed to be con ce rn ed
w i th p r e p a r in g th e g ro u n dw o rk fo r a new , m o d e rn Jew ish life
in w h ich Y idd ish w ou ld become a m o d e rn Jew ish la ngu ag e in
th e fu lles t sense. T h e def in ition , ra t io n a le , a n d p ro g ram fo r Jew ­
ish liv ing th a t W e s te rn E u ro p e a n Jew ry sough t in th e m o d e rn
Jew ish re lig iou s m ovem en ts, th e E u rop e an ized Jew ish y o u th of
Ru ss ia a n d P o la n d fo u n d in th e l i te ra ry works a n d p e rso n a lity
o f Peretz.
A N E W C R E D O
I n p lace of a n a t io n a l te r r i to ry o r re lig iou s reg im en as th e un ify ­
in g fac to r of Jew ish life, Pere tz offered th e Y idd ish language . I n
p lace of fo rm a l re lig ion , he p o in te d to th e re lig iou s ecstasy,
em o tiona lism a n d e th ica l im p e tu s of th e fo lk t r a d i t io n a n d
H asid ism , w h ich cou ld be d u p l ic a te d by th e m o d e rn Jew w i th ­
o u t a sacrifice of in te llec t . H e ta u g h t th a t Ju d a ism was th e u n iq u e
Jew ish ap p ro a ch to th ings , “seeing th e w o r ld th ro u g h Jew ish
eyes,” th e Jew ish
Weltanschauung
th a t was th e p ro d u c t of th e
Jew ish h is to r ic a l expe rience . H e stressed th e in d iv id u a l ’s need
fo r comm un ity an d so lid a r ity w ith his peop le a n d u nm a sk ed th e
dange rs of co sm opo litan ism a n d rugged ind iv idu a lism in Jew ish
life. H is ap p ro a ch to Ju d a ism was dynam ic, evo lu tiona ry , c u l tu ra l
a n d sp ir itu a l . I t was op tim is tic a n d in sp ir ing , ro o ted in the
Jew ish pa s t a n d con f iden t of the fu tu re .
P ere tz’s m o d e rn h um a n is tic in te r p re ta t io n of t r a d i t io n a n d his
call fo r a r e tu r n to th e s tudy of th e Bible, a rev iva l of th e deepe r
values of th e re lig ion of th e past, a n d a know ledge of b o th
H eb rew a n d Y iddish , re sound ed th io u g h o u t th e Jew ish w o rld
as a call to self-respect. P ere tz’s v iew po in t rep re sen ted th e syn­
thesis of E u ro p e an ra tion a lism , aesthe tic ism , a n d m ode rn ism
w ith th e e th ica l a n d cu l tu ra l values of Jud a ism .
C h a im Zhitlovsky (1865-1943), th e o u ts ta n d in g th in k e r of th e
Jew ish c u l tu ra l rena issance in th e Y idd ish language in th e tw en ­
t ie th cen tu ry , was a le ad in g th e o re tic ian of Jew ish socialism,
n a t ion a l ism , a n d rad ic a l secularism , a n d th e p r in c ip a l e x p o n e n t
o f Y idd ish ism in E u ro p e a n d th e U n i te d States.
Zhitlovsky was th e first to call fo r a synthesis of in te rn a t io n a l
socialism a n d n a t io n a l cu l tu re , of p o lit ic a l rad ic a lism a n d
Y idd ish cu ltu r ism . H e advoca ted local au tonom y fo r Jews where-
ever they lived , as well as th e es tab l ishm en t of n a t io n a l te rri-
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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL