Page 81 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

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tories where Jews would constitute the majority population and
be free to devote themselves to agricultural pursuits and the
development of their cultural heritage.
Assimilation was a reactionary force in Jewish life, according
to Zhitlovsky, and only Jewish nationalism was truly progres­
sive. Originally opposed to Zionism, staunchly anti-Hebraist and
rabidly anti-clerical, Zhitlovsky gradually came to consider him­
self a Zionist. However, he continued to disapprove of Zionism’s
p inning all its hopes on revolutionary changes in Jewry instead
of dealing with evolutionary developments and with the Jewish
people’s capacity for life manifest in the Yiddish language, Yid­
dish literature and Yiddish cultural sphere.
Nachman Syrkin (1867-1924) provided the basis for the ideol­
ogy of the socialist-Zionist movement. W ith his “double area”
theory, he sought to prove that socialist activity in the Diaspora
could be promoted together with Zionist objectives in Palestine.
Attacking both assimilation and bourgeois Zionism, Syrkin saw
the only ultimate solution to the problem of Jewish homelessness
in the establishment of a Jewish socialist state in Palestine to
which he urged Jews to emigrate.
A consistent “negator of the Diaspora” and of Diaspora cul­
ture, Syrkin repudiated both autonomism, advocated by the
Jewish historian Simon Dubnov, and the positive attitude toward
Yiddish tha t eventually came to be associated with it. An accom­
plished Yiddish journalist, editor and orator, he vehemently op­
posed viewing Yiddish as anything more than a temporary
“jargon.” He drew his inspiration as a Jew solely from the Bible,
the prophets, and the Hebrew tongue.
An idealist and man of the spirit, Syrkin called the Jewish
working class to moral responsibility and a secularized, activist
version of the messianic redemption. He consistently fought
against obscurantism, clericalism, narrowness of vision and lack
of historical perspective. A socialist Jewish state in Palestine
based on justice and equality would, he believed, eventually
benefit all mankind.
Ber Borochov (1881-1917), leading theoretician of the Poaley
Zion party on both sides of the Atlantic, sought to provide a
Marxist basis for the cause of socialist Zionism. Interpreting