Page 45 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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SOVIV / AMERICAN YIDDISH LITERATURE
35
brought over many o f the “ core” elements o f Eastern European
Jewry. Many o f them, the socialists included, had already been
influenced by the Jewish national awakening and had w ider cul­
tural interests than the earlier immigrants, who represented
mostly the “ fr in ge ” elements o f their communities.
Am on g the new immigrants there came new writers with strong
Jewish loyalties. N ew tunes began to be heard even in the “ rad i­
cal” press. A . L itvin proclaimed: “ You , Mr. Feigenbaum, may say
whatever you please; I am proud that I am not a descendant o f the
Hottentots or Chinese, but that I am a Jew.” 3T h e
Zukunft
and the
other socialist periodicals published Liessin’s and Yehoash ’s na­
tional romantic poems, and Chaim Zhitlowsky’s essays in which he
argued that Jewish socialism should be nationally oriented. Sym­
bolic o f the change in the climate o f op in ion on the part o f the
Russified American Jewish intellectuals was David Pinski’s drama
Family Tsvi,
which was conceived “ at the open grave o f the
Kishinev victims.” 4
A n end now came to con form ity in Yiddish literature and no
longer was it con fined to a standard set o f topics. A group o f poets
and prose writers known collectively as “ Die Yunge ” (T h e Y oun g )
waged battle against the older group fo r allowing literature to be
turned into a propaganda vehicle. T h e y raised the banners o f
individualism and aestheticism. T h e ir slogans were art fo r art’s
sake, and self-fu lfillment o f the artist. T h e publication o f an
independent organ o f expression,
Die Shriftn,
in 1912, brought
the existence o f this group into the limelight. T o this school
b e lon g e d D a v id I g n a t o f f , I . R aboy , M .L . H a lp e rn , M.J.
Haimowitz and Joseph Opatoshu.
F R U IT S OF R A D IC A L ISM
Secularism was a natural corollary to socialist enlightenment.
A be Cahan relates in his
Bleter fu n mayn leben
(Leaves From My
L i fe ) that the study o f geography brought him to agnosticism.
When he found out that the revolution o f the earth around the
sun accounted fo r the changing seasons, he arrived at the conclu­
sion: “ I f this is a natural phenomenon, then what is God fo r? ” T h e
study o f the natural sciences convinced him that the universe had
3 Quoted after N iger from
Zukunft,
Oct. 1904.
4 Preface to
Familye Tsvi,
Geneva, 1905.