Page 52 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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Exodus depicted strong , idealistic Jew s. Soviet Jew s were in trigued
not only by the story o f the establishment o f the State o f Israe l, but
also by the su gge sted parallels to their own contemplated exodu s .
Th e book ’s up lifting nationalism app ea led to Soviet Jew s , long
deprived o f a positive national identity.
Exodus possessed an add itional advan tage — in the course of
the novel it o f fe red basic information abou t Ju d a ism : National
holidays, the history o f Zionism, the Holocaust and the establish­
ment o f the State o f Israel. Th e last section o f the novel contained
a prophetic re ference to Soviet Jew ry as the source for the next
large wave o f aliya to Israel
A lth ou gh less p o p u l a r than W estern f ic t ion , r a r e p r e ­
revolutionary Russian books were in dem and . Soviet Jew s p a r ­
ticularly valued Jabo tin sky ’s Feuilletons, a collection o f speeches
and essays first published in 1911. In the early 1960s, Boris Slovin
reproduced several articles from the book on a copying machine
in his Riga home. He even succeeded in bring ing a su itcase o f
material to Moscow.3 Soviet intellectuals in the 1960s faced the
same issues that Jabo tin sky discussed. He adm on ished Jew s to
reevaluate their position in Russian society; he recogn ized the
lure o f Russian culture but warned his brethren that they would
never be perm itted to assimilate successfully. Th rou gh Jew ish
education he en couraged them to develop self-esteem and pride
in their Jew ishness. Only then could they incorporate into their
Jew ishness the positive aspects o f Russian cu lture .4
By insisting that national culture could exp re ss itself only
through a specific national language , Soviet dogm a p resen ted a
pred icament to the modern Soviet Jew , who rega rded Russian as
his mother tongue . A h a lf century earlier, Jabotin sky dealt with
the same problem in his essay “Jew s and Russian L itera tu re .”
Although he adv ised study o f the Hebrew language , he declared
that the Jew ishness o f a work depend ed not on the langu age in
which it was written, but on the au th o r ’s attitude and on the
aud ience for whom he was writing.5
3 Personal interview with Boris Slovin in June 1979.
4 V. Jabotinsky, “O natsional’nom vospitanie,” Fel'etony, 1913.
5 V. Jabotinsky, “O evreiakh v russkoi literature,” ibid., p. 66.