Page 73 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

Basic HTML Version

lished in
Since such cases unfortunately occurred all too
frequently throughout Eastern Europe at that time (especially in
small villages where the ancient hoax was used by the local clergy
to incite the populace against the Jews), Zederbaum had no rea­
son to doubt the veracity of the report. When the letter appeared,
Mandelkern complained that Zederbaum had published false in­
formation. Thereupon, the Russian police investigated, and
found that indeed absolutely nothing had happened in that Bes­
sarabian village. Zederbaum, who under Russian law was respon­
sible for the veracity of everything that appeared in his paper,
was severely reprimanded and his journal was suspended from
November 1879 until April 1880. The enraged Zederbaum soon
discovered the source o f the faked le tte r , and exposed
Mandelkern’s treacherous hoax. As a consequence, Mandelkern
was immediately dismissed from his post as assistant rabbi and
was expelled from Russia. It remains a mystery how a man of
such erudition as well as intimate knowledge of the Russian au­
thorities and their methods could conceive such a stupid strata­
gem and hope to get away with it. His early biographers (some of
whom knew Mandelkern personally) either ignored this sordid
episode or, if they mentioned it, could not give any explanation
for his behavior other than ascribing it to an early flare-up of the
temporary insanity that was to afflict him towards the end of his
life. It is not known whether his wife accompanied him into exile,
but since later accounts by friends who visited him always speak
of him as living alone, she probably stayed behind rather than
sharing her husband’s disgrace.
Mandelkern left Russia just in time to escape the wave of po­
groms that swept through the Pale of Settlement in the Ukraine
and Russia in the early 1880’s, and of which the Jews of Odessa
became victims in 1881. These pogroms and the growing anti-
Semitism of the Russian authorities convinced the
the goal of enlightenment they had pursued in good faith was a
delusion. Most of them joined the Zionist movement that arose in
the wake of the pogroms, and sought a solution of the “Jewish
question” through the establishment of a homeland in the Holy
Land. While Mandelkern had been forced to leave Russia
abruptly, his choice of Germany as a refuge was quite typical for