Page 167 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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The Modern Hep-Hep38 (1879),
which was a stinging attack on
anti-Semitism and a defense of the Jewish aspiration for a
national homeland. Eliot, the English non-Jew, had become
Emma Lazarus’ role model; and it was she who inspired the
younger American Jewish poet with the idea of Jewish political
nationhood as the logical secure asylum for Jews wherever they
might be oppressed.
Eliot’s vision of the need for a Jewish national home, however,
had a little more of a mystical base than Emma’s, for Eliot’s con­
ception arose not only out of the raging pogroms, but also out of
the new nineteenth century science of race in which race was seen
to be the key to problems of history. Eliot concluded that the Jew­
ish people, as well as any other “racial” group, and perhaps more
because of their persecution, had the right to express the person­
ality of their peoplehood and to develop as a culture in their own
land. Hence, she would have seen emigration to the land as a pos­
itive and necessary step for all Jews.
Eliot’s disciple, Emma Lazarus, was somewhat less inclined.
And although one must see her as a proto-Zionist, she did not
envision the total renationalization of the Jews in the same form
that Herzl was to do so some ten years later. Emma simply was too
American, and still imbued with the democratic ideal of the
founding fathers that held America to be a haven for the
oppressed. Thus she writes in the ironically titled “Epistle to the
Hebrews” — a series of essays written over a period of time:
For the most ardent supporter of the scheme does not urge
the advisability of an emigration
en masse
of the whole Jew­
ish people to any particular spot. There is not the slightest
necessity for an American Jew, the free citizen of a republic,
to rest his hopes upon the foundation of any other national­
ity soever, or to decide whether he individually would or
would not be in favor of residing in Palestine. All that would
be claimed from him would be a patriotic and unselfish
interest in the sufferings of his oppressed brethren of less
fortunate countries, sufficient to make him promote by
38 The original Hep-Hep Movement was the anti-Jewish slogan used during
pogroms in Germany in 1819. The cry was said to be o f Crusader origin, an
acronym o f the words
Hierosolyma est perdita
(Jerusalem is lost).