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HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN RUSSIA AND POLAND - S.M. Dubnow




jewish genealogy in Argentina

HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN RUSSIA AND POLAND

FROM THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER I UNTIL THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER III

by S.M. Dubnow

A Project Gutenberg EBook

3. THE JEWISH PRESS

In the absence of a comprehensive net-work of social agencies, the driving force in this cultural upheaval came from the periodical Jewish press. The creation of several press organs in Hebrew and Russian in the beginning of the sixties was a sign of the times. Though different in their linguistic medium, the two groups of publications were equally engaged in the task of the regeneration of Judaism, each adapting itself to its particular circle of readers. The Hebrew periodicals, and partly also those in Yiddish which addressed themselves to the masses, preached _Haskalah_ in the narrower sense. They advocated the necessity of a Russian elementary education and of secular culture in general; they emphasized the uselessness of the traditional Jewish school training, and exposed superstition and obscurantism. The Russian publications, again, which were intended for the Jewish and the Russian _intelligenzia_, pursued in the main a political goal, the fight for equal rights and the defence of Judaism against its numerous detractors.

In both groups one can discern the gradual ripening of the social Jewish consciousness, the advance from elementary and often naive notions to more complex ideas. The two Hebrew weeklies founded in 1860, _ha-Karmel_, "The Carmel," in Vilna, and _ha-Melitz_, "The Interpreter," in Odessa, the former edited by Fuenn and the latter by Zederbaum, [1] were at first adapted to the mental level of grown-up children, expatiating upon the benefits of secular education and the "favors" of the Government consequent upon it. _Ha-Karmel_ expired in 1870, while yet in its infancy, though it continued to appear at irregular intervals in the form of booklets dealing with scientific and literary subjects. _Ha-Melitz_ was more successful. It soon grew to be a live and courageous organ which hurled its shafts at Hasidism and Tzaddikism, and occasionally even ventured to raise its hand against rabbinical Judaism. The Yiddish weekly _Kol Mebasser_, [2] which was published during 1862-1871 as a supplement to _ha-Melitz_ and spoke directly to the masses in their own language, attacked the dark sides of the old order of things in publicistic essays and humoristic stories.

[Footnote 1: Before that time, the only weekly in Hebrew was _ha-Maggid_, "The Herald," a paper of no particular literary distinction, published since 1856 in the Prussian border-town Lyck, though addressing itself primarily to the Jews of Russia.]

[Footnote 2: "A voice Announcing Good Tidings."]

Another step forward was the publication of the Hebrew monthly _ha-Shahar_, "The Dawn," which was founded by Perez Smolenskin in 1869. This periodical, which appeared in Vienna but was read principally in Russia, pursued a two-fold aim: to fight against the fanaticism of the benighted masses, on the one hand, and combat the indifference to Judaism of the intellectuals, on the other. _Ha-Shahar_ exerted a tremendous influence upon the mental development of the young generation which had been trained in the heders and yeshibahs. Here they found a response to the thoughts that agitated them; here they learned to think logically and critically and to distinguish between the essential elements in Judaism and its mere accretions. _Ha-Shahar_ was the staff of life for the generation of that period of transition, which stood on the border-line dividing the old Judaism from the new.

The various stages in the Russification of the Jewish _intelligenzia_ are marked by the changing tendencies of the Jewish periodical press in the Russian language. In point of literary form, it approached the European models more closely than the contemporary Hebrew press. The contributors to the three Russian-Jewish weeklies, all of them issued in Odessa, [1] had the advantage of having before them patterns of Western Europe. Jewish publicists of the type of Riesser and Philippson [2] served as living examples. They had blazed the way for Jewish journalism, and had shown it how to fight for civil emancipation, to ward off anti-Semitic attacks, and strive at the same time for the advancement of inner Jewish life.

[Footnote 1: _Razswyet_, "The Dawn," 1860, _Sion_, "Zion," 1861, _Dyen_, "The Day," 1869-1871.]

[Footnote 2: Gabriel Riesser (died 1863), the famous champion of Jewish emancipation in Germany, established the periodical _Der Jude_ in 1832. Ludwig Philippson (died 1889) founded in 1837 _Die Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums_, which still appears in Berlin.]

However, as soon as the Russian Riessers applied themselves to their task, they met with insurmountable difficulties. When the _Razswyet_, which was edited by Osip (Joseph) Rabinovich, attempted to lay bare the inner wounds of Jewish life, it encountered the concerted opposition of all prominent Jews, who were of the opinion that an organ employing the language of the country should not, on tactical grounds, busy itself with self-revelations, but should rather limit itself to the fight for equal rights. The latter function again was hampered by the "other side," the Russian censorship. Despite the moderate tone adopted by the _Razswyet_ in its articles on Jewish emancipation, the Russian censorship found them incompatible with the interests of the State. One circular sent out by the Government went even so far as to prohibit "to to discuss the question of granting the Jews equal rights with those of the other (Russian) subjects." On one occasion the editor of the _Razswyet_, _, in appealing to the authorities of St. Petersburg against the prohibition of a certain article by the Odessa censor, had to resort to the sham argument that the incriminated article referred merely to the necessity of granting the Jews equality in the right of residence but not in other rights. But even this stratagem failed of its object. After a year of bitter struggle against the interference of the censor and against financial difficulties--the number of Russian readers among Jews was still very small at that time--the _Razswyet_ passed out of existence.

Its successor _Sion_ ("Zion"), edited by Solovaychik and Leon Pinsker, who subsequently bec me the exponent of pre-Herzlian Zionism,[1] attempted a different policy: to prove the case of the Jews by arraigning the anti-Semites and acquainting the Russian public with the history of Judaism. _Sion_, too, like its predecessors, had to give up the fight in less than a year.

[Footnote 1: See later, p. 330 et seq.]

After an interval of seven years a new attempt was made in the same city. The _Dyen_ ("The Day") [1] was able to muster a larger number of contributors from among the increased ranks of the "titled" _intelligenzia_ than its predecessors. The new periodical was bolder in unfurling the banner of emancipation, but it also went much further than its predecessors in its championship of Russification and assimilation. The motto of the _Dyen_ was "complete fusion of the interests of the Jewish population with those of the other citizens." The editors looked upon the Jewish problem "not as a national but as a social and economic" issue, which in their opinion could be solved simply by bestowing upon this "section of the Russian people" the same rights which were enjoyed by the rest. The Odessa pogrom of 1871 might have taught the writers of the _Dyen_ to judge more soberly the prospects of "a fusion of interests," had not a meddlesome censorship forced this periodical to discontinue its publication after a short time.

[Footnote 1: The name was meant to symbolize the approaching day of freedom. It was a weekly publication.]

The next few years were a period of silence in the Russian-Jewish press. [1] The rank and file of the Russian Jewish intellectuals, who formed the backbone of the reading public of this press, became indifferent to it. Living up conscientiously to the principle of a "fusion of interests," they failed to recognize the special interests of their own people, whose only duty they thought was to be Russified, i.e., obliterated and put out of existence. The better elements among the _intelligenzia_, however, looked with consternation upon this growing indifference to everything Jewish among the college-bred Jewish youth. As a result, a new attempt was made toward the very end of this period to restore the Russian-Jewish press. Three weeklies, the _Russki Yevrey_ ("The Russian Jew"), the _Razswyet_ ("The Dawn"), and later on the _Voskhod_ ("The Sunrise"), were started in St. Petersburg, all endeavoring to gain the hearts of the Russian Jewish _intelligenzia_. In the midst of this work they were overwhelmed by the terrific cataclysm of 1881, which decided the further destinies of Jewish journalism in Russia.

[Footnote 1: We disregard the colorless _Vyestnik Russkikh "Yevreyev"_ ("The Herald of Russian Jews"), published by Zederbaum in the beginning of the seventies in St. Petersburg, and the volumes of the _Yevreyskaya Bibliotyeka_ ("The Jewish Library"), issued at irregular intervals by Adolph Landau.]



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