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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

2. PINSKER'S "AUTOEMANCIPATION"

The conception of emigration as a means of national rejuvenation, which had sprung to life amidst the "thunder and lightning" of the pogroms, found a thoughtful exponent in the person of Dr. Leon Pinsker, a prominent communal worker in Odessa, who had at one time looked to assimilation as promising a solution of the Jewish problem. In his pamphlet "Autoemancipation" (published in September, 1882), which is marked by profound thinking, Pinsker vividly describes the mental agony experienced by him at the sight of the physical slavery of the Jewry of Russia and the spiritual slavery of the emancipated Jewry of Western Europe. To him the Jewish people in the Diaspora is not a living nation, but rather the ghost of a nation, haunting the globe and scaring all living national organisms. The salvation of Judaism can only be brought about by transforming this ghost into a real being, by re-establishing the Jewish people upon a territory of its own which might be obtained through the common endeavor of Jewry and through international Jewish co-operation in some convenient part of the globe, be it Palestine or America. Such is the way of Jewish autoemancipation, in contradistinction from the civic emancipation, which had been bestowed by the dominant nationalities upon the Jews as an act of grace and which does not safeguard them against anti-Semitism and the humiliating position of second-rate citizens. The Jewish people can be restored, if, instead of many places of refuge scattered all over the globe, it will be concentrated in one politically guaranteed place of refuge. For this purpose a general Jewish congress ought to be called which should be entrusted with the financial and political issues involved in the plan. The present generation must take the first step towards this national restoration; posterity will do the rest.

Pinsker's pamphlet, which was written in German and printed abroad [1] with the intention of appealing to the Jews of Western Europe, failed to produce any effect upon that assimilated section of the Jewish people. In Russia, however, it became the catechism of the "Love of Zion" movement and eventually of Zionism and Territorialism. The theory expounded in Pinsker's pamphlet made a strong appeal to the Russian Jews, not only on account of its close reasoning but also because it gave powerful utterance to that pessimistic frame of mind which seemed to have seized upon them all. Its weakest point lay in the fact that it rested on a wrong historic premise and on a narrow definition of the term "nation" in the sense of a territorial and political organism. Pinaker seems to have overlooked that the Jews of the Diaspora, taken as a whole, have not ceased to form a nation, though of a type of its own, and that in modern political history nations of this "cultural" complexion have appeared on the scene more and more frequently.

[Footnote 1: The first edition appeared in Berlin, in 1882. It bears the sub-title: "An Appeal to his Brethren by a Russian Jew," It was published anonymously.]

Lacking a definite practical foundation, Pinsker's doctrine could not but accomodate itself to the Palestinian colonization movement, although its insignificant dimensions were entirely out of proportion to the far-reaching plans conceived by the author of "Autoemancipation." Lilienblum and Pinsker were joined by the old nationalist Smolenskin and the former assimilator Levanda. _Ha-Shahar_ and _ha-Melitx_ in Hebrew and the _Razsvyet_ in Russian became the literary vehicles of the new movement. In opposition to these tendencies, the _Voskhod_ of St. Petersburg[1] reflected the ideas of the progressive Russian-Jewish _intelligenzia_, and defended their old position which was that of civil emancipation and inner Jewish reforms. In the middle between these two extremes stood the Russian weekly _Russki Yevrey_ ("The Russian Jew"), in St. Petersburg, and the Hebrew weekly _ha-Tzefirah_ ("The Dawn"), in Warsaw, voicing the moderate views of the Haskalah period, with a decided bent towards the nationalistic movement.

[Footnote 1: See p. 221, It appeared simultaneously as a weekly and a monthly.]



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