The Tragedy of a Generation: The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism in EasternEurope (Harvard University Press, 2013) traces the origins of two influential but overlooked strains of Jewish thought, Diaspora Nationalism and Yiddishism. Its leading exemplars dreamed of an autonomous Jewish nation in Europe, but were forced to reassess this ideal when confronted with the realities of life and politics in post-World War I Eastern Europe, the rise of fascism and Nazism, and later, the Holocaust. The book’s author, Joshua Karlip, examines Diaspora Nationalism and Yiddishism by tracing the lives and thought of three of the movements’ leaders, Elias Tcherikower, Yisroel Efroikin, and Zelig Kalmanovitch.
Joshua M. Karlip is Associate Professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University. He was interviewed by Yedies Editor, Roberta Newman.
On November 29, 1964, host Sheftl Zak interviewed YIVO historian Zosa Szajkowski about the Papers of Lucien Wolf (1857-1930) and David Mowshowitch (1887-1957) (YIVO Archives RG 348.) Wolf was an English Jew who served as a delegate to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and was involved in the drafting of minorities treaties which sought to guarantee rights for minorities, including Jews, in the new nation-states created in the wake of World War I. David Mowshowitch was Wolf’s secretary, as well as secretary of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
From 1963-1976, YIVO had its own program on WEVD, the radio station established by the Socialist Party of America in 1927 (its call letters stand for the initials of American socialist leader Eugene V. Debs), which was purchased by the Jewish Daily Forward in 1932 and became a major venue from Yiddish programming.
YIVO used its spot on WEVD for Yiddish-language interviews and discussions with leading New York Yiddish cultural figures, as well as for reporting on its own scholarly and cultural work.
A new podcast of this program in the order in which it was originally broadcast will be posted here every two weeks.
Presentation of series curated by Matt Temkin, YIVO Sound Archives.
Elsewhere in this March 7, 2014 edition Yedies, historian Joshua Karlip discusses the Diaspora Nationalist movement in Eastern Europe and notes that the father of the movement and its ideology was the scholar Simon Dubnow.
There are few more towering figures in the history of East European Jewry than Dubnow, who is also sometimes referred to as one of the fathers of modern Jewish history. The awe in which he was held is reflected in this article from the December 1935 issue of Yedies, which reported on celebrations around the world in honor of his 75th birthday. Jewish communities in Vilna, Warsaw, Lodz, Paris, and New York held public events.
The Paris event included speeches by several key Diaspora Nationalist leaders, such as Yisroel Efroikin, who spoke on Dubnow as the creator of Diaspora Nationalist ideology; Elias Tcherikower, whose presentation dealt with the influence of Heinrich Graetz on Dubnow; and Ben-Adir, whose talk was entitled “Dubnow’s Influence on Our Political and Spiritual Development.” Mark Chagall was also present, and delivered a lecture on Dubnow’s influence on Jewish art.
The best parts of the Yiddish past are fragile: a yellowing installment of a serialized novel in Der tog, a barely legible handwritten letter, a fragment of song passed down from mother to daughter. Ruth Rubin, the celebrated scholar, singer, and collector of Yiddish folk music, knew how ephemeral this last, private, often unwritten transmission could be, and dedicated her life to capturing ordinary Yiddish-speakers’ performances and interpretations of thousands of songs—in kitchens, parlors, and factories.
But even her tireless efforts couldn’t completely stall decay. Before Rubin died, she donated a portion of her un-archived materials to YIVO, and as of 2012, 125 hours of her tapes were badly in need of preservation and digitization. That summer, YIVO sound archivist and Klezmatics lead singer Lorin Sklamberg, along with Yiddish singer Jeanette Lewicki, began the huge project of digitizing the Rubin archive. As of last spring, 357 songs (out of 2000) had been digitized. What does this newly accessible slice of the Rubin corpus contain?
Visit yivo.org/video to view or listen to many of YIVO’s public programs from 2005 to the present. Some of our most recent additions include:
Monday, January 6, 2014: Rethinking Kishinev: How a Riot Changed 20th Century Jewish History, the keynote address for the 2014 YIVO-Bard Winter Program on Ashkenazi Civilization. This lecture by Steven Zipperstein (Stanford University; Inaugural YIVO Jacob Kronhill Visiting Scholar in History) explored the lasting impact of the 1903 pogrom in Kishinev, Russia, that left 49 dead and dominated headlines in the western press. Watch the video.
A number of YIVO public programs received press coverage. YIVO’s February 14th roundtable discussion on Lithuanian-Jewish relations, “Unresolved History: Jews and Lithuanians After the Holocaust,” is reported on by Ralph Seliger in the 3-part article “Israel & Lithuania: Parallel Dueling ‘Narratives’,” on the Partners for Progressive Israel Blog. Part III of the article can be read here.
An article on Steven Zipperstein’s January 6 lecture at YIVO, “Rethinking Kishinev: How a Riot Changed 20th Century Jewish History,” appears on the blog Mondoweiss, where it sparked an extensive and lively exchange of comments by readers.
The Forverts reported on the February 6 Yiddish lecture by Michael Steinlauf and program moderated by Eddy Portnoy , “Y.L. Peretz in a Time of Revolution.”
In 1937, Yedies reported on its survey of pinkasim (Jewish communal registers), whose mission was the gathering of information about pinkasim in Jewish communities all over Poland.
Over one hundred communities had responded to YIVO’s call for participation in the survey, yielding information on over 300 pinkasim, including several from the 17th and 18th centuries. (The article provides a long list of zamlers [collectors] and communities.)
As part of the project, the noted historian Raphael Mahler, an editor and researcher in YIVO’s Historical Section, made a special visit to the town of Pińczów to examine pinkasim, and also inspected registers at the S. An-Ski Jewish Historical Ethnographic Society and other institutions in Vilna. Yedies noted that personnel of the Joint Distribution Committee was also providing assistance to the project.
But YIVO was aware that it was scraping only the tip of the iceberg and that there were many more pinkasim out there that were in danger of being lost. Many had already disappeared. Some were in private hands and not being properly cared for. “In order to rescue them for Jewish history,” the article noted, it was “essential that they be copied and that the transcripts be centralized in the archives of the Yiddish Scientific Institute” [YIVO’s original official name].
Yiddish literature and poetry took off in America on the crest of a huge Jewish immigrant wave at the beginning of the twentieth century. Yiddish writers kept ripening their talent as most other speakers of their language were swept into the English mainstream. Can individual genius flourish during its culture’s decline? Jacob Glatstein, or Yankev Glatshteyn, became an American original by turning that question into the driving force of his poetry and the concern of his prose. On Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 7:00pm, Ruth Wisse, Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University, will discuss Jacob Glatstein’s life and work and will read excerpts from his poetry in Yiddish.
A Yiddishkayt of folk air
to prick the heart and pour
warm honey at the sight
of things that touch the cockles?
If that’s the stuff we celebrate
we’d better do without.
Yiddish poets, are you bees
who close the feast
of song, and nothing more?
From “Yiddishkayt” by Jacob Glatstein Translation by Cynthia Ozick
On Sunday, March 2, 2014, 1:00pm, a symposium at the Center for Jewish History (jointly sponsored by YIVO and the Center for Jewish History) will explore the resourceful ways that the Jewish women in Eastern Europe navigated modernity from the late nineteenth century through the Holocaust. The event will be co-chaired by Elissa Bemporad (Queens College) and Glenn Dynner (Sarah Lawrence College).