Agrippa I: The Last King of Judaea (Texte und Studien zum by Daniel R Schwartz

By Daniel R Schwartz

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Sample text

However, the joy of returning, the final words of Glatshteyn’s poem, is not only a significant literary response to rising anti-Semitism but a master trope that crystallizes the modern Jewish experience. Secular and religious Zionism, Bundism, neo-orthodoxy, and Jewish messianic movements (such as Lubavitscher Hasidim) suggested varied political, cultural and religious solutions that would “normalize” modern Jewish life. These movements advocated respectively a return to eretz yis’rael (the land of Israel); to Yiddish culture as the embodiment of the folk spirit integrated in a socialist international; and to a renewed faith in God and the coming of the Messiah.

The three memoirs, their authors’ only written work, were published posthumously. The Montreal Yiddish writer Chava Rosenfarb pointed out in a 1992 article that in giving literary form to her incarceration in the Lodz Ghetto 1941–1944 she had to subsume her individual female experiences in a collective portrait of a doomed Jewish community: “my concern about the Yiddish woman writer’s specific condition tends to fade into insignificance in light of the situation facing Yiddish postHolocaust in general.

But the maskilim’s artistic mastery of the colloquial richness of Yiddish often transcended their original intention for using Yiddish as a literary medium. Shloyme reb khayims belongs to this main trend in nineteenthcentury Yiddish literature coloured by the neo-romantic trends of the 1890s. The work is to a large extent a typical Enlightenment novel in its critical and satirical depiction of Jewish life. As in other such Yiddish novels, the same artistic delight in replicating customs and superstitious beliefs is evident in Abramovitsh’ depiction of his mother’s tkhines (penitential prayer), the “Napoleon’s hat” designed by his father, Toybe-Sosye’s sabobones (superstitions), and so on.

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