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Epilogue 14 | Jerusalem and Babylon Simon Rawidowicz Simon Rawidowicz, “Jerusalem and Babylon,” in Judaism 18 (1969): 131–42, a condensed translation and paraphrase by Frank Talmage of Bavel ve‑ Yerushalayim (Waltham, MA: Ararat, 1957), 506–26. Republished in Simon Rawidowicz, State of Israel, Diaspora, and Jewish Continuity: Essays on the “Ever‑Dying People,” ed. Benjamin Ravid (Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 1998), 229–39. With the European community in fragments or behind the Iron Curtain (with some exceptions, such as Great Britain) and the Zionists’ success in establishing a refuge for world Jewry, after 1948 Israel became the focus of national identity for Jews in the diaspora as much as for those in the new state. Israel, together with modern Hebrew, became the political and cultural locus for world Jewry. The creation of a Jewish nation-state changed permanently how Jews, from the most secular to the most religious, perceived the meaning of Jewish peoplehood by creating a new category of Jews: Israelis, who were citizens of the Jewish state. For most Zionists living in the diaspora, the change reflected merely the Jews’ “normalization,” the marker of Zionism’s greatest success. For Simon Rawidowicz (1896–1957), however , the separation of Jews into Israelis and others marked a troubling division in the people of Israel (am Yisrael). Rawidowicz was born in the town of Graevo, in the Russian Empire, to a family that emphasized both Jewish religious scholarship and modern Hebrew literature. Rawidowicz attended a heder, studied Talmud with his father, and at fourteen went off to the Lida Yeshiva (though he spent only a year there). Rawidowicz’s father, Chaim, read the Hebrew literature of the Haskala and was involved from the early 1890s in organizations fostering Jewish settlement in Palestine, such as Hoveve Zion (Lovers of Zion). Thus, although Yiddish was for the Rawidowicz family, as for most Jews in the Russian Empire, the mameloshn (mother tongue), the family was unusually devoted to the development of Hebrew culture, and even to a Hebrew vernacular. The father’s love of Hebrew would have a lifelong impact on the son, as Rawidowicz promoted Hebrew’s cultivation by Jews beginning in his 218 | e p i lo g u e teenage years in Graevo, in Bialystok (where he founded a Hebrew school and theater), through his time in Berlin studying philosophy (where he founded the Brit Ivrit Olamit, or World Hebrew Union), and until his death (when he was chair of the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University). Rawidowicz published prolifically in Hebrew, Yiddish, and German—writing especially on Ludwig Feuerbachs, Nachman Krochmal, and Moses Mendelssohn—and over the years he edited a number of Hebrew periodicals. Of particular concern to Rawidowicz was the goal of making Jewish thought available to Jewish scholars in the unabridged original Hebrew, and toward that end he founded the Ayanot Publishing Company in Berlin, in 1922, and then the Ararat Publishing Company in England, in 1942. Like many Hebraists, Rawidowicz was also a Zionist who expressed a strong desire to settle in the Land of Israel. Yet he was at the same time disturbed by the seeming success of those who sought to orient Zionism toward the negation of the galut, whether interpreted as diaspora or exile. Like Dubnov, to whom he considered himself intellectually indebted, Rawidowicz saw efforts to push Jewish cultural life from the diaspora to Israel as based upon a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of Jewish existence and what made the Jews unique as a nation. To counter the spiritual Zionists who sought to put Israel alone in the center of the Jewish renaissance, Rawidowicz wrote several articles and speeches devoted to contemplating the nature of Jewish existence in the diaspora. He repeatedly pointed out that while Zionism could exist as a political and cultural movement, and even bring forth a state, attempting to negate the diaspora—in spirit or content —was a destructive form of messianism. Most problematic, to Rawidowicz, is how the “negators” could discourage Jewish cultural creativity in the diaspora, and in Israel erode the principle that all Jews worldwide share a spiritual and national bond. Thus, negating the diaspora is strangely denationalizing, as it frees Israelis (or, before the founding of the State of Israel, “Hebrews”) from seeing themselves as Jews, and Jews remaining in the diaspora from participating in Jewish national culture. Hence Rawidowicz’s anger over the state’s name: to use the name Israel, rather than Eretz Yisrael (the Land of...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781611683622
Related ISBN
9781584657613
MARC Record
OCLC
820732287
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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