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When I was younger it was my belief that egotism was the first principle of life. I felt that all human behavior, however complex, whether evil or noble, could be traced to the single motive of vanity . Was a man generous? It was for esteem. Did he keep his generosity secret? It was for self-esteem. Did he laugh? Only because he felt superior. Did he love? He loved himself. Friendship was flattery, art exhibitionism, religion fear of extinction. It was wonderful . Self-exaltation explained everything. —Paul Jarrico, 1943 The Shapiros The cultural and political basis of the style and work of Paul Jarrico rested on Russian Jewish socialism as mediated by his father, Aaron, and his uncle Chaim. Their father, Israel Gildenberg, was the younger of two sons. To save him from being drafted into the Russian army, his parents sent him to a family named Shapiro, and he took its name.1 Israel Shapiro became a well-to-do merchant in Kremenchug, a city on the Kremenchug River in Ukraine. His first wife bore three daughters and died giving birth to the third. His second wife, Pesia, gave birth to four children: Aaron (born August 18, 1883), Chaim, Abram, and Kalia. They, along with the vast bulk of Russia’s Jews, lived in the Pale of Settlement, the restricted area designated by Empress Catherine II in 1794. It stretched from Kovno province in the north to Bessarabia 1 The Early Years 1915–36 and Taurida in the south. Its boundaries were explicitly defined in 1835 by Tsar Nicholas I, and the status of its inhabitants was systematically reduced by hundreds of ensuing decrees. When Alexander II (1855–81) eased many of the restrictions, especially those pertaining to educational opportunities, a small number of Jews rose to affluence. Jewish prosperity, however, enraged many Russians, anti-Semitic attitudes festered, and the first modern pogrom exploded in Odessa in 1871. Matters worsened after the assassination of Alexander II and the accession of Alexander III (1881–94). Six weeks after the assassination, a series of pogroms erupted in the area where the Shapiros lived. New laws, the so-called Temporary Rules (1882), struck hard at Jewish life, causing a general economic collapse in the Pale. Thousands began to leave for the United States. A small number began to think about immigrating to Palestine. A smaller number became radicalized, and a Jewish working-class movement began to form. This movement took two main forms: social-democratic and Zionist-socialist. The social democrats created a central organization , the General Jewish Workers’ League in Russia and Poland, in October 1897. It was popularly known as Der Bund (the league or alliance). Other socialist-minded Jews, more attuned to Jewish philosophical and messianic traditions and more attracted by the budding concept of Jewish nationalism, organized the Zionist-Socialist Party, Jewish Socialist Workers’ Party, and Poale Zion Party.2 Aaron and Chaim Shapiro became Zionist-Socialists. As a youth growing up in Kremenchug, Aaron loved to fight the gangs of young Russians who bullied Jewish people. He was, his only son, Israel (henceforth Jarrico), later wrote, “certain he could beat up the whole world. One at a time. This certainty never left him.”3 In Minsk, where he went in 1896 to study at the yeshiva, Aaron became involved with Zionists and organized youth circles for the study of Jewish literature. The following year, he moved to Kharkov and became more militantly Zionist. He helped organize the first workers ’ Zionist group and a Jewish self-defense corps, purchased a gun, and, he told his son, allowed no one to belittle a Jew in his presence. Though Aaron continued his studies in Kharkov, he no longer considered himself a religious Jew, and he began preparing himself for entrance into the university. His political record, however, kept him 4 SCREENWRITING from being admitted. Aaron was sentenced to prison as a “dangerous character” in 1902 or 1903. While he was in prison, in April 1903, one of the worst of the pogroms occurred in Kishinev (250 miles southwest of Kremenchug). Forty-five Jews were killed, nearly six hundred were wounded, and massive amounts of property were destroyed. When Aaron escaped from his imprisonment in November 1904, he decided that it was futile to continue to fight anti-Semitism in Russia, and he immigrated to the United States. The following year, his father died and his brother, Chaim, was arrested for political activity. In November 1906, after Chaim’s six-month...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813173009
Related ISBN
9780813124537
MARC Record
OCLC
182624495
Pages
352
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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