On the Eve of Redemption
S. M. Melamed, Ph. D.
Alpha Omega Publishing Company,
Alpha Omega Publishing Co., Inc.
The following pages comprise a number of editorial leaders discussing questions and problems pertaining to Jewish nationalism and Zionism which were published in the American Jewish Chronicle in the years 1916-17-18.
The war has caused an upheaval of the whole world; vast changes have been wrought in many peoples. Destruction of life and treasure has brought about a revolution of national assets and resources, and there has been stock taking of the spiritual no less than of the material possessions. We have confident hope that the material losses will be balanced by the moral progress of the peoples of the world, great and small.
No people has felt the upheaval more than have the Jews. None has had a greater share in its sorrows. None has had more reason to examine carefully its past and its present and to define its future plans; and none can look with clearer purpose or with firmer courage into the future. For none has better ground than have the Jews for confident hope in the moral progress of the world,—that people which has been the constant witness of the course of civilization throughout the ages[iv] and has never lost its faith in the ultimate victory of Justice and Right.
We need not speak in generalities. The smaller nations are assured that their rights will be safeguarded in the future, and that these rights will embrace not only protection from attack and aggression, but equally the right of development along the lines of their own national bent, the right of self-government, the right to cultivate their own spiritual possessions. There is no other people to whom this is so full of deep meaning as to the Jews. During the many centuries of the Dispersion our people has ever looked forward to its Restoration in its ancestral home. During these many centuries there has never been a day that the prayers for the Return have not ascended in every country of the world in which the Children of Israel have been dispersed. This undying hope has been the factor in the unique, the miraculous preservation of a small people scattered among all the peoples of the globe.
The national movement of the past generation, which has led to the rejuvenation of the Hebrew language, to the founding of prosperous Jewish colonies in Palestine, to the[v] establishment of the Zionist Organization with its branches throughout the world, this national movement has trained us to think politically and to act with statesmanlike grasp of present conditions and of plans for the future. A part of our people has been prepared to deal with the great national problems which obtrude themselves upon us today. Large numbers are still confused by the new outlook and must find guides to direct them in the new paths.
The Essays which Dr. Melamed presents to us in this volume are therefore most welcome at this time. He has applied his vast knowledge of history, philosophy and literature, and his intimate acquaintance with Jewish life in many parts of the world, to answer many of the questions about which there has been confusion, and to point out the direction of progress and development in the future. In clear and forceful language he has analyzed Jewish conditions in the past and studied the needs of the future, so as to point out what the present demands of us. We may not agree fully with all the views and conclusions expressed, but we shall find them original, suggestive and illuminating. The publication[vi] of these Essays is therefore opportune and timely, and the Jewish public is deeply indebted to Dr. Melamed for their presentation.
December 23, 1917.
Even history has its reasons that reason often fails to understand. When news reached Rome in August 70 C.E. that Judea was conquered, the temple burned and the Jewish people subjugated, the Roman populace greeted it with the infamous cry, “Hierosolyma est perdita”; there was rejoicing at the downfall and humiliation of the Jewish state. Eighteen hundred and forty-seven years later, after the deafening cries “Hierosolyma est perdita” were shouted in the streets of the eternal city, an Italian army leaves Rome with Palestine again as its objective; but this time it marches not with the object of annihilating Judea, but, as an official message puts it—to enable the allied powers to wrest the Holy Land from the Turks, to turn it over eventually to the Jews, and thus to rebuild Judea. Even if there should be little to the Roman announcement, it is not lacking a pathetic touch; it testifies to the grim irony of history. The same Rome that once destroyed Judea is making public its intention today to help rebuild it. Our ancestors, who were the tragic witnesses of the cruel destruction of Judea, would surely not think of the possibility that after a lapse of nearly two thousand years, an army should leave Rome for Palestine with the object of helping to reinstate the Jewish people in the land of its forefathers; nor could anyone have foreseen that the Rome of old, that aimed at the subjugation of small nationalities, would be succeeded by a new Rome that pronounces its stand for the rights and political re-establishment of small and oppressed nationalities.
Of course, people will say that modern Rome can in no way be compared to ancient Rome and that the two have nothing in common. However, those who have read Montesquieu and Hegel on the deeds of ancient Rome and those who have followed the development of modern Rome, will recognize the close similarity between the two. As far as power and political and strategic genius go, modern Rome, it is true, cannot be compared to its predecessor of two thousand years ago; but if traditions, surroundings and other sociological factors that give a people shape and form count for anything, the Roman of today is bound to have a good deal in common with the Roman of two thousand years ago, even if the one is not racially the offspring of the other.
Present-day Rome has much in common with ancient Rome. The main difference between them is, of course, this: While ancient Rome, dominating the entire world then known to humanity, and forming the centre of the Mediterranean civilization, was the world power of the time, modern Rome holds neither the political position of ancient Rome nor is it the representative and bearer of the Mediterranean civilization. The predominance of Mediterranean civilization has gone with the last great Doges of Venice, and modern Rome is no longer the centre of gravitation of civilized humanity that ancient Rome was two thousand years ago. In the course of the last millenium, the centre of civilization has shifted from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. It is the Atlantic civilization that is supreme today. The whole terrible fight that is going on today in all parts of the world is not a fight about the Mediterranean and its supremacy, but it is a struggle for the Atlantic and its predominance—and, in this struggle, Rome is no longer playing a leading part.
In the course of the fight about the Mediterranean, Judea was destroyed and the whole Semitic race nearly annihilated. The wars of Rome against Carthage, the people of which spoke Hebrew and formed a branch of the Aramaic family of nations, were fought with the only object of preserving Roman supremacy in the Mediterranean. The fight for the Atlantic, however, has already resulted in the re-establishment of one Semitic nation—the Arab—and will probably also result in the re-establishment of old Judea. That is where the difference between the fight for the Mediterranean, fought by ancient Rome, and the fight for the Atlantic, in which modern Rome participates, comes in.
The ancient Mediterranean Rome was not only imperialistic to the core, but universalistic as well. The chief aim and plan of ancient Rome was to subjugate the whole world, then known to humanity, with a view to dominating it. The idea of a universal monarchy at the expense of the independence and freedom of other nations first originated in ancient Rome. Rome of today, which takes part in the fight for the Atlantic, is imperialistic, although no longer striving for political universalism and world domination; it announces that it stands today for the preservation of the individuality of the small nations.
The prospective re-establishment of Judea, as one of the consequences of the present war, cannot be a blind chance of fate. There is historical logic in this development. Palestine, as a Mediterranean country could not maintain its independence in the face of a rising Mediterranean world power that strove to master not only the Mediterranean but all the other parts of the globe then known to mankind. Our sages of old found a thousand and one moral and political reasons for the downfall of ancient Judea and for its destruction by Rome. They ascribed the downfall of ancient Judea not only to political, but even to moral causes and to the growth of individual hatred and dissensions among the Jews themselves. The internal political and moral reasons advanced by our sages for the downfall of Judea may have contributed to the destruction, but the main reason was the determination of Rome to master all the shores of the Mediterranean and to dominate the entire ancient world. In the face of this fact, even an internally solid and strong Judea would have finally succumbed as did Carthage, which produced greater generals and gave a better military account of itself than did Judea. The destruction of Judea was a tragic historical necessity and could only have been avoided if Rome had, by a miracle, suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth. Were present Rome what ancient Rome was, the centre of civilization that strove for the mastery not only of the Mediterranean countries but also of the entire world, the prospective re-establishment of Judea today would have as little chance as ancient Judea of surviving or resisting Roman aggression. The prospective re-establishment of Judea is only possible because the centre of civilization has been shifted from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.
Why did the Jewish people suffer two thousand years under the dispersion and why did they not try during this long period to re-establish their political sovereignty in the land of their ancestors? Even the best of our thinkers ascribe this national default and political apathy to a sort of lethargy of which the Jews were apparently the victims. To many a Jewish thinker, Ahad Ha’am not excepted, the past two thousand years of Jewish existence appears to be planless and one great historic confusion; but on looking closely at developments, one will come to recognize that not because of lethargy, but because of given historical conditions, the Jewish people could not up to our times have attempted to re-establish their national sovereignty in the land of their forefathers. More than a thousand years after the downfall of western Rome, Mediterranean civilization, though degenerated, remained supreme and was identical with civilization at large. The chief move of its centre from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic and the consolidation of a new center was accomplished only after a struggle of nearly five hundred years. So long as Atlantic civilization was not supreme and so long as the fight for its supremacy was not finished, the political re-establishment of Judea, closely connected with the settlement of the solution of questions arising out of the fight for the Atlantic and all that there is to it—the individualization of international politics, the preservation of the small nationalities, their political restoration, etc.—could not be taken up and no serious attempt to re-establish the Jewish nationality in Palestine could be made by the Jews or other nations interested in the settlement of the Jewish question.
For these reasons, the re-establishment of Judea, as one of the post-bellum problems, is as historically logical now as was the downfall of Judea a historical necessity two thousand years ago.
There are no blind chances in history, nor are there stagnant moments in history. History has its reasons, which, however, reason often fails to understand.
Ever since the Jewish people lost its national independence and sovereignty and began to live in dispersion among the nations of the earth, it has lost the opportunity and possibility of continuing the work of its national civilization and has had to be satisfied with producing cultural values only. Everything that individual Jews have achieved in the past two thousand years in the domain of civilization has been an enrichment of the civilization of the peoples among whom they have lived. Jews have always been prominent in commerce and industry, but there was no national Jewish commerce and no national Jewish industry, even when those who created and developed certain branches of commerce were all Jews. Their commercial and industrial activities and accomplishments strengthened the other nations among whom the Jews lived, but not themselves. In many cases they have endangered and imperiled the Jewish people, because they became the arsenal of anti-Semitic weapons. The individual has profited by Jewish industrial and commercial achievements, but not the Jewish collective body. In short, all our work and energy in the domain of practical civilization has reached not the Jewish people, but other nations, and only a few have given us credit for these achievements.
Often enough have we been blamed for them. The Dutchman is full of envy of the Jew to the present day for having monopolized the diamond cutting industry; the Turks are still angry when they remember that Baron de Hirsch built their railroads. In Switzerland people are blaming the Jews for having monopolized the silk and watch industries; the Russians antagonize them because of their big share in the development of the petrol wells in the Caucasus and in the lumber business in western Russia. A famous German professor, Werner Sombart, has written a voluminous book of five hundred pages in which he indicts us for having developed capitalism, while others are accusing the Jews of having produced anti-capitalistic forces. In short, not only have the activities of individual Jews in the domain of civilization not been of profit to them as a people, but they have in too many cases served as a basis of attack.
The cause of these peculiar phenomena was our diaspora life. We had no homeland of our own. We had no national soil beneath us and no national sky above us. We were a wandering people and as such could not produce a national civilization, which involves and presupposes a static and not a dynamic order of things. But as soon as the Jews can lead a normal national life, all this, unhappy and tragic, will change radically and an entirely new order of things will arise. Not the Jewish individual, as heretofore, but the Jewish people at large, will be the agency of the Jewish genius and whatever the Jewish individual has to contribute to civilization he will contribute through the Jewish people. While his achievements in this domain will serve humanity, as heretofore, they will at the same time enrich the life of his own people and become a source of strength instead of weakness; when the Jews have an opportunity to be active for civilization as Jews, Jewish individualism, the curse of our racial life, will gradually disappear.
Only a few of us realize the fact that this individualism, which finds its unpleasant expression in petty factionalism, communal strife, party quarrels and lack of discipline among the rank and file, is in the main to be ascribed to the fact that the Jews have no national civilization. If we had one, many an unpleasant phenomenon in our public life would be impossible. If the Jews had common political responsibilities, if they had all to look to the safety of their country, if they had all to look after their national economic interests, the national intellect would be more uniform and two Jews would not have three different opinions. It is the lack of a national Jewish civilization that makes the Jewish intellect queer and misshapen. The mind of a people can only be trained by its national civilization, and is orientated by it. But since the Jews have lacked national civilization for the last two thousand years, the intellect of the nation has lost its uniformity, has become atomized and has in many cases gone astray. This has added to our inner misery and has driven many an idealistic Jew to despair. At the moment when the Jews begin to lead a national life on national soil and under their own sky, which give out line and color to the soul of a nation, many negative energies which are active in our life because of the effects of diaspora existence must necessarily disappear. The intellectual discipline of the nation will be re-established and the life of its soul will again assume normal proportions. There will be a Jewish public opinion in the best meaning of the term, not merely the opinion of individual Jews.
It is generally asserted that, though the Jews as such have not produced a civilization during their life in diaspora, they have produced a culture. This is sincerely believed by all Jews, by believers and disbelievers, orthodox and reform, nationalists and assimilationists. Though one lays more stress on the spiritual and the other more on the secular aspect of the so-called Jewish culture, the outstanding fact is, however, that the belief in the Jewish culture produced in the diaspora is general. But if it is true that culture is a superstructure of civilization and has civilization as its basis, it is hard to see how it is possible to assume for one moment that the Jews have produced anything like a culture during their diaspora life.
It is true that Jews have written books among which some are famous in world-literature. It is true that the Jews have painted good pictures. It is also true that the Jews have composed good music. But the question is often more than justified whether or not the Jewish genius has drawn the material from Jewish sources and Jewish life. Are all the good books Jews have written Jewish books? Are all the good pictures Jews have painted Jewish art? And is the good music Jews have composed Jewish music? In some cases they are partly Jewish. In the overwhelming majority of cases they are not Jewish at all. Neither Spinoza nor Bergson, neither Heine nor Hoffmannsthal, are Jews in the sense that they have been inspired exclusively by Jewish motives and that they have drawn their inspiration from Jewish sources alone. But we can go even further and maintain that even those great Jews from Philo of Alexandria to Maimonides and from Maimonides to Herman Cohen, who were always conscious of their Judaism and who thought that they were working as Jews and that their creations were Jewish, stood much more under the spell of alien than Jewish influence, and in their work were less Jews than is generally supposed. In spite of their racial enthusiasm, their intellect was hyphenated. Philo was at least as much Greek as he was Jew, Maimonides at least as much Greek and Arab, and Cohen is at least as much German as he is Jew, if not more.
We are quick in our condemnation of those who wrote on the tombstone of Maimonides, “Heretic and Disbeliever.” We are angry at the “fanatics” of Amsterdam who excommunicated Spinoza, and we are often angry at those who utter severe criticism of Herman Cohen as a Jew. But these fanatics, wrong as they may be in their methods, are not entirely wrong in their motives and ideas. They are Jews in whom strong Jewish instincts are alive and these Jews, gifted with more original instincts than the average Jew, see more quickly what is Jewish and what is not in the work of a great Jew; it is the un-Jewish motive in these works by which they are repulsed.
Even the Jewish religion has been largely influenced, not only by non-Jewish surroundings, but also by non-Jewish religious motives. The truth of the matter is that national Jewish culture ceased to be with the destruction of the Jewish state. From that time on, individual Jews have cultivated Jewish thoughts and Jewish feelings, but they could not prevent their thoughts and feelings from being so mingled with and darkened by non-Jewish thoughts and feelings as to lose their original strength. Much of our so-called national literature is not organic, but consists of a number of books written by individual Jews who were only too often inspired by motives more non-Jewish than Jewish. The same is true of Jewish art, Jewish music, etc. Only when our culture touches upon our classical past or upon our national future, that is to say, when it is not influenced by the chaos of the present, is it truly Jewish.
When the Jews return to Palestine and begin to develop a national civilization, their culture will be built up not only on the past or the future, but also on the present. It will grow with the growth of civilization and it will not be a culture of individuals who are inspired by one thought appearing in different colors as the result of various influences; it will be the culture of a nation, an organic essence produced and developed with the help of the entire nation.
This will be the consequence of a national Jewish homeland in Palestine.
Even territories are subject to the incalculable caprice of Fate. Palestine, a small territory in Western Asia, forming the southern third of the province of Syria, excelled in natural beauty by Switzerland or the Tyrol, has nevertheless been touched by the Spirit of Humanity and has exerted a greater influence upon the development of the human mind than any other country in the world, not excepting ancient Hellas and Rome. There is hardly another land that has witnessed as great historic events as has Palestine; there is surely no other land that has seen so many invading conquerors on its soil. No other spot on the globe has so kindled the magnetism of the great nations throughout the ages as Palestine. Today, when an army of the mighty British Empire is fighting hard to conquer Palestine, the land of eternal mystery and miracles, it is well to remember that throughout the ages every great power has fought for the possession of the Holy Land. In the early days of our civilization Babylonians, Egyptians, Assyrians and Persians in turn tried to conquer the country. At a later time, the Greeks and the Romans made the attempt; in the middle ages the great nations of Europe were organized by the Church to wrest Palestine from the Mohammedans. All the great conquerors in history, from Nebuzaradan and Titus to Napoleon, have commanded invading armies on Palestine soil.
This small land of Palestine, drenched with human blood since time immemorial, has become the holy centre of three great religions, and witnessed the birth of two great religions, Judaism and Christianity. From the purely religious point of view the land is as holy to Islam as it is to Christendom or Jewry. Politically, it has always been and still remains the goal of many a great power. The Turk holds it, the British are anxious to conquer it, the French have politico-historical claims on Syria, which includes Palestine, the Roman Church considers it its special domain and aspires to possess it; the Emperor of Austria still bears the title King of Jerusalem, and the King of the Belgians, on the assumption that he is an offspring of the Crusader Prince who ruled over Jerusalem for a while, asserts historic claims on the Holy Land which, however, he does not press. Palestine has seen many a change of masters and has been inhabited in turn by many peoples. But among all the peoples that have lived in Palestine there is only one, the nationhood and culture of which has grown and developed there—the Jewish people.
The Judaism originating in Palestine has become one of the driving powers in history; it continues to fructify the human mind of the present day. Mankind bears in mind that just as in modern philosophy there is scarcely a single thought that was not already known either to the Greeks or to the Romans, so in modern social ethics, humanitarianism and countless branches of modern political life there is scarcely an idea or thought that was not propounded by the representatives of the ancient Jewish mind. Many a radical idea commonly supposed to be a product of the civilization of the 19th century is found on close examination to be the embodiment of an ancient Jewish idea born on Palestinian soil. The kernel and sum total of Marxism is of ancient Jewish origin; Karl Marx added a modern garb to an ancient Jewish thought.
But Palestine has witnessed not only the birth and development of Judaism but also of Christianity. Christianity is, reduced to its original components, a synthesis of Eastern and Western Aryan thought, consisting of the universalism and pessimism of ancient India and the individualism and optimism of the Greeks and Romans. Christianity is therefore not only not a continuation of Judaism, but its very antithesis, despite the fact that there is nothing in Eastern Aryan and Western Aryan thought, when looked at separately, that cannot also be found in Judaism.
The fight for Palestine by the great nations of ancient times, the origin and growth of two historic religions on Palestinian soil, the subsequent struggle for Palestine by united Christendom against the Islam and the constant attention that humanity pays to Palestine does not explain why Palestine is held sacred. Another explanation must be found why Palestine, a strip of coast land on the Mediterranean, has become the land of wonders, the cradle of European spiritualism.
Palestine has become the very well and centre of the spiritual life of humanity because she was so placed geographically as to be in a position to mediate between the Eastern and the Western Aryans and because Jewish thought, born in Palestine, the mediating centre, was later to act as the spiritual mediator between both wings of the Aryan race without giving up its own position and independence.
The geographical position of the region where Judaism arose is located just between the settlements of the West and East Aryans. Just as Palestine is the geographical centre between East and West Aryans, so also does the Jewish mind born in Palestine mediate between Tibet and Greece.
The East Aryans believed in the universal, the infinite—the West Aryans in the individual, as expressed in classic mythology. The Jewish God-concept comprises both of these extremes. The Jewish God is the highest individuality, but he is also God who has created the universe, the God of all mankind. The Biblical cosmogony shows combination of this individuality with universality. As the Biblical metaphysic mediates between the extremes of Aryan thought, so does the Jewish mind born in Palestine hold the middle between Greek and Indian thought. The Jewish mind lacks both the cold, analytical intellectuality of the Greek and the mystic, fantastical tendency of the Indian mind. With the Jew, however, reason is praised and knowledge highly valued, while feeling is given its due and is not mortified. The prophet is not an individualist nor is he a hazy universalist, but a self-sacrificing patriot who for the love of his people suffers martyrdom, and yet a cosmopolitan who in his heart full of love embraces all mankind.
When the two Aryan culture thoughts met in Alexandria and Rome, the Jewish thought intervened and acted as mediator between the two extremes. Of course it was not done by conscious design, but we cannot disregard the influence men like Philo exercised on the course of events. While many momenta and causes co-operated in making the Jew the mediator between these two extremes, the main cause no doubt was the middle position occupied by Judaism. It was related to both sides and could therefore effect a reconciliation.
This, to our mind, explains in the main the place of Palestine and Judaism in the world’s history. The Jews, a small Asiatic people, owing to a remarkable concatenation of events and chances, have set in motion a circulation of ideas, which later on cemented other great cultures. Christianity is not, as Christian theologians would have the world believe, a continuation of Judaism. What Judaism in the main did contribute to Christianity was the form, the architecture, and the cohesive power of its various elements. If there be any truth in the assertion that the Jews are the “everlasting middlemen,” it is not because they have been for the last two thousand years the economic or political middlemen among the nations who forced them into a parasitical life, but because they, a Palestinian people, have brought about a union between worlds of thought which were arrayed against each other. By reason of this mediation, they have impregnated other peoples with their own mind.
In spite of the political and diplomatic events of the two months preceding the Baltimore Zionist Convention, not one of the responsible Zionist leaders uttered a word with regard to the political situation pertaining to Palestine. The various rumors concerning a Jewish republic in Palestine have been answered by the representatives of American Zionism with—silence. This attitude on the part of the responsible Zionist leaders testifies to their political ability and tact, for nothing would be more dangerous today than to discuss Palestine at a Zionist assembly in as careless a manner as persons have done for the last few months. The situation is still fraught with difficulties, dangers and uncertainty; and the less it is spoken of the better for all parties concerned. The question on the lips of every delegate to the convention: What have we to expect? has been well answered by the representative of the Provisional Committee for General Zionist Affairs—We expect to be able to create after the war such conditions in Palestine as to enable us to carry out our program. To those delegates who are not able to think in terms of statesmanship the answer of the official representatives of the Provisional Committee must have appeared to be unsatisfactory, but the better politically trained Zionists appreciated the answer as the only one possible under the present circumstances and it convinced them that the leaders in this country are politically on the right track.
All the talk about a speedy establishment of a Jewish republic in Palestine in which even a part of the general press indulged is pure fancy if we consider things in the light of reality. A republic or any form of state cannot be made—it must grow naturally from certain given conditions, it must develop organically. So long as the people and the people’s land are separated physically from one another, how can the synthesis of the state be won? It is, therefore, clear that the very first condition for the realization of the Zionist program is a settlement of Jews in Palestine en masse, which settlement is not possible unless certain economic conditions are created to enable the settlers to organize their life speedily and acclimatize themselves as quickly as possible. But this creating of conditions is not as easy a task as many persons imagine. It not only presumes a favorable political situation, but also a display of organizing genius, important financial transactions and almost heroic deeds. If Palestine were an industrial country where new industries could be created or the old ones so developed as to give sustenance to masses of new settlers, the task would not be difficult. Palestine, however, is at present not an industrial country, there are no mines and consequently no factories of importance; it is altogether an agricultural country, the soil of which, though potentially very productive, has been neglected for centuries and must be regenerated before it can produce enough to feed a large population. But even if Palestine were an industrial country it would be an unwise policy to make industry the economic basis of the future population. If the Jewish people are going to be reborn not only politically but also physically, mentally and morally, the masses of the Jewish people must return to agriculture and to country life. For the last two thousand years we have been a city-population and we have acquired all the habits and qualities of one. City life has wrought havoc among us. If Zionism has a philosophy then the return of large numbers of the Jews to country-life is part and parcel of that philosophy by which we must abide if we do not mean to deceive ourselves. Besides, agriculture is a much sounder basis for a state than industry. The agricultural country is peaceful, conservative, moderate, while the industrial country is always restless, upset, radical and bellicose. If an individualistic—and because of a long life in the dispersion—nervous people like the Jews should build its entire future on industry, it would be built on sand. For this and many other good reasons, we must make agriculture the main economic basis of Jewish life in Palestine. But to create favorable agricultural conditions to enable an immigration en masse to Palestine is much more difficult than to create favorable industrial conditions, especially in view of the fact that the Palestinian soil has been neglected.
The economic future of Palestine rests to our present knowledge on agriculture and trade. For the past ten years Palestinian trade has been increasing from year to year, especially that of commerce in fruit and wine. Palestine can, if its soil is properly tilled and modern agricultural methods used, produce such quantities of fruits and grain as not only to feed the native population but also to supply other countries. The same holds true of wine and tobacco and probably cotton. Industries can be established which have the home products as a main basis, such as canning and packing industries, manufacture of soap, perfumes, etc. The possibilities of pastoral industry in Palestine are enormous, and industrious Jewish ranchers may turn Eastern Palestine into a second Texas.
There are altogether vast possibilities and should a favorable political situation enable us to revive and to create the necessary economic conditions for a Jewish settlement en masse in the land, Jewish industry and Jewish financial strength combined with Jewish idealism would within a few years of hard work prepare the ground for a realization of the Zionist program. This is what the Zionist leaders have in mind when they speak of creating such conditions in Palestine. It is further understood that next to the preparing of economic conditions, something must be done in the field of social and cultural preparation. When a group of Jews is sent to Palestine, it must find there such social and cultural preparations as to make civilized life possible. One cannot, of course, build communities, schools, social and charitable institutions in Palestine before large masses of our people have settled in the country. The ground for the establishment of such institutions must be prepared before the actual immigration takes place for we will not send our people to a wilderness. The Jewish groups that will emigrate to Palestine may not find actually erected all the schools and hospitals they need, but they must find everything that is necessary for re-establishment of such institutions and the men needed to conduct them. This is not an easy task but it can be accomplished if we centre our organizing genius on it. In this way we can Judaize Palestine in a relatively short time and when this is done the geographic and economic position will be used for a strengthening of all the sociological factors which are necessary for the creation of a Jewish homeland. Palestine, on account of its geographic condition can again be developed to a mighty trade centre and it can become the great commercial roadway between Europe, Africa and Western Asia. This, together with its solid economic and social organization, will give Palestine political strength and position among the civilized countries in the world.
It can thus be seen that it is futile at present to talk of the immediate establishment of a Jewish republic in Palestine. The very best that can be done and will be done is to prepare the ground economically, socially and culturally for the settlement of great masses of our people in the Holy Land. And it will be for the settlers to shape the future and to strive to realize the Zionist Ideal: A permanently secured homeland for the Jewish people in the land of its ancestors. Unless this big work is done, no power on earth can help us carry out our national political program, because states cannot be made but must develop organically.
What is the essence of the historic life of a people? This question has been on the program of the sociologist ever since society began to free itself from the hold of the state. Prior to the French Revolution, when society and the state were interlinked by thousands of strands, the belief was current that the national state—particularly, the well organized, centralized state—is the essence of the historic life of a people. It was thought that as soon as a special form of government was overturned the people would turn loose like a herd of wild men. Then came the French Revolution and laid the prestige of the state low. A national society began to organize, outside the state, and became a historic factor of its own account. It then became evident that the state was not the only essence of the historic life of a people, that there were other factors equally, or even more important, and that no national historic life could exist without them. Only a short time before the French Revolution, a French historian said that the Chinese nation, despite its living a national life, is only existing in a historic sense, because it has no influence upon the historic process, and plays no part in the production of cultural values for the human race. In short, the Chinese nation lives outside the pale of history. Now then, if a people like that of China, numbering hundreds of millions of souls and living on its own soil under the auspices of its own government, is placed in the category of nations that merely exist, other nationalities of smaller numbers and having no national government are certainly not to be classed as historically living nations.
Liberal-minded thinkers, whose thought was influenced directly by the events of the French Revolution endeavored to minimize the historic glory of the state and reduce it to only one of the factors in the historic life of a people. The conservatives on the other hand endeavored to restore to the state its old glory. The controversy was especially intense in Germany. Hegel, the father of conservative philosophy in Germany, raised the state to the pedestal of a deity, characterizing it as the aim and substance of historic development, in general, and as the most significant phenomenon in history. Johann Fichte, Hegel’s contemporary and opponent, the father of the national doctrine in Germany gave society the first place, and looked upon the state as a necessary evil. He regarded culture, with the exception of art, as opposed to the state. The essence of historic life was to him not the political life of the people but its ethics, science, religion and art. The state can have a positive attitude towards art alone—all the other elements, such as science, religion and ethics, must enjoy the freedom and independence which the state can not always grant to them. According to him, therefore, not political acts but scientific cognition and intellectual development are the driving forces in the historic life of a people.
Even Kant himself—who gave preference to the state—recognized a certain antagonism between ethics and the state. The state is the realm of law, while ethics has its origin in conscience. The romantic philosophy, which attempted to solve this problem from the standpoint of esthetics culminated in the extreme individualism which found its highest expression in the doctrines of Nietzsche. The superman, the great personality which a people produces is according to this doctrine the aim and end of history, and, naturally, that of the historic life of a people. Herder hinted at this conclusion, Schelling developed the doctrine and Nietzsche—the extremist of romanticists—perfected it. But this historic personality of the romantic philosophers is not only, as many are inclined to believe, an intellectual being. The great philosopher or the great artist is not the historic personality, but the man of great deeds; for history is first and foremost the realm of action and not that of thought. Nietzsche’s “blond beast,” that is, the man of great passions and great deeds, is the historic personality, that motive power in historic life, in general, and the life of the nation in particular.
If we look upon Jewish history in the Diaspora in the light of classic, or romantic, or even modern philosophy, we are bound to come to the conclusion that the Jewish people ceased to live a historic national life when it was exiled from its land. We have not lived a political life during the past two thousand years; hence we could not contribute to the civilization of mankind, for a national civilization is possible only in a national state. True, we have produced many great personalities, but the Jewish great personality in the Goluth is not a great Jewish personality—in the majority of cases it is merely an intellectual personality: a poet, an artist, a philosopher, etc. Lord Beaconsfield certainly was a great historic personality; but who would dare claim this statesman as a Jewish historic personality—the product of Jewish culture? His deeds are chronicled in the history of the English people; his historic accomplishments are the historic accomplishments of the English people. It was not the Jew Disraeli who procured the Suez Canal for the Jewish people, but the English statesman, the Lord Beaconsfield who acquired it for the English people.
The Jewish great personality displayed its talent in various intellectual fields, but did nothing in the political field, for which it lacked the necessary conditions. For two thousand years, we have lived an unhistoric life—the life of Chinese, with the exception that the Chinese live on their own soil and were spared the persecutions that fell to our lot. We eked out an existence; but we did not live. Hence the entire history of the Jewish people for the past two thousand years is a history of Jewish literature. Since the deterioration of the Jewish state, Judaism has been a mere literary tendency in general history; an interesting tendency, to be sure, occasionally even original, but not more than a literary tendency. Not our historic deeds but the abstract thought alone aided us in continuing our existence—our philosophy, poetry, ethics, and religious cravings kept us alive. We the bearers of that literary aspiration have been going a-begging for thousands of years. We wandered from land to land and from sea to sea without an end in view. All our political achievements have been concentrated in our memory for the past two thousand years. We remembered that we once were a people like every other people, and by the mere force of these memories we went wherever we were directed. Thus in our long travels we have become spiritualized, we have converted a system of national culture with laws and regulations about the state and its rulers to a system of theology. The ancient Hebrew culture which is essentially a secular culture became to us a sacred thing. The Hebrew prophets, who were historic personalities in the full sense of the word, because they were men of action, statesmen and warriors of political battles, were raised by us to the category of saints in the theological sense. Thus the Hebrew culture was reduced to a mere theological system.
We lived in a Roman environment, that is, in an environment which draws its strength from ancient Rome, whose program was the state, practical civilization, wars, conquests, revolts, political reorganization, etc. In such an environment with its peculiar culture, there was no room for the ancient Jewish culture based on ethical teachings, which, in order to be able to maintain its existence, was compelled to confine itself within the walls of the synagogue. In short, it is not only impossible to create new cultural values in the Diaspora but even to continue the thread of the ancient Hebrew idea, in essence an idea of civilization. In exile, more so in Roman exile, there was no past and no future for Judaism. Ancient Judaism was a historic and not a literary phenomenon; hence, since it has been the destiny of the Jewish people for the past two thousand years to exist, and not to live a normal national life, it is even unable to preserve the memories of a historic past.
Then came Zionism. The nationalistic trend in history has influenced the Jewish people too. Zionism came not from the East, but from the West—from the centre of modern nationalism. Modern nationalism, unlike that of ancient peoples, is not a cultural nationalism; modern nationalism is nationalism in the sense of civilization and can be understood only in connection with the industrial revolution and the colonial expansion of the great nations. Zionism could not have come from the East; for the East is politically and industrially not sufficiently developed to produce a movement which is both national and civilizing.
The Zionist platform is known to all: A publicly recognized and legally secured home in Palestine for the Jews. What is the historic meaning of this program? It is to convert an unhistoric people, that is, a people that does not live a historic life, to a normal historic people and to create for it all the factors necessary for a national civilization: a Hebrew administration, a national Hebrew economic life, a Hebrew education, a Hebrew social organization. The Zionist genius realized that there cannot be even national Hebrew culture without a national Hebrew civilization, for the culture of a people is only the roof on the edifice of a national civilization, and woe to the culture which lays its foundation upon personalities and does not draw from the wells of the nation’s civilization. At present there are only atoms connected to one another by the ties of national remembrances, spirit, tradition, and poetry. Zionism purports the building out of these atoms, which are scattered throughout the world, of a national organism in the land of the Hebrews. And since every national polity and civilization is secular, with the exception of papal Rome and theocratic Tibet, the function of Zionism is to create those conditions which will again secularize Judaism, and raise it to the pedestal of its ancient glory—to make it a historic force.
Goluth means: a scattered existence, and one of misery and affliction. Zionism means: a national historic life. And he who prefers a national life to a miserable existence has no other choice than to join the Zionist ranks.
The days of religious wars have gone. The Inquisition is dead and theocracy is dying even at Tibet. The modern man, be he Gentile or Jew, no longer thinks more theologico as in the Middle Ages, but rather more sociologico. The time when a given religious dogma, a categorical philosophic principle, or some definite spiritual force was the driving power in history is far gone. Law and order in our political and social life are not derived from books and principles, but from life itself. Any attempt to return to the status quo ante 1789, is an assault on modern civilization, an attempt to re-establish theocracy in its various forms.
In the life of our own people the process of secularization is going on with the same rapidity as in the life of any other nation. Within five decades we have created a secular literature in Hebrew as well as in the other languages spoken by Jews, and all the forms of our modes of life, public as well as private, have gone through the process of secularization. Even the modern orthodox Jew, who observes all laws and rituals, differs quite in his disposition of mind from the orthodox Jew of the seventeenth or eighteenth century. In worldly affairs he is a man of his time and thinks in the terms of his time. To the credit of our people be it said that they have understood how to adapt themselves to the conditions of the time.
It often happened that during the process of adaptation, Jews lost their way and became separated from their people, but the bulk of the nation has passed through the crisis caused by the process of transition and made itself at home in the new conditions without disintegration.
Though fanatics have profaned the tombstone of Maimonides by writing on it: “Infidel and Heretic,” Judaism ratified the peace which Maimonides concluded in its behalf with Aristotelianism. All the hue and cry against Maimonides was in the end of no avail, because at that time the deed of Maimonides was a step forward towards progress. At a time when the Roman Catholic Church fought Copernicus and Galileo no representatives of Judaism participated in this fight, though the Synagogue had an older historic reason to oppose Copernicus than had the Roman Catholic Church.
In short, Judaism has never resisted real progress and has always known how to make peace with the tendencies and currents of the time without weakening its own position. As it has reconciled itself to new conditions in the past so today it is making peace with the tendencies of our own time. Separation of state from church and the overthrow of theocracy and secularization of life are strong currents in our contemporaneous history. In the life of our people, these tendencies of the time have taken the form of nationalism and Zionism. Neither mean alienation from the religion of our ancestors, as many misled rabbis argue, but only imply that the Jewish religion has a definite place in Jewish life, but cannot and should not rule our lives altogether.
This is a general human tendency which we should not and ought not oppose; unfortunately, there are leading Jews who deem it their duty to resist the forces of progress and to display medievalism at the expense of our people and its prestige, and to the exclusion of all modern and intellectual forces. This resistance we find represented in two schools of thought, in the school of old-fashioned Reform and in that of the semi-nationalistic spiritualism. The representatives of the one school argue that we are only a spiritual people and that we are violating the spirit of Judaism if we strive to become a secular people. The others do not go so far, but they also maintain that Jewish nationalism is above all spiritual in nature and that, if Jewish nationalism has a duty to perform, this duty consists in establishing a Jewish spiritual centre in Palestine. Both schools of thought may be characterized as utterly reactionary, because they imply that we should stand still, where humanity stood two or three hundred years ago; that we should continue to submit to the law of the book instead of submitting to the law of life, and that we should continue to live as a spiritual people and give spiritualism the first place, while the basis of present day civilization is secular in nature.
With regard to the philosophy of Judaism as represented by old-fashioned Reform, it suffices to remember that every people on earth had a period in its history when it considered itself a spiritual people. And to the present day every civilized people firmly and sincerely believes that it has a special mission to perform. The author of “Oraisons Funèbres” formulated such a spiritual mission for the French, Fichte did it for the Germans, and Katkov for the Russians. But neither the French nor the Germans nor the Russian people clung to their mission-theory. While appreciating these spiritual values, they have outgrown spiritualism as the all embracing guide of the nation’s life and have settled down to work out their salvation in a very prosaic and profane way. Either the Jewish people are subject to the laws of historic progress, and then we have to keep pace with that historical progress, or else we miraculously form an exception to the rule and laws of history—we are an island in the ocean of life—and then we ought to be today what we were two, three, five or twelve hundred years ago.
Reform Judaism of today is surely not the Judaism of the year 1700 or 1500. It is a modern Judaism adapted to modern life. The same Jews, who are arguing that we cannot give up spiritualism as the prime factor of Jewish life and that we cannot stick to the old conception of Judaism, have deemed it advisable to introduce reforms into a field of Judaism that was considered the very stronghold of spiritualism in the Jewish religion. That is where the contradiction and confusion come in. So far as religion is concerned, these reformers conform to the requirements of the time, but on the other hand they still cling to the spiritualistic supremacy in Jewish life, to the theory of Israel’s mission, as if they were Jews of the seventeenth century.
Either Judaism cannot undergo a change and must remain what it always was—and then reform is unjustifiable—or Judaism can adapt itself to modern life and make peace with the tendencies of the time—and then why stick to the fictitious supremacy of the spiritual side of Judaism?
No less contradictory and confusing is the philosophy of the other school of thought that preaches spiritual nationalism as the only solution of the Jewish question. If spiritualism is no longer the prime factor in life, and if it is no longer in a position to maintain its hold on the peoples of the earth as it did in the days gone by when men thought more theologico, how can it hold its grip on the Jewish people? And how can a purely spiritual centre even in Palestine answer the Jewish question?
Did Mecca, the centre of Mohamedan spiritualism, prevent the conquest of Egypt, Morocco, Tunis and Tripoli by the Christian nations? (And Mecca is the spiritual centre not of a people of fourteen but of a religious community of two hundred millions.)
Despite Mecca and despite the pan-Islamic movement, the holy war proclaimed by the Caliph two years ago was a failure. Instead of a united Islam we have today an independent Mecca, an Egypt that is loyal to England, and an Algeria and a Morocco that are loyal to France. If Mecca could not contain Islam politically and could not save the Islamitic nations from being conquered, how could a much smaller Jewish spiritual centre in Palestine save the Jewish people politically and nationally? This is the question which we would like to submit to these “spiritual” nationalists.
These Neo-Ahad-Ha’amists are by no means better than the adherents of old-fashioned Reform; both cling to the spiritualistic supremacy in Jewish life, and both oppose the necessary gradual secularization of Judaism. Both would have us stand still, or, if possible, draw us back to a medievalism that has no room in modern life, and both are reactionaries in the full meaning of the term. They are our “dark forces” and the time seems very near when we will have to rise against both and overcome them. There is reason to fear that in the hour of fate they will put obstacles in the way of our redemption.
Every revolutionary phenomenon in life, every political catastrophe, upsets men’s minds and shakes old rooted opinions to their very foundations. The sudden break with tradition affects both the mind of the individual as well as that of the collective body. It brings about a radical change in views and sentiments and often in the whole world-concept. The gloomy pessimist may suddenly become a joyous optimist and vice versa. The earthquake of Lisbon of 1755 not only shook the belief in Providence of the young Goethe, but turned numerous orthodox circles into agnostics. The French Revolution broke the conservative spirit that was prevailing in Western Europe and put an end to the mediaeval conception of the state, just as the appearance of Bonaparte brought about the revival of the longing for Caesaric splendor and the cult of the superman.
The Russian Revolution, successful till now, has naturally greatly affected the minds of our contemporaries, and compelled them to revise their attitude on many historical forces and to consider the course of recent history in an entirely new light. Men who never believed in the political ability of the Slavonic race and, therefore, thought that Russia was doomed as a political power, are now admiring the political genius of the Russian people and the tactfulness of its leaders. Many Jewish contemporaries, who considered the Jewish case hopeless because of the terrible oppressions directed against our brethren in Russia by the representatives of the old regime, are now joyous optimists and think that since millions of Russian Jews have been freed the Jewish question is completely solved. To the minds of these men the Jewish question will sink into forgetfulness within a short time because the Jews will enjoy everywhere freedom and liberty and will live in complete happiness.
This is the attitude of just those people who but the other day were convinced of the hopelessness of the Jewish cause and were worried over the sufferings that the future had in store for the Jews. This radical outburst of optimism, understandable at the present juncture, nevertheless betrays a naive intellect and a lack of historical intelligence. We all hope that the successful Russian Revolution, next to the world war the most important event in the history of the twentieth century, will open a new era for our people, an era of happiness and peaceful development but, at the same time, we should never lose sight of the fact that there is so far nothing new under the sun. There is only a definite number of forces and energies prevailing in history and each and every one of these forces has in turn its term of domination. History is only a continuation of biological nature plus human intelligence. There is only a certain definite amount of matter and energy in the realm of nature as well as in history, and energy in history can be destroyed as little as energy in nature. And just as there is always a substitution and constant change of forms in the realm of nature, so there is in history. Progress never assumes the shape of a straight line but that of a curve. The most glorious period in human history may be followed by a period of decay and misery. The golden era may be followed by an era of iron, to use a parable of Ovid.
There is in the realm of history as well as in the realm of nature an eternal cycle. The old Graeco-Roman historian, Polybius, already recognized the eternal cycle in the development of the state when he graphically described this development from despotism, monarchism and feudalism, and from republicanism, democracy and ochlocracy back again to despotism.
We, as Jews, have too often experienced ups and downs to believe that a happy era will last forever. The Jews in Spain not only saw golden days of complete happiness and freedom, but formed for a time the vanguard of human civilization. Yet within one hundred years the Spanish Inquisition annihilated 200,000 Jews while the other 400,000 were compelled to leave the country. Today, Spain is again inviting the Jews to settle in the land, promising them complete liberty and freedom where Torquamada’s rule was supreme.
There was a time when the Jews of Poland lived in happiness. Today, the Poles are harassing the Jews in every possible way and are scheming and devising plans to break up Judaism in Poland. In Rome, where the Jews only one hundred years ago were humiliated and depressed, a Jewish mayor dared to criticize the Pope openly and to challenge all the forces of mediaevalism in the Eternal City. England, that invented the ritual murder accusation, has today a Jew as its Lord Chief Justice. On the other hand, the Jews of North Africa, who were politically supreme in the Atlas countries, are today the most oppressed human beings on God’s earth.
All these ups and downs which we have experienced ever since we have lived dispersed warrant a certain reserve in our judgment on phenomena in life, even when these phenomena be of the most revolutionary nature. Too much optimism and too much overstating of matters must subsequently lead to disappointment, to despair, even to ruin. Our age as a people, our historical and general intellectual experience, do not warrant too much optimism even at present.
The Jews are a force in history. The other historical forces must take an attitude to and judgment from Judaism. This attitude and judgment are likely to change. The change that is necessary to take place from time to time is not always a product of malice, but a product of certain factors which the individual, be he even the most powerful, is often unable to control. If an oppressed people is set free, all the suppressed energies in it begin to pour out suddenly; this may lead to the reaction against the Jews. The people sheltering us may often need a scapegoat and it will without fail take the Jews for that purpose. National as well as international crises may often affect the attitude of a people to the Jews or the attitude of the dominating class to the Jews. In this case we will always be the sufferers. Because of the hostile encounter between clericalism and liberalism in France the Jews had to suffer. The Dreyfus affair is still in the memory of every contemporary. When the liberal forces in France finally emerged victors from the struggle, another Jewish group—the Hungarian—felt the effects of this struggle in a very unpleasant way. The Clericals not being in a position to do any more harm to the French Jews began to awaken the anti-Semitic instincts of the Hungarians, and set about to create an anti-Semitic movement in Hungary. Even the Polish Jews had to suffer because of the victory of liberalism in France, for the Clericals in Poland took revenge on the Jews for their defeat in France.
As to the future of the Jews in Russia, it is hard to predict whether or not it will be a happy one. The mind of the Russian people is still a blank. The Russian people have been kept in ignorance; their will is not domesticated and their mind not trained. The Russians themselves, or, to be correct, the Great Russians do not know the Jews. They have never lived together. On account of the emancipation the Jews of the Pale will emigrate to the interior of Russia and will settle in the midst of the Great Russians, and they will become active in various spheres and fields.
How will the presence and the activity of this new neighbor react on the Russian mind? Will the presence of the Jews in the midst of the Great Russians result in the development of friendship or will the reverse be the case? And if a new crisis should break out in Russia, and a Russian Government should need a scapegoat to save its neck, will it or will it not pick out the Jews to serve as the scapegoat? Russia is a land of unlimited possibilities for good and for bad; there are no prophets nowadays to predict future happenings, especially since the mind of the Russian people is still a question mark.
Thus, besides the eternal cycle and besides the necessary ups and downs in history, we have now a special reason to be careful in our judgment and to moderate our optimism. But even taking for granted that the Jewish development in Russia will be unhampered, does it already mean that the Jewish question is solved? Does the Jewish question consist of bread and butter and human rights? Can the ideal of a people as old as the Jews be satisfied with just being permitted to live as individuals? Can it be the meaning and aim of 4000 years of Jewish history that the zenith of our development as a people should consist in being permitted to live among the people with mere civic equality? Is that what we have struggled for during the centuries?
Greater and more civilized people than the Russians have not succeeded in solving the Jewish question. Why then should we expect that from Russia will come the salvation, especially as only one-quarter of our people is today living in Russia?
The Jewish question can become simplified when we are liberated by the one people or the other, but it can be solved entirely only by the Jewish people itself. The Russian Revolution means for the Jews freedom to breathe and to move, freedom from prison and captivity, but even the free man has his own problem to solve. Life only begins when the prison-doors open.
At the beginning of the war there were many who ascribed the world conflagration to a conflict of races. At present there are many who would either belittle the rôle of race as a factor in history or eliminate it altogether. These people describe the theories of race as “race mythology” and consider them the invention of scholars rather than facts of objective reality.
Among a certain section of the Jewish people this negation of race theories is very popular. If there are not races in this world, then assimilation is the easiest and best way to solve the Jewish question.
It may or may not be true that race is a biological category, but it is true beyond a doubt that the consciousness of race among all peoples always was and will be an historic factor of prime importance. Therefore, it matters little whether or not race is a biological fact. History and its interpretation are concerned only with consciousness of race.
If consciousness of race were to be recognized only because it exists and has always existed, people might say: “So other superstitions have likewise existed.” The fact, however, is that the consciousness of race has a definite psychological basis, although we know next to nothing about its biological foundation. We see that the co-existence of like individuals in a definite place and during a long period of time, who are held together by a common ancestry, by a common destiny and interest, and the interaction resulting from such co-existence produces new phenomena and radiates creative energies which cannot be simply reduced to the qualities and forces of the individual minds. These energies radiating from the co-existence of a group of individuals are new, original and creative. They are more than actualized potentialities, and are to the individuals sharing in the co-existence as are sounds which the great artist draws from the violin to the violin itself. The energies emanating from this co-existence often assume shape and form which differ from the energies of the separate individuals. They appear rather one-sided and unbalanced. For instance, the separate individuals have about an equally large or small amount of religious or æsthetic desire, an equally large or small sense of justice or morality.
If the energies radiating from the co-existence would comprise and express the will of the individuals only, the culture of the ethnic group would necessarily consist of equal portions and exhibit a proportionate amount of logic, aesthetics and ethics. But we see that every great culture gravitates in a certain direction. Hellenism tends towards the artistic-philosophical, Judaism towards the religious-ethical, and Romanism towards the political-legal. We thus see that the manifestation of the mind of the race being one-sided is more than the sum total of the expression of all the individual members of the race, and as soon as we recognize a certain psychological or psychical unity, of a certain group of people, we must also recognize that this unity is modeled and shaped by time. In course of time this psychological or psychical unit becomes enveloped in traditions and experiences which make it stronger from day to day. As in biology many think that the function in time creates an organ, so the new energies radiating from the co-existence of a group of people become in course of time something organic in the mind of those people. This is the psychological basis of race consciousness and since earliest time the various peoples, all of whom had an outspoken race consciousness except those savages who cannot count, have recognized or felt that their consciousness of race was more than belief—that it was a psychological reality.
Of all the ancient peoples none had more marked race consciousness and racial feeling than the Jews and Greeks. It is very characteristic of Greek race consciousness that Greek philosophers, when discussing ethical or political subjects, have only the Hellenic people in mind. Their notions of justice and peace were applied only to the Hellenic people. The ancient Jews were not so one-sided. Yet they, too, had a well developed race consciousness which showed not merely in the religious idea that they were the chosen people, but in a very general acceptance of the belief that they were a distinct unit. Even the call to righteousness uttered by the prophet is colored by racial motives: “Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness; ye that seek the Lord. Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.” Another of the prophets, Ezekiel, even speculated as to the origin of the Jewish race. All the terms, ger, nakhri, akum and others used by ancient Jews to describe non-believers characterized non-Jews with reference to race also. The feeling of racial consciousness among Jews to the present day and the consciousness of the isolation of that race are best expressed in the popular Hebrew term, “Umoth ha-Olam,” the people of the world. The “Umoth ha-Olam” are the non-Jews, as the “barbaroi” were the non-Greeks. This throws light on the mental disposition of the Jews. While, in the eyes of the Greek, the non-Greek is an inferior, being a “barbaros,” in the eyes of the Jews the non-Jew is simply different and not necessarily inferior. Even the term goy, which is so much abused by anti-Semites, means only non-Jew. But while the Jew never held the non-Jew in contempt merely for differences of race, he had always and still has intense feeling for his own race.
In theological periods of history the fight against Judaism was perhaps a conflict of theologies only. Today, however, a fight against Judaism is inevitably a fight against the Jewish race. In times of old the religious motives of Judaism seem to have been the prime factors in Jewish life. Today the driving powers in Jewish history are not so much religious as race and national consciousness. It is, therefore, characteristic of those Jews whose Jewish backbone is broken to deny the existence of the race and to scoff at race consciousness in general.
Race consciousness is not a myth invented by the professors, but a fact of life.
The sixtieth anniversary of Ahad Ha’am, the foremost Hebrew thinker of his time, is a notable event in Hebrew literature, and will no doubt be celebrated by Hebraists all over the world in a manner worthy of the man and of the thinker. Next to Bialik, the great Hebrew poet, Ahad Ha’am is today the most popular Jew among the Jewries of the East and the best known representative of Hebrew thought among Jewish intellectuals in the West. His name is identified with the formulation of the program of Hebrew nationalism and the creation of a Hebrew cultural centre in Palestine. Unlike other thinkers who consider their convictions their own private affair, Ahad Ha’am had the courage of his convictions and defended them against great odds. He had the courage to take his stand against the giant, Herzl, and the powerful dialectician and publicist, Max Nordau. He knew that the fight against Herzl, when the great leader of Zionism was at his height, would not win him friends, but he had the daring to take up the fight.
For Ahad Ha’am the question of political Zionism and that of cultural Zionism as represented by himself, were matters of principle and had to be fought out sooner or later. While Ahad Ha’am fought against Herzl and Nordau and against the other powerful representatives of political Zionism, he had no personalities in mind and fought for principles only. The whole position of things was such that Ahad Ha’am could at that time have had no hope to win the struggle because political Zionism was at its height and because Theodor Herzl was the shining star in the firmament of Jewish political life. But disregarding the disadvantageous position in which he found himself, he fought courageously until he believed the danger was passed.
We mention this fight against Herzl and Nordau because it best characterizes the man, Ahad Ha’am. Though his philosophy of life is a philosophy of abstract ideas, he is at the same time a man full of life and temperament, a hard public worker and a political Jew in the best sense of the term. A great deal of his popularity must be ascribed not only to his philosophy and his system of Jewish politics, but also to his manliness and wonderful qualities of character.
As a Hebrew thinker, Ahad Ha’am represents the last point in the line of Jewish thought which can be characterized as Hebrew intellectualism as distinguished from Hebrew irrationalism and mysticism, which found its expression in the teachings of the Hassidic sect.
Since the rise of the theoretical Kabbalah in Spain in the thirteenth century, which must be considered a reaction against the system of intellectualism as laid down by Maimonides, we can observe in Jewish history two spiritual tendencies striving for dominance: Irrationalism in all its forms and Intellectualism in all its aberrations. Ahad Ha’am represents the line of development, of Maimonides, the Gaon of Wilna, Krochmal. The parallel line to the theoretical Kabbalah is the practical Kabbalah which began in Palestine in the sixteenth century and Hassidism which originated in Poland in the eighteenth century. The intellectualists maintain that the prime essential of the soul is intellect and that Judaism is based not on metaphysical will but on intellectual cognition. For our mediaeval intellectualists and those of the eighteenth century, this premise resulted in the conception of a Judaism which lays more stress on knowledge (Torah) than on the practice of the religious ceremonies (Avodah). It is, of course, understood that the older representatives of Jewish Intellectualism were as God-fearing and observing as their mystical opponents. But basing Judaism on knowledge and cognition, they maintained that the first thing a Jew should do is to study and accept the advice of old: Thou shalt recognize the God of thy fathers.
In opposition to these teachings is the conception of Judaism as represented by Kabbalists and Hassidim. These lay more stress on the practice of Judaism, claiming that Judaism is primarily a matter of will and not of knowledge. It is not a coincidence that while among Jewish intellectualists in the East (Mithnagdim) the knowledge of the Talmud and of Rabbinic Judaism is widely spread because they consider this the first duty of the Jew, there prevails among the Hassidim ignorance of the Talmud and of Rabbinic Judaism.
Ahad Ha’am is today the representative of Intellectual Judaism as conceived by his time, as the Gaon of Wilna was in his day the representative of intellectual Judaism. It is very characteristic of this Jewish school of thought that a man like the Gaon of Wilna has written a system of geometry and was interested in mathematics and logic. With his logical mind he created a new method of studying the Talmud which is marked by simplicity and clearness. Ahad Ha’am achieved in the domain of Hebrew thought and literature what the Gaon of Wilna had achieved in Talmudic methodology. As the Gaon of Wilna did away with “Pilpul” sophistry, so Ahad Ha’am did away with the confusing and unproductive “Hakira,” unsystematic discussion of abstract thought, and introduced economy of thought and of expression—a clear terminology and a systematic formulation of principles and ideas. That is what has given him the leading position in modern Hebrew literature.
Ahad Ha’am’s greatness does not consist of these formal innovations only. He has enriched Hebrew literature with a philosophic ideology of his own which has greatly influenced modern Hebrew thought. Ahad Ha’amism, as this system is called, was not less productive at the beginning of the twentieth century than the Yeshibah of Volozhin, the work of the Wilna Gaon, at the start of the nineteenth century. As a matter of fact Ahad Ha’amism is the modern development of the ideas which came from Volozhin. Without Volozhin there would be no modern Hebrew literature, no modern Hebrew thought and no Ahad Ha’am.
While the Jewish teachings of Ahad Ha’am can easily be explained as the continuation of a certain historical tendency in Judaism, the philosophy of Ahad Ha’am consists of many different systems and cannot be so readily surveyed. His own disciples claim that he is following in the footsteps of Krochmal and that he is thus a disciple of Hegel. This, however, is only partly true. One finds, moreover, in the philosophy of Ahad Ha’am elements of Kant, Spencer, of modern French sociology and even of Nietzsche. The unifying and productive mind of Ahad Ha’am has absorbed these various philosophic elements and turned them into an organic unit. For this reason Ahad Ha’am cannot be called an eclectic. Even Kant had his predecessors, was influenced by various philosophers and took up their suggestions.
Ahad Ha’am is one of the few modern Hebrew leaders who is as much European as Jew, and who is not on less intimate terms with European thought than with Jewish. Owing to these facts he succeeded in Europeanizing Hebrew literature and in raising it to the high level it now holds.
In the last few years Ahad Ha’am has made peace with Zionism because he thinks that Zionism has accepted his views on Palestine. His appearance at the 11th Zionist Congress at Vienna was thought by friend and opponent alike to mean that he had made peace with the Zionist organization. He has in any case supported the Zionist organization in its efforts in Palestine and has approved the plan to establish a system of Hebrew educational institutions in the Holy Land. But whether Ahad Ha’am became more political or whether the Zionist organization has come nearer to Ahad Ha’amism remains a question. The many pupils of Ahad Ha’am, however, and the Zionists in all lands, are happy that the uncontested leader of modern Hebrew thought and literature is to be found today with the rank and file of Zionism.
Even a language is subject to the force of fate. Its value in life and its meaning for the life of a people change constantly with the great changes of life. Only one hundred and twenty years ago there were those who believed in the possibility of the realization of the medieval idea that a day would come when all the peoples of the earth would speak one language and all linguistic barriers would soon disappear. Today language stands next to the state as the most important factor in the life of a nation; in many cases it is as strong a factor as the economical and political forces. This is especially true of the so-called nationality states where the various peoples can show their line of national demarcation chiefly by the language they use. Today language is not only one of the strongest factors in the national life of a people, but is also of great weight in universal politics. The future historians, in describing the ups and downs of the present war, will not fail to observe that one of the causes that threatened, for a time, the existence of the Hapsburg Empire was the apparently unimportant fact that the people in Germany and Bohemia could not come to terms about the linguistic barrier. The language quarrels in Bohemia were the cause of so many political upheavals that they shook the very foundations of Austria; they have influenced, to a large extent, the international crisis during the last three years.
Since language has developed into such a tremendous force, all the meditations and calculations of the philosophers of the eighteenth century about the possibility of one language for the entire human race have proven to be empty visions—soap bubbles of philosophic and humanitarian dreamers. If the living provincial languages of small peoples, the Bohemians, Lithuanians, Armenians, and so forth, have become important political factors in the lives of the nations, and, in consequence thereof, an important momentum in international life, the so-called dead languages, such as Hebrew, Gaelic, Welsh and many others, have become driving forces in the lives of their peoples and may even decide their fate and future. The development of these dead languages during the nineteenth century is as interesting and fascinating as the growth in political importance of such living, provincial languages as Bohemian, Lithuanian, and so forth. Most remarkable of all is the development of the importance of Hebrew during the nineteenth century.
One hundred years ago, Hebrew was a purely philological and theological proposition. The knowledge of Hebrew had quite a different value from what it has today. To the Eastern Jew, Hebrew had the meaning of a holy tongue only; to the Western Jew, Hebrew was a sort of a cultural luxury which was very much appreciated as such, but had no national value. The love for Hebrew in the West, which, by the way, was stronger than we today imagine, smelled faintly of a museum. These conditions prevailed in the West for several centuries. In the East, however, conditions changed with kaleidoscopic rapidity. With the spread of the Haskalah eastward, Hebrew achieved another value altogether; it had a different function to perform. The adherents of the Haskalah used Hebrew not as a holy tongue, as did the orthodox, nor as a theological proposition, as did many of the Western Jews, but as a medium to spread culture among the Jews and to introduce European ideas in the ghetto. The Hebrew writer of the middle of the nineteenth century considered himself a sort of cultural missionary. The best means to enlighten the people and to counteract superstition was, at that time, Hebrew literature. By the end of the Seventies and the beginning of the Eighties, Hebrew experienced another transvaluation, chiefly because of the failure of the Haskalah and the awakening of the national spirit among the Jews. The writers of that time considered Hebrew no longer a means to an end—that is to say, an agency to spread culture among the Jews—but an object in itself. People began to realize that Hebrew is not only a linguistic theological proposition, as was thought at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but that it is the woof and warp of national culture. The Hebrew writers of the last third of the nineteenth century, consequently, began to speak of the Hebrew tongue as a certain culture and Hebrew ideas as the ideas of the Jewish people. In short, Hebrew became the national cultural force in contradistinction to the humanitarian cultural force that it was thought to be in the middle of the nineteenth century.
The Hebrew writers of the Eighties and Nineties no longer considered themselves cultural missionaries of the Jews, as did the writers of the preceding generation, but rather as the representatives of Hebrew thought and Hebrew culture. The most conspicuous representative of this school of thought is Ahad Ha’am, the father and systematizer of Hebrew cultural nationalism. Ahad Ha’am himself witnessed the transition from cultural Hebrew to political Hebrew. Although about twenty years ago he was the embodiment of Hebrew thought, his school had to make room for another conception of Hebrew, a conception to which, we think, the future belongs. It is the national political conception of Hebrew in opposition to its purely cultural conception.
To the modern Hebraist, Hebrew is neither a holy tongue nor a medium to spread culture among the Jews, nor yet a national cultural idea, as it is to the disciples of Ahad Ha’am, but a national political force; accordingly, he strives to secularize Hebrew and to introduce into it all the elements of secular civilization and to make it the expression of the movement of life of his people. The modern Hebrew writer would think in Hebrew not only on subjects Jewish, would not only philosophize in Hebrew on Jewish cultural and theological problems, but would write in Hebrew on all secular subjects and try to find the Hebrew expression for all the movements of life, especially the life of our people. This striving to secularize Hebrew has enriched our national tongue enormously. We now know more Hebrew than did our forefathers one hundred years ago. Because of our striving to secularize Hebrew we were compelled to go to all the Hebrew sources of antiquity and to find Hebrew terms for things which, for the last two thousand years, have not been described in Hebrew, because the writing of Hebrew was concentrated on theological and philosophical subjects. A few years ago a Russian Jew wrote an agricultural text book in Hebrew, which created a sensation among Hebrew circles because the author re-created Hebrew agricultural terminology. Since the ancient Jews were agriculturists, they had of course an agricultural terminology of their own which had, however, been forgotten during our Diaspora life. The author of the above mentioned book re-established that Hebrew agricultural terminology. Other Hebrew writers have produced similar results in other literary and scientific endeavors. A small booklet by the late Dr. Schereschevsky, for instance, surprised the Hebrew public by the abundance of Hebrew scientific terms and by his re-establishment of a Hebrew scientific terminology. The modern Hebrew writer is conscious of the fact that Hebrew is bound some day to become a concrete political force and that, to gain that end, it must admit all the elements of life and establish the life of our people as the only agency of our general and Jewish education. This necessitates the secularization and, one might say, the humanization of Hebrew. The real modern Hebrew writers are, therefore, not those who can write a treatise in Hebrew on medieval Jewish philosophy but those who can write a Hebrew essay or Hebrew book on scientific or sociological topics.
The tendency to secularize Hebrew is spreading all over the world; it is to be hoped that the day is near when a considerable section of our people will use Hebrew with the same ease as any other people uses its national tongue. The secularization of Hebrew is a clear sign of our approaching national liberation.
In ancient times, nationality and state were identical. The destruction of the state always involved the destruction of the nationality. This was, in fact, the case with many peoples whose states were destroyed by conquerors. Only the Jews are an exception to the rule. The Jewish state was destroyed, the Jewish nationality was not. Even the dispersion of the Jews all over the globe could not destroy and did not destroy the Jewish nationality. On the contrary, the diaspora life of the Jews, with all its evils and troubles, woes and tribulations, sorrows and pains, only served to intensify the national consciousness of the Jews and to strengthen their hopes of national redemption. But the chancellors of the governments, always in the habit of dealing with concrete facts, did not take the sentiments of Jewish individuals into consideration. Seeing that the Jews have no homeland, no national sovereignty and not even an intellectual and spiritual centre, they pronounced the Jewish nationality dead forever. From the point of view of this now antiquated conception of nationality, the European governments could not be blamed for their attitude toward the Jews as a people, for the orthodox notion of nationality always implies an ethnic unit that enjoys national sovereignty, or, at least, is living on its own land, even though it may be dominated by others. The governments, in their attitude toward the Jews as a people, followed a certain principle that had to be maintained as long as no substitute could be found for it. Today it seems that the old principle of nationality has been replaced by another and that the present notion of nationality does not necessarily imply that an ethnic group must either enjoy national sovereignty or live on its own soil. The Jews, who have now been recognized as a nationality not only by Great Britain but, as we have been informed, by several other great powers, are still living in dispersion and have none of the characteristics of the concrete makeup of other nationalities.
This change was brought about both by the Jews themselves, who for the past thirty or forty years have begun to assert their nationality and to claim the right to which every nationality is entitled, namely, a national homeland, and by the peculiar discrepancy between principle and life. The European governments, following a certain principle, refused to consider the Jews a nationality, but in practical life the Jews were always considered a nationality of their own. While the modern state emancipated the Jew on the condition that he emancipate himself from Judaism, modern society, on the other hand, refused to admit him just because he was a Jew, and thus counteracted and opposed the emancipation policy of the government. Modern society is intensely nationalistic and will only recognize those as its true members who belong to it, not only socially and economically, but also nationally and racially. Since the Jews are not Slavs or Teutons or Anglo-Saxons but Jews, they simply were not admitted as full-fledged members in the society of these races and nations, and whenever they made an attempt to penetrate into society by force and en masse, they were only too quickly ejected by a wave of anti-Semitism. So that while the states emancipated the Jews, on the condition that they become full-fledged Frenchmen, Germans, Italians, Austrians, etc., because it considered the Jewish nationality dead and done for, the nations themselves, being nearer to life and its movements than the bureaucrats of the government chancelleries, felt that the Jews do form a national society of their own and are by no means nationally dead. The official recognition of the Jews as a nationality on the part of a modern state will, we are convinced, put an end to this difference in attitude and policy towards the Jews on the part of the government and of the nation.
Besides the national self-assertion of the Jews during the past thirty years, we find that their rôle as intellectual and spiritual factors in history led to the present change of mind of the European governments in regard to Jewish nationality. It is by no means pure accident that two mighty Anglo-Saxon nations and governments, Great Britain and the United States of America, should be the first among the great powers to recognize the right of the Jews to a national homeland of their own and thus to recognize publicly the nationality of the Jews. If the ancient Jewish mind, as it expressed itself in the Bible, ever influenced a great race and helped to shape its destinies and policies, it was the Anglo-Saxon race that it influenced. For the past four hundred years the greatest production of Jewish genius, the Bible, has been a powerful factor in the life of the Anglo-Saxon race, and as soon as the Anglo-Saxons freed themselves from medievalism, they began to treat the Jews living among them with consideration and fairness, even before they were officially emancipated.
Besides, the American Government is the only government of the Great Powers that never pursued any hostile policy against the Jews, because its very establishment was based on emancipation from medievalism. Of all the powers which have now come to recognize the Jewish nationality and its right to a homeland, America is, we dare say, the only one that is inspired solely by motives of pure idealism. For America surely has no political interests or ambitions in the Near East and is led only by the unselfish wish that the Jews, after a life of exile of two thousand years, should return to a normal national life and enter the great family of nations on equal terms. In saying this, we by no means wish to imply that the other great powers who have recognized the Jewish nationality have done so from political motives only, and that politics only were instrumental in bringing about their decision to help the Jews establish a homeland in Palestine. We are, moreover, convinced that England and Italy, Russia, and probably France, which, as we have been informed, are now taking a very favorable attitude toward the establishment of the Jewish homeland in Palestine, have done so because they recognized that the Jews are a people in themselves and that they are entitled to be given the possibility of living a normal national life. These powers, inspired by noble motives, now say to the Jews, “Go and build up a national life of your own and we shall help you. Go and be Jews as much as you like and we shall not interfere with your Jewish affairs and your national happiness.”
We are, however, afraid that many Jews themselves misunderstand or misconstrue the meaning of the decision of these powers. If the Jews go to Palestine, they must live there with the object of building up in the country of their forefathers a new Jewish life and establishing a Jewish homeland there; they must do it as Jews only, not as Russians or Germans, not Britons, Austrians or Italians, but as Jews. They must consider themselves an object in themselves. They must, first of all, look after their own affairs and their own happiness. While always having the welfare of humanity in mind, they must not consider themselves the protégé of a certain state or race or nation, and they must not be under the impression that, when given the possibility of living a national life of their own, they are called upon to defend interests other than their own.
No British or American statesman believes that the establishment of the Jewish homeland in Palestine is possible without the consent of all the great powers, irrespective of their present mutual relations, and as soon as one power or group of powers finds out that the Jewish Palestine is not primarily looked upon as the homeland of the Jewish nation, but the political stronghold of another power or group of powers, there will be no unanimity in regard to the Jewish Palestine when peace is discussed; and without unanimity of the powers there will be no Jewish Palestine, because no belligerent power will continue the war one day longer, only because it is anxious to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. But as a matter of fact the powers which, led by noble motives, have expressed their willingness to favor the establishment of the Jewish homeland in Palestine, have only uttered a noble desire. There can be no talk of anxiety on their part, but only of consent to permit us to rebuild our nation. These powers, because they are not led by motives of war politics only, but by political foresight and idealism, do not want us to serve other purposes than our own, because they know that unless we look only after our own affairs we will not succeed.
For the time being, the Jewish people are divided into various groups, each group serving the country in which it lives to the best of its ability. Today there is not, and cannot be, a supreme Jewish leadership, a Jewish national assembly or a general Jewish congress. Each and every Jewish group is entitled to work for the future of the Jewish people under given conditions only. The English Jews can ask their government to do something for the Jewish cause and so can the French, Italian, Russian, German, Austrian and American Jews; every one of the respective governments can extend its sympathy and help, can promise its help in establishing the Jewish homeland in Palestine only to the Jews of their respective lands, but not to the Jewish people at large, for the Jewish people are today divided into hostile camps, just as is civilized humanity.
Our assimilationists in every country, here as well as in Germany, in England as well as in France and Austria, have been telling their respective governments that those Jews who aspire to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine are disloyal citizens and are conspiring against their own country. In England and in America, where the governments follow a broad-minded and liberal policy, no attention is paid to such hypocritical talk. But in Austria, Germany and Turkey, conditions are different. There the influential assimilationists are still personae gratae with their governments, and since they are capable of every crime, if they can only see their way clear to break Jewish nationalism, they will no doubt lose no time in pointing out to their governments that Jewish nationalists, though they displayed heroism on the battle-field, are not loyal to their countries and are crossing the plans of the Central Powers in the Near East. They will tell the governments that the Jewish nationalists are conspiring with the enemies of their governments against the interests of the Central Powers in the Orient; the result may be that the government of the Central Powers, listening to this misleading talk, may embark on a Jewish policy opposing that of the Entente and may start to persecute Zionists and all who sympathize with Jewish nationalism, thus making the life of eastern European Jewry, now greatly under the control of the Teutonic Powers, still more bitter.
Therein lies the danger of our misconstruing the high-minded declaration of the British Cabinet. The statesmen of the Entente Powers certainly do not wish to imperil the existence of European Jewry, nor do they wish to have their policy misconstrued by the Central Powers. These statesmen want the liberation of small nationalities and not their oppression. These statesmen also know that if the Jews in the new Palestine will not be, first of all, pro-Jewish, there will not be the Jewish Palestine which they wish to see established. By misconstruing the declaration of the British Government, we are implicitly acting against the spirit and noble motives of this declaration and, needless to say, we are acting against our own elemental interests. A Jewish Palestine is only possible with the consent of all the powers, and since it is desirable that it should be a product of the consensus of opinion among all the powers, every act on our part must be avoided that may create the impression that in the anxiety to build up a national homeland in Palestine the Jewish people are becoming political tools of any power or group of powers. This will, in the end, spell ruin for us and might, besides, endanger the life of millions of our people in central and in eastern Europe. We have been told on good Zionist authority in this country, that the American Government, appreciating the present complicated international situation, is anxious to remain in the background with regard to the establishment of the Jewish homeland in Palestine, though it is a noble and unselfish champion of the cause. We wish that the Jews everywhere would take an example from the wisdom and forbearance displayed by the American Government.
No one has characterized the Jews better than did Mohammed when he called the Jews The People of the Book. In fact, nearly all that the Jews have achieved during their existence as a people they have achieved in the domain of literature. Even at the time when the Jews lived in Palestine and were at the height of their power, their achievements in the field of practical civilization were relatively poor. When the Jews disappeared as a sovereign nation from among the nations of the earth they did not leave behind them a highly developed civilization as did ancient Rome, nor did they leave behind them a highly developed science and art, as did the Greeks, but they did leave a book that subsequently became the book of humanity. The economic structure of ancient Judea was primitive, and only the tribes living on the borderland and communicating with the peoples across the border succeeded in developing trade and commerce. The interior of Judea was an agricultural country and its inhabitants pious and simple-minded people without ambition to create values of civilization and without pretence. Just as the economic structure of ancient Judea was primitive and simple, so was the political fabric.
The ancient Jewish state never succeeded in entirely subduing the individual and making him respect the supreme authority of the State. The prophets repeatedly exhorted the people to abide by the law and to respect the authority of the State. This would go to indicate that, even in the best days ancient Judea has seen, individualism was supreme and the authority of the State thus considerably weakened. We have no record of the ancient Jews ever having built great roads, or ever having been a great seafaring nation, or having done other things that would testify to their creative genius in the field of civilization.
But, on the other hand, they have created great books and have always been active in the field of literature, as have no other people on earth. It may be that their literary genius and activity absorbed all their energies, so that the literary values they created were created at the expense of the creation of values of civilization. From time immemorial to the present day, the Jews, first as a nation and then as individuals, have been busily engaged in writing books, and, besides the Bible—that became the book of humanity and that has influenced the mind of humanity more than any other book in world literature—they have written a number of books at various times and in various languages which had a striking effect on the human mind and were instrumental in shaping and framing it.
The appearance of Philo of Alexandria puzzled and amazed the entire ancient world. The Greeks themselves considered him a wonder and expressed their admiration for him by saying that they did not know whether Plato Philonized or Philo Platonized. How Philo’s writings have influenced the course of spiritual development in Europe and how they contributed shape and form to the philosophy of Christianity is known to everyone who is acquainted with the history of the European mind. Christian authors have often asserted that part of the success of St. Paul is to be ascribed to his literary genius, his striking style and to the concise form of his literary expression. And how can we think of Christianity without Philo and St. Paul, though the former did not consciously contribute anything to the makeup of Christianity?
When, during the chaos following the disintegration of the Roman Empire, the Jews disappeared from the arena of European literature, the best Jewish minds were busy creating books and literary styles, which remain unique to the present day. We refer to the Talmud and Midrash or, to be more precise, to Halakhah and Hagadah. The day will come when European scholarship will pay more attention to these two marvelous books. A famous German scholar, Professor Strack, declared a few years ago that “for the last four hundred years the European peoples have studied the Bible and have worked very hard to understand it. Now, since we are better acquainted with the Bible, we will have to take up the study of the Talmud and the Midrash. Only then will we understand Judaism.” Whatever place the Talmud may hold in the history of law and no matter how it is valued by great jurists, it is certainly unique in its literary style. The Talmudic style may or may not be a beautiful one, but it is certainly peculiar, striking and original to the core. Literature is first of all style; what is true of the originality of the Talmudic style is also true of the strikingly original style of the Midrash.
At the time when the style of these two books was created the greatest representative of European literature of that period, St. Augustine, appeared and gave to Christian humanity the best book of its time, the Confessiones. The Confessiones is a striking book powerfully written. Its style is both soft and forceful; because of that it became one of the best books of the Church. Wherein, however, lies the secret of that book? What made it a success? It is the attempt to imitate the Bible, just as Nietzsche’s Zarathustra took up the style of the Bible and became the best-known book of the nineteenth century. But how does St. Augustine’s Confessiones compare with the Bible? In certain places it is an artificial imitation of the Bible, pure and simple, or, to be more accurate, a poor imitation of the Psalms; only very rarely does Augustine reach the height of the true Biblical style. Because St. Augustine succeeded in imitating the style of the book which we created he became the literary master-mind of Europe of his time. The entire literature of confessions from Augustine to Rousseau and from Rousseau to Tolstoy has its inspiration in the Bible; as long as humanity will produce poets who think in terms of eternity and who feel at one with the cosmos they will have to fall back on the Bible, as did Dante and Shakespeare, Milton, Goethe and Nietzsche.
Just as our national book, the Bible, became the inexhaustible source of inspiration to the great representatives of world literature, just so have many books written by Jews within the last five hundred years influenced and affected the European mind. The books of Spinoza in the seventeenth, of Mendelssohn in the eighteenth, of Heinrich Heine and Karl Marx in the nineteenth and those of Bergson in the twentieth century were all cornerstones in the realm of the literature of modern times. Only recently has attention been called by the admirers of Spinoza to the exquisite and truly artistic style of the lonely Jew of Amsterdam. Mendelssohn was certainly not a first-rate philosopher, but he is considered by his admirers and opponents alike a first-rate writer and literary master-mind; next to Lessing he was the greatest German stylist of his time.
The deep impression that Karl Marx made on his contemporaries we understand less by reading his minor writings. As an economist of genius he could appeal to a small community of scholars, but as a literary man of rare qualities, as a powerful writer who wrote with blood and venom, he succeeded in greatly infuriating his opponents and enthusing his adherents.
Heine has been called by Nietzsche the wonder of world literature. The conservative Germans, the Prussians especially, hate him thoroughly, but they cannot help singing his “Lorelei” and “Die zwei Grenadiere” when they feel truly German or truly patriotic. This Düsseldorf Jew, who received a convent education and who, according to his own testimony, did not master the German language before he was sixteen, became the lyrical poet of the German nation and discovered the tune of the German soul.
Five decades after Heine’s death there appears a Polish Jew in the firmament of French literature who acquires for himself the name of the maître écrivain. The French, with their great literary and artistic traditions and with their own exquisite literary taste, are not so hasty in bestowing upon one of their writers the honor of the title of maître écrivain. But they lost no time in giving that honor to the Polish Jew, Bergson. Educated Frenchmen agree that even if all the philosophic teachings of Bergson should prove to be false or should be refuted he would nevertheless remain a great figure in the gallery of French literature. He may die as a philosopher, but he will remain immortal as a litterateur.
We have mentioned only the principal great books written within the last three hundred years, which have caused true revolutions in the literary world and for which most other peoples have no match. If an historian of literature were to study the subject of the influence of the Jews on world literature, especially of modern times, he would have to write not one, but five volumes, and even then he would not exhaust the subject, not because of the multitude of the books the Jews have written, but because of the creative values of these books and of the influence exercised on their contemporaries. It is a remarkable fact that the best piece of German literary eloquence was written by a Jew, Ludwig Boerne, and every German schoolboy has to know his piece of eloquence, “Denkrede ueber Jean Paul,” by heart. Of Israel Zangwill the English say that he comes nearest to Dickens. Hugo von Hoffmannsthal, the offspring of a Galician Jew and a relative of the late Graf von Aehrenthal, today holds such a unique position in German literature that even the wildest anti-Semites do not dare to attack him. The French Academy has recognized another German Jew, Ludwig Fulda, as the best German metrician of his time. And there are such powerful publicists as Maximilian Harden and Max Nordau, such men as Wasserman and Schnitzler, who have contributed to the literary glory of the Jewish people in recent times.
The Aryan peoples will seldom concede that the Jews are one of the most capable literary peoples that have ever lived, but there are many signs that would go to indicate that they are fully conscious of it. The French never forget to mention the fact that the mothers of Rabelais and Montaigne were Jewesses and there is a German folksong that begins with the verse:
The humorous papers in Italy, when taking Luigi Luzzatti to task, are always cartooning him as a little Jew buried in books, and it is a current expression in Italy today that “he eats books like Luzzatti.”
A Jew and a book are nearly synonymous. We were and we are to the present day a bookish people. The book has been until now our greatest glory. For thousands of years we have been dreamers and writers. The book was our shield and our weapon and the only outlet for our energies. Now it seems that a great and radical change is going to take place in our lives. We may and will probably never abandon the book altogether, but we are on the verge of becoming an active people, instead of being solely a bookish people.
Preceding and during the religious crisis in France, which resulted in the Separation Law, a great number of books on the future of religion appeared in Paris. The largest number of writers denied that there was a future for religion, maintaining that modern economic conditions are undermining the spiritual and religious basis of the life of the masses. A minority, upholding Clericalism, foresaw a promising future for religion.
A similar discussion on the future of the Jewish religion arose with the advent of Zionism. In the first decade of our century scores of books appeared in Europe, dealing with the nature and future of the Jewish religion. As in France, during the crisis, so in European Jewry, during the inception of Zionism, two distinct views were held as to the future of the Jewish religion. One view saw that Judaism could hope for no future in the Diaspora and that, if only to avert the destruction of the Jewish religion, a homeland in Palestine was needed. The other view was that Judaism, being non-political in nature, would continue to exist indefinitely and that, as a matter of fact, it was created for a Diaspora existence.
Today, when the Jewish people is once more at the parting of the ways, the same question comes up again. Those who oppose Zionism hastily affirm that the Jewish religion not only does not need a homeland in Palestine, as a source of new inspiration, but that the very idea of this homeland is incompatible with the Jewish religion. The spokesmen of Zionism who, as a rule, do not worry much over questions of theology and religion, have so far failed to take a definite attitude towards the rabbis who oppose Zionism on religious grounds.
We think it high time to approach this question and to try to answer it from a purely objective point of view.
Before we ask whether the Jewish religion has any future in the Diaspora, let us see whether it has had any development in the past.
It is known to every intelligent Jew that since the appearance of Maimonides, with the exception of the pathological phenomenon of “Sabbathai Zevi” and of Hassidism, the Jewish religion has not developed in the least. The rabbinic literature of the last 800 years consists mainly of legal responses to which nobody will attribute religious significance, because religion and legalism are two different things. The rabinnic Jew has the same views on God, on the relations between God and man, and on immortality, as prevailed among Jews 800 years ago. Even the synagogue and the Jewish ritual have undergone few changes in this period. Many attribute this fact of religious stagnation to the predominant legal element in the Jewish religion, while others maintain that, even without this element, the Jewish religion would not have undergone changes because of its existence in the Diaspora. Religion, like any other phase of spiritual life, must draw from life itself and if the source is polluted stagnation must set in.
Many people seek to prove that the Jewish religion is capable of development in the Diaspora, and as proof they point to Hassidism. But even they must agree that Hassidism itself failed to develop and that it resulted finally in a form of Judaism which is objectionable even on æsthetic grounds. Hassidism, which claims to have a greater freedom of movement than Mithnagdism, is today even more stagnant than Mithnagdism. In addition, it is questionable whether the pantheistic element in Hassidism is altogether compatible with the traditional Jewish conception of God. All in all, Hassidism affords no proof that the Jewish religion has developed in the last 800 years. It would be no exaggeration to say that ever since Jewish religious philosophy chose the path of Aristotelianism, it has been favored only with the slightest development.
One must bear in mind that in the past the Jewish religion, though more persecuted than at present, had better chances of development than in our own day. The Gentiles surrounding the Jews lived a more intense spiritual life than is the case today and in addition they thought in terms of religion as the mediaeval philosophers thought more theologico. Judaism and Christianity were absolutely separated and regarded each other with hostility. The intense religious feeling of the Middle Ages, the thinking in terms of religion on the part of the Gentile masses, the hostility of the Church to the Synagogue, the isolation of Jewish life and the persecution which must have intensified the religious feeling, were all factors conducive to religious development. However, the fact remains that since Maimonides, the Jewish religion has not undergone notable development.
Is it capable of development in the future?
Today humanity does not think in terms of religion; modern philosophers do not think more theologico but more biologico; the synagogue in the country where Jews are free is not isolated as was the case in the past, nor is Jewish life isolated. Unlike the Jews of the past, the modern Jew in these countries is actuated not by religious but by economic and social motives and he has little time to give thought to Judaism. To the average Jew in the liberal countries, Judaism is either an unwelcome heritage or at best a synagogal duty. In eastern Europe there are two sorts of Jews, as far as religion is concerned. There are either rabbinic Jews, who are pious and naive, or there are Jews whose views practically amount to a superficial atheism. Under these conditions, it is hard to tell how the Jewish religion is to develop in the Diaspora, or what its future may be.
The Reformers, of course, would point to the work of Geiger and Holdheim. But is the work of these men really proof of organic development in Jewish religion? Does the destruction of the bases of a religion indicate development? Reform Judaism not only did away with rabbinism, but it would also deprive the Bible of its religious character, denying the divinity of its source and in addition arbitrarily abolishing fundamental biblical laws for the convenience of its practioners. Is there any intelligent Jew, with a fair knowledge of Judaism, perhaps with the exception of a few Reform rabbis, who will maintain that in these changes there is a trace of development? If Reform Judaism can do no more than destroy what others have built, it is not progress in Jewish religion, as its leaders assert, but merely a ruthless iconoclasm.
We do not say that Reform Judaism is created by malice or by the wanton desire to destroy, but only that it serves as proof that from present conditions the Jewish religion seems to have no future in the Diaspora, once it has come into contact with modern life.
The Jewish religion, a product of national genius, can live and thrive only on its own soil. It can live and thrive only if it is part and parcel of the whole life of the nation, because the Jewish religion, in contradistinction to the universal religions, is distinctly national in character and wherever the Jewish nation is hampered in its movements (as it is, everywhere, in the Diaspora), the Jewish religion is also hampered and condemned to stagnation.
The stronger and more intense the life surrounding the Jews, the weaker becomes their own religious impulse.
This is well known to the Reform rabbis. We do not know how they conceive the future of Judaism in the Diaspora, but we do know that the only possibility for a Jewish religious revival lies in a national life for the Jewish people.
Among all the literatures of the world the Jewish literature is the only one that did not develop in any one land and the destinies of which are not connected with any one country. It has neither a certain local odor nor a certain local color, and it has seldom been the product of local conditions. There are a good many scholars who go so far as to say that the Jews had litterateurs only and not a literature, because the conception of a national literature involves national territory, a national political organization, and national traditions. A people, these scholars say, may produce a great numbers of writers and poets and may still be said not to possess a national literature. Formerly scholars who argued to that effect may have been right. If we take into consideration the psychological continuity of Jewish literature ever since the Jews began their career as a wandering people, we are justified in doubting the wisdom of this conception.
Although Jewish literature has undergone many radical changes (the change in language being only one prime fact) and although it has been as restless as the Jewish people, compelled to wander from one country to another, it has still succeeded in preserving certain prime qualities and characteristics which entitle it to bear the proud name of national literature. It is easy to recognize the age of a Jewish literary document, but it is not so easy to ascertain the place and locality where it was produced. The Hebrew-Italian school of the eighteenth century resembles in many respects the Hebrew-Spanish school of the Middle Ages, and the Russian-Hebrew school of the present time has much similarity not only to the various Hebrew schools of the twelfth and the eighteenth centuries but even to the Biblical period. It suffices only to mention the name of Bialik to show how near we are today to the spirit of the Biblical period.
This is true of Hebrew poetry but not of Hebrew prose. Here the results of migration are very noticeable. The Jewish literature of the Alexandrian period has hardly anything in common with Babylonian Jewish literature, and the literature created in the Provence is quite different in character from that created in Central Asia or in Africa. In other words, while the contemplative Jewish mind succeeds in preserving its chief original qualities, the meditative Jewish mind was subject to certain degrees of assimilation. As long as the Hebrew language was the means of expression for the Jewish literary spirit the effect of migration from one country to another was to make Jewish literature more picturesque and more interesting. But it did not fill the literary mind with new contents. Sometimes the effect of the new surroundings was not felt at all. This is due to the fact that, with the Hebrew language as cultivated by the Jews, there goes a certain philosophy of life and of things. The fate of the Jews throughout the ages, more or less similar in every land, contributed also to the psychological continuity of the Hebrew literary mind. This expresses itself best in the Hebrew elegy. When one reads Bialik’s “Poems of Wrath,” one thinks at once of Hebrew poems of a similar kind written hundreds of years ago. Hebrew prose on the other hand underwent slight changes during the Jewish migrations.
Since the Jews have entered modern civilization and have adopted the language of the Gentiles as a medium of literary expression, the effects of migration on the Jewish literary mind have begun to make themselves felt in a rather unpleasant way. This unpleasantness consists not in the variety of languages in which modern Jewish literature is so rich, but in the variety of ideas and conceptions which the Hebrew language imposed on the individual. The works of Jewish writers who write in European languages, even if they deal only with Jewish subjects, do not belong to Jewish literature alone; we cannot proclaim these works as our national possessions because of the very non-Jewish elements which characterize them.
On another occasion we have already shown how Jewish historiography and our history of Jewish literature have been influenced by non-Jewish elements. It goes without saying that all the other branches of our prose literature, as far as they have not been written in Hebrew, are strongly influenced by non-Jewish elements to a very great extent. Very often it is difficult to recognize what is Jewish and what is non-Jewish in these works. Everyone acquainted with the theological developments of Judaism within the last hundred years knows how Jewish theology in the west has gradually become alienated from its Jewish origin and come nearer to a Christian point of view. No less an important theologian than Schleiermacher characterized so-called modern Judaism as being very similar to modern Christianism. It will readily be understood that it was not Christianity that came nearer to Judaism but, on the contrary, Judaism that came nearer Christianity. It would, of course, be wrong and historically untrue to say that only in modern times has a non-Jewish element begun to creep into Jewish literature. It is moreover a fact that ever since the Jews have used foreign tongues for literary expression, they have been compelled to admit non-Jewish elements into their works. This is true of Philo and to a certain extent even of Maimonides’ “Moreh.” Is it not peculiar that all the great mediators between Judaism and the Gentile world have written their philosophical works either in Greek or in Arabic or in some modern language, and that those Jewish philosophers who have written their philosophical works in Hebrew have never tried to play the rôle of mediators? Philo, who wrote in Greek, tried to mediate between Platonism and Judaism. Maimonides, who wrote the “Moreh” in Arabic, tried to mediate between Aristotelism and Judaism, and Herman Cohen tries to mediate between Kantianism and Judaism. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. Nachman Krochmal was a thorough Hegelian and wrote his “Moreh” in Hebrew. But this is just the exception which proves the rule. Most of our philosophers who wrote in Hebrew developed a more or less purely Hebrew philosophy and contributed to the development of the Hebrew mind which found its purest expression in the Bible, the Talmud and the Haggaddah.
All this would go to show that the psychological continuity of the Hebrew literary mind and the true development of the Jewish mind can best be safeguarded through the medium of Hebrew. Hebrew is to the Jews and to the literature of the Jewish people more than a language. It replaces the many elements required for the sound development of a national literature which we have not, such as a country, local traditions, a national political organization, and so on. As long as Hebrew is the medium of literary expression among the Jews, Jewish literature deserves the name of a national literature and is a national literature. If, however, the Jewish mind does not express itself any more through the medium of Hebrew, the productions of this mind do not solely belong to us and are not part and parcel of our national property. They belong to the others as well as to us and probably more to them. Herein lies the importance of Hebrew for the development of Judaism and the Jewish mind.
The reputation of the Jews for being a business people has done them more harm than good, and has, in fact, retarded their emancipation in many countries. But nowhere has this reputation done them so much harm as in Russia. Even the Russian liberals, who are not anti-Semitic, seem to believe that the Jews, if emancipated, would ruin the Russian peasantry and completely monopolize Russian commerce. They are therefore not eager to take up the cause of the Jews, though they may be liberal in every other respect.
The Russian and Roumanian anti-Semites, however, base their theories of the need for oppressing the Jews on the belief that the Jews are too shrewd in business and that they will exploit the Russians and Roumanians if they are given freedom to move about and to utilize all their commercial energy and intelligence. This view is not restricted to those countries alone. We find traces of it even in America.
Has this belief any foundation in fact or is it only a myth? The question is interesting enough to be discussed. There are two methods of considering this question, the historic and the pragmatic. Have the Jews always been a business people? Are they today a business people? Instead of answering these questions in the affirmative or in the negative, we think it wiser to lay the facts before the public and to let it answer the two questions.
In ancient times—as confirmed by the Bible—the Jews were not much of a business people. The bulk of the people were devoted to agriculture. There are thirteen terms for rain in Hebrew while there is only one for commerce. The number of agricultural laws in the Scriptures exceeds by far the number of laws and regulations relating to commerce. The attitude of ancient Jews to commerce was similar to the attitude of the ancient Greeks to labor. Indeed the ancient Jews, in contradistinction to the Greeks, respected labor and despised business and commerce. Josephus Flavius in his book against Apion, says clearly: “We Jews do not find much pleasure in commerce.” The Talmudic sages warned the people against commerce again and again, and represented the business man as an ignoramus and a sinner. Rabbi Meir ruled: Trade less and study more. Rabbi Johanan exclaimed: There is no Torah among tradesmen and business people.
Taking all these facts into consideration, we fail to see how any intelligent person can say of the Jews that they were always a business people. Indeed, it is interesting to observe that the word used in Hebrew for commerce is not of Hebrew but of Greek origin.
But what about Diaspora Jewry? The Diaspora Jew was not allowed to become an agriculturist. He was forced to live in the city and as he was excluded from all artisan guilds he was obliged to become a tradesman or a money lender. How did the sturdy agricultural Jew become a business man, when business was never his ideal? To answer this question we must learn the attitude of the early mediaeval Christian Church to commercialism. The slogan of the Church was “Nullus Christianus debet esse mercator” (No Christian dare be a merchant), for commerce turned the Christian from the Church. This hostile attitude of the Church toward commerce had its origin in the influence of Greek culture on Christianity. The Greeks, as is well known, despised the merchant and considered him a necessary evil. The social status of the merchant in ancient Greece was very low and the representatives of Greek thought, Plato and Aristotle, contributed largely to lowering it still further. According to Plato the merchant class is to the intellectual class what the stomach is to the brain and the raison d’être of the merchant class is only to be found in its feeding the warrior class. Plato describes the merchant as belonging to the third and lowest class of society. The early Church had taken over these views of commerce and made them its own. Even Thomas Aquinas, who lived in the 13th century, when commercial life still flourished, adhered still to the early Christian ideas about commerce. But as commerce is necessary to the existence of organized society, the Church made the Jews the bearers of commerce by forbidding Christians to trade and inducing the Jews to do so.
The Church had another reason for making the Jew the business man. The representatives of the Church—fine psychologists that they were and still are—knew that as long as the Jew confined himself to agriculture he would continue to be “stubborn and stiff-necked,” and no Christian propaganda would induce him to give up his religion. The peasant is the conservative element of society. The tradesman, however, whose business it is to make bargains and compromises in his business life, is always inclined to make compromises in morality and religion. If the Jews were made tradesmen, so the leaders of the Church thought, two aims could be achieved at one stroke. First they would be made to do the “dirty work” for the Christians, and secondly, their conservative Jewish spirit would be broken. These were the reasons why the Christian world consciously forced the Jews into commercialism. On the other hand, political conditions in the Middle Ages actually compelled the Jews to take to commerce.
Thus a people, originally agricultural, became commercial. It is clear that the Jews are not a business people by nature but out of necessity and by reason of historical developments.
But now another question arises: Are the Jews clever as a business people and do they really show an inherent business genius? The anti-Semites and many of our friends believe that every Jew is potentially a business genius. Is this true? This question is also best answered by facts.
In Eastern Europe, where industry and commerce are not developed, and where Jews live in masses, the ordinary Jew is not a business man. On the contrary, the ordinary Jew in the East is a skilled or unskilled laborer. Out of the million Eastern Jews, who emigrated to this country from 1899-1908, about 60 per cent were laborers. The great masses or Eastern Jews in America are, in the main, laborers. As Eastern Jewry forms the bulk of the Jewish people, there is no reason to think that the modern Jew is eo ipso a business man, or a tradesman. The great Jewish Socialist movement likewise testifies to the fact that the Jews are not a business people in the sense used by our enemies and by many of our friends, because a Socialist movement cannot rise and flourish among business people.
The Jews, in individual cases, may be sharper in business than their non-Jewish fellow business men of the same station in life. Belonging to an Oriental, passionate race, they have a more vivid imagination and can see things in brighter colors than the non-Jews. This is, however, true only of individual cases. The ordinary Jewish business man is as clever or as stupid as the Gentile business man. A mediocrity, whether a Jew or a Gentile, is a mediocrity, and the Jewish mediocrity is no more productive or creative than the non-Jewish mediocrity. It is interesting that in the Levant, where Greeks, Armenians and other Oriental people are active in business, the Jew cuts a relatively poor figure as a business man. There are in Salonica great Jewish merchants but the vast majority of Salonica Jews are artisans and laborers. The Jews of the East when settled in the West, be it in Western Europe or America, have seldom achieved a great success as merchants or business men.
The fact is that the Jew is no more shrewd as a business man than the Englishman, Frenchman, or American. It is true, however, that in exceptional cases the Jews produce commercial geniuses as they also produce literary and artistic and scientific geniuses. We are an old and relatively pure race and our experience is far-reaching. We have more productive powers than many other peoples, and we produce proportionately more great men than other peoples. Some of these great men are great in business, but that does not mean that the Jews are a business people and a clever business people.
All peoples who live under normal conditions live economically, that is, on a systematized budget in which expenditure is adjusted to income. The Jewish people, not living under such conditions, do not live economically. Their budget is not systematized nor are its expenditures proportionate to the income. The lack of a systematized budget, however, does not mean that we have no fixed annual expenditures, although it is true that we have no fixed annual income. The truth is that we, as a people, spend as much as any other people of equal numbers who live a normal life. The only difference is seen in this: while other peoples spend money for national organization and on national institutions, we have to spend our money either in bribery or to help pogrom victims.
On the eve of the Jewish New Year it is proper that we draw up and take account of our annual budget. The biggest sum in this budget is the item marked “bribery.” Few realize how many millions are spent annually by Russian and Roumanian Jews who seek to mollify their oppressors with bribe or gift offerings. Few realize that the many millions spent by wealthy Assimilationists in non-Jewish philanthropies are also bribe offerings. The Jew has learned that if he means to be a Jew he must pay bribery and that if he does not want to be a Jew, he must also pay bribery.
When a few years ago a Jewish lord in England bequeathed his fortune of $10,000,000 to non-Jewish institutions, he made it clear that this gift should be taken as proof of his sincere Anglicism, which meant the repudiation of Judaism. When the French Jew, Meurts de la Deutsch spends 2,000,000 francs annually to encourage aviation in France, it is for no nobler purpose than to deny that he is a Jew, and that he has embraced all French interests. The same is true of innumerable wealthy Jews who give millions for non-Jewish and often for anti-Jewish purposes. It might prove interesting to an economist to discover how many millions are spent annually in such bribery.
It is not difficult to estimate in round figures the sums spent annually by those who want to remain Jews.
There are six million Jews in Russia. For every move he makes, the Russian Jew must bribe the authorities. If he wants his son admitted to the schools, he must bribe the education officials. If he wants to open a store and obtain a license, he must bribe the village or town officials. If he builds a house he must bribe the building inspectors. If he seeks a passport, he must bribe the police. The whole run of human activities is accompanied by an endless flow of bribes, gifts, presents, etc. It is no exaggeration to say that every Jew in Russia must spend an average of ten rubles annually in bribing officials. This is 60,000,000 rubles, or $30,000,000 a year. The total budget of the Swiss Confederacy falls within this amount. In return the Russian Jews are paid in exceptional laws and pogroms. These laws and pogroms lead to emigration which costs us, on an average, $10,000,000 a year.
In the last decade Jewish emigration from Russia has been at least 100,000 persons a year. The cost to every immigrant is at least 120 rubles. This totals $7,200,000 a year. Economists have calculated and discovered that the incidental expenses of each immigrant amount to about 100 rubles. These expenses are caused by the loss entailed in breaking up business, selling out below cost, etc. This in turn totals up to 12,000,000 rubles, or $6,000,000 a year. In addition to these sums there are extraordinary losses resulting from pogroms, fire and boycott.
We are not taking into consideration the hundreds of millions lost by Jews in the war owing to the malice of the Russian Government. These losses are not recurrent. But we must consider the losses of the Jews in Russia as a result of pogroms. In the pogroms of 1905 and 1906 the Russian Jews lost 20,000,000 rubles. Pogroms on a minor scale are yearly events in Russia. All in all, the sum which the Russian Jews spend annually in bribes or in expenses in connection with emigration, or which they lose in pogroms or other upheavals, reaches the gigantic sum of $50,000,000, a sum which exceeds the annual budget of Bulgaria or of Switzerland. For less than this sum these two peoples enjoy national independence and sovereignty while we enjoy—pogroms.
What is true of Russia is true of Roumania, partly true of Galicia and of the Jews in northern Africa, Persia and Afghanistan. That these million and a half of oppressed Jews living outside of Russia also spend millions annually in bribery and emigration goes without saying.
As the emigration from the countries of oppression does not diminish the number of Jews, because of the high birth-rate there, and as conditions of life grow worse daily, the emigrants have to support their families and friends who stay behind. The Russian Ministry of Post and Telegraph published statistical tables a few years ago, which show that the Russian immigrants in the United States, mostly Jews, send annually to their relatives and friends from $15,000,000 to $18,000,000 a year. A good part of this sum goes to the Russian post office officials. This fact became known four years ago when a group of Jews in Petrograd and Moscow started a movement with the purpose of founding a Jewish immigrants’ bank.
When speaking of necessary and incidental expenses of immigration one must not overlook the losses accruing from re-immigration and from a decrease of productive energy of many immigrants because of their inability to adapt themselves to new surroundings.
These are expenses caused by the decision of Jews to remain Jews. We maintain that the sums of money paid by Jews who are determined to have the world think them non-Jews, or to have the world forgive them for being Jews, are at least as large.
When, a few years ago, the Jewish millionaire Efrussi died in Paris, the French press without exception paid high tribute to his French patriotism and omitted all mention of his Jewish origin. Efrussi used to spend 2,000,000 francs on French national sports, races, etc. This was also the case with the French Jew, Osiris, who left his fortune of 60,000,000 francs to the French people and French institutions, and 60,000 francs to the Jewish people in the form of a copy of Michael Angelo’s Moses erected in the court of the Jewish Teachers’ Seminary of the Alliance Israelite in Paris. An Austrian Jew, Taussig, gave 1,000,000 kronen to the Catholic Eucharist Congress in Vienna, while a relative of the same name left 500,000 kronen to the Catholic church with the request that on his Jahr-Zeit two Franciscan monks visit the synagogue to pray for his soul. The new university in Frankfort-on-Main, which cost many million marks, is a Jewish university in so far as large parts of this sum were contributed by Jews. Most of the contributors were Jews who in no way support Jewish institutions. A Prussian statistician discovered a few years ago that not only do Jews contribute to funds for the building of monuments to national heroes, but also to funds for Catholic cathedrals and other institutions that are anti-Semitic in character.
In England there are hundreds of wealthy Jews who make annual contributions to the Church of England, refusing at the same time to support any Jewish institutions. Lord Rothschild, who is by no means the richest man in England, spends more in New Year’s gifts to various non-Jewish classes in London than ten other rich lords combined. Another English Jew, Sir Ernest Cassel, the son of a Hebrew teacher in Germany, has spent in the last decade £1,500,000 in the support of non-Jewish institutions. Their contributions to Jewish institutions have been insignificant in comparison.
The gift of these large sums is always made public, but the sum total of smaller gifts, which are not made public, exceed by far the amounts given by very rich Jews to non-Jewish institutions. If we compare the sums given by so-called Jewish philanthropists to Jewish and non-Jewish institutions we discover that they give at least five times as generously to the non-Jewish as to the Jewish. Mr. Jacob H. Schiff’s gift of $500,000 to Barnard College is a striking instance. At a time when his own people experienced the greatest calamity in its history, when millions of Jews were starving, and when Jewish blood was being shed freely, Schiff gave $100,000 for Jewish relief purposes and five times as much to a single institution for the erection of one building in New York. This is the usual proportion that marks the giving of Jews to Jewish and non-Jewish institutions.
We think that the form of bribery which the oppressed Jews practice to mollify their oppressors is sad enough as a commentary on Jewish life. But the more ostentatious form of bribery—a form of gift bestowal which seeks to hide the giver’s identity as a Jew or at least to purchase pardon for his Jewishness—is the greater tragedy. These Jews spend millions to make the world forget they are Jews, but the world remembers and laughs up its sleeve.
In the course of the long controversy between Jewish nationalists and opponents of Jewish nationalism many have come to believe that those who oppose nationalism stand for universal Judaism, especially since the anti-nationalists call themselves Jewish universalists. After the publication of the declaration of the British Government with regard to Palestine the main anti-nationalistic spokesman in America, Dr. Philipson of Cincinnati, summed up his negative attitude to Zionism with the short sentence, “I stand by my Jewish universalism.” One even hears people from the radical camp of the left proclaiming their Jewish universalism. The impression has thus been created that while the nationalists stand for a petty, provincial conception of Judaism, they, the anti-nationalists, advocate a broad-minded universalism.
We deem it opportune to examine this Jewish universalism, which is played up today against the nationalistic efforts of our people to re-establish a Homeland in Palestine and to see how far it is sincere in its motives and compatible with Jewish tradition, and how far it is intellectual camouflage. We think it rather curious that those who claim to be Jewish universalists—the radical Reform rabbis and assimilationists from other camps—always lay stress on American, German, French or English Judaism, and often speak of the American Jewish Church or the English Jewish Church, and so forth. It is also remarkable that these Jewish universalists have always worked for a “readjustment” of Judaism to local conditions and have tried to Americanize Judaism in America, to Germanize it in Germany, to Anglicize it in England, to Magyarize it in Hungary, and so forth.
On the other hand, those who were considered as standing for a petty, provincial conception of Judaism, the nationalists, have not only never tried to do anything of the sort but have always defended the interritoriality and catholicity of Judaism. One never hears a Jewish nationalist here or abroad speaking of an American Jewish Church or an English Jewish Church, and so forth. It seems to us that in view of these facts the sort of universal Judaism as proclaimed by the assimilationists is of rather doubtful origin and character and that it is everything but universal, for it is territorial and provincial to the core. As a matter of fact, Reform Judaism as established by the Reform rabbis in the middle of the nineteenth century, and developed by American rabbis at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, is the first gigantic attempt to break the catholicism of Judaism and to territorialize it, that is to say, to annihilate its organic unity. Reform Judaism is in fact nothing else but territorialism in religious terms, just as Yiddishism is a territorialism in linguistic terms. Those who divide Judaism geographically and claim that each part has little or nothing to do with the other, and that each part is organically connected only with its surroundings, that there is such a thing as American Judaism, English Judaism, German Judaism, French Judaism, and so on, stand for the same policy as do the Yiddishists, who divide the Jewish people into ten or fifteen separate groups, claiming that every group is a unit by itself and has nothing to do with the others. According to Yiddishists the Ladino-speaking Jew has scarcely anything in common with the Judeo-German-speaking Jew, just as the Arabic or Greek-speaking Jews have little or nothing in common with the Ladino or Yiddish-speaking Jews. Some express their Jewish territorialism and provincialism in terms of religion, the others in terms of language. Both are opponents of Jewish unity and Jewish catholicism, both are opposed to traditional Judaism, both are opposed to Jewish nationalism that is organically connected with Hebrew, and both are, of course, opposed to a Hebrew Palestine.
Why these people, who, as we have seen, stand for territorialistic Judaism instead of universal, should call themselves Jewish universalists, we are at a loss to understand. The fact that their notion of God is as colorless and pale as that of the Unitarians, and the fact that their conception of ethics, especially of Jewish ethics, is as bloodless and vague as that of the rationalists of the eighteenth century, gives them scarcely any right to call themselves Jewish universalists and to assert that they stand for universal Judaism. Our only consolation is that this sort of territorialistic Judaism that goes under the false mark of universal Judaism is not the invention of the Reform rabbis, nor that of the Yiddishists, but is as old as Judaism itself. All who have carefully paged the history of our people know that there always was a Jewish minority from time immemorial that stood for a territorialistic Judaism, and if there is any difference in principle between the Judeans and Israelites this difference consists in that the Judeans always stood for universal Judaism, while the Israelites stood for a territorialistic Judaism. The Judeans were what the nationalists are today—traditional, conservative and nationalistic, while the Israelites were reformers, assimilationists and territorialists. The Judeans advocated a Palestinian and Hebrew Judaism, while the Israelites always opposed it and were satisfied even with the Temple outside of Palestine.
The first radical reformer, assimilationist and territorialist was not Abraham Geiger, but Jeroboam Ben Nebat. The Judeans, advocating a Palestinian and Hebrew Judaism, produced the true, great prophets, the prophets of truth and justice, while the Israelites produced the false prophets, who misled the people and displayed religious and moral camouflage. The notion of a universal God, of a universal morality and of the brotherhood of man, the fundamental teachings of Jewish universalism, have not been created by the prophets of the Israelites, the false universalists, but by the prophets of Judea, the nationalistic prophets. These great nationalistic prophets, who alone made Judaism that tremendous force in history and who, by their genius, secured immortality for our religion and ethics, must turn in their grave when they hear the false prophets of today claiming them as their witnesses. The teachings of our great prophets have been distorted and falsified by many of our enemies and opponents, but none has falsified and distorted them more than the representatives of the so-called universal Judaism of today, because our great prophets, who were at the same time great Jewish statesmen, taught the doctrine of the indestructible Jewish nation and the immortality of our people as a people, and they were so extreme in their nationalism and nationalistic conception of Judaism that they dreamt of the Jewish nation to be the glory of all the peoples of the earth and the center of all that is good and great and beautiful in humanity.
We doubt whether there are many Jewish nationalists today whose nationalistic feelings run as high as did those of our great prophets whom Jewish universalists claim as their chief witnesses for their falsified Judaism. It was the great Hebrew prophets of old who first fought against territorializing Judaism and who fought against the attempt to Yiddishize it in one form or another. They all stood for the pure, traditional, Palestinian and Hebrew Judaism. They were bitter against Ephraim, because Ephraim stood for what the Israelites stand for today: “Ubi bene, ibi patria”—Where I do well there is my fatherland.
That the Judeans and not the Israelites were right in their conception of Judaism can be seen from the fate of both. Israel disappeared, swept away by the storm of history, while Judea remained. It is only a pity that all of the Israelites did not disappear also for, if they did, we would have no Israelites today in our midst, and God knows that the Israelites of today are unnecessary Jews and that those who claim a mission for Israel have no mission at all. The Jewish universalism advocated today by all those who stand for the disintegration and deterioration of Judaism is not universalism, and if its advocates are anything, they are Jewish nihilists, because Judaism is nihil to them—no people, no race, no nation, no religion, no tradition, but——
The phenomenal tempo made by the United States in preparation for the war is a very interesting phenomenon of our time. What England did in many years of struggle America has achieved within a few weeks. It took England more than a year and a half before she saw her way clear to resort to compulsory service, and it required many weary months to organize the administrative branch of the war service and to place the country on a solid war footing. Even countries with long military traditions, such as France, Italy, Austria, and even Germany, had to struggle long before they were in the war with both feet. America, though unmilitaristic, did all that within a very short time. Over night there was a national army in America. The economic life of the country adapted itself to war conditions, and everything to conduct a war on an unheard-of scale was created within a few months. That a non-militaristic country like America could adapt itself to war conditions within such a short time must puzzle every observer, and it will be a puzzle to the historian of the future, also, unless he recognizes the touchstone of American genius as displayed at present. This touchstone is the absence of long historical traditions.
We Jews, who are preparing ourselves to start a new life as a nation, ought to learn in this respect. We have old traditions of our own and we are burdened with a great many non-Jewish traditions in addition, for we have lived in the last two thousand years in the Diaspora and among those people whose life has been shaped by thoughts and the spirit of ancient Rome. The European state that is today undergoing a crisis as never before is the inheritance of old Rome. The entire system of European politics is Roman in origin. International political relations can be traced to ancient Roman origin. A comparison between the history of the international relations of ancient Rome and that of any European state during the last five hundred years will clearly show that the international political movements in Europe for the last centuries have their parallel in international political movements of ancient Rome. All the severe criticisms leveled by Montesquieu against ancient Rome are still timely today. All branches of the activities of the European state, civil administrations, jurisdiction, matters military, foreign affairs, and so on, are more or less remnants of ancient Roman civilization.
In short, we have to be conscious of the fact that the life of the Jewish people in Europe was lived amid a system of Roman civilization. The old Jewish preachers, who characterized our present Diaspora life as Goluth-Rome, knew what they were talking about, though they could not exactly explain why they characterized our present Goluth as Roman in nature. Since we have lived for two thousand years in this system of civilization, it goes without saying that we have been greatly influenced by it and that we ourselves are definitely subject to Roman traditions in addition to our own. Traditions sometimes strengthen a nation, but they also may weaken it. The most traditional people in the world, the Chinese, are practically the weakest, while the most non-traditional people, the Americans, are today the best fitted for modern life.
National traditions, of course, cannot be cast away over night. In the Diaspora old and genuine Jewish traditions were the life-giver of our people. They were the main force that preserved us from annihilation, as long as we were facing the problem, “How can we best preserve our national existence?” Today, however, we are not only facing the problem of preserving our national existence, but also that of rebuilding our nation and reorganizing our people so as to make its future safe. Since the entire Jewish problem has changed so radically, our attitude to the complex Jewish traditions must change. We cannot possibly use the same methods in rebuilding our national existence as in preserving our nation. The two different problems need two different positions. Just as China is a terrifying example of what slavery to tradition can do to a nation, so is America an edifying example of what traditions can do in strengthening a nation. A nation does not live to uphold traditions only; and where, instead of helping a nation, traditions handicap it, they will be superceded by new traditions to be created by national deeds.
We do not want to describe our future life in Palestine, for we are today unable to do so. We are only anxious to lay stress upon the fact that what we have called our traditions in Diaspora life will probably have to be revised in a Jewish Palestine. Life is much stronger than the Book and the principle derived from the Book. In the Diaspora it was the principle of the Book that shaped our life, because it helped to preserve it. In Palestine, where there will be an active Jewish life, Jewish life itself must work out its own principles. This is what we should bear in mind, whether we are orthodox or free-thinkers. We must go to Palestine with the consciousness of freedom and not with the feeling that we are the creatures of traditions. We will have to free ourselves not only from many Roman traditions that was most worthy in the Diaspora, but will be superfluous in Palestine.
The future Jewish State in Palestine will draw its strength from Jewish life and not from principles of the Book; it will be free from all inorganic traditions which we have acquired during our long life in the Diaspora, and from those traditions which were un-Jewish in nature.
In view of the rise of Jewish nationalism during the last decade, especially during the war, it is understandable why the fancy of the Jewish masses should be directed to the future of the Jewish State in Palestine and that quite premature questions as to the form and character of the Jewish State should be asked.
There are no prophets nowadays. No serious-minded man would even dare to anticipate the development of many generations and attempt to foresee the character of the time which is deeply enshrouded in the bosom of the future. Sociology has not yet discovered laws with the help of which one can predict future material happenings. Nevertheless, serious-minded Jews, especially nationalists, should give a thought to the question of possible future developments and should ask themselves in which direction they have decided to go.
When Theodor Herzl appeared before the Zionist Congress in 1906 with his famous Uganda proposition, the Jewish people was amazed. How could a man like Theodor Herzl, whose love for Palestine was beyond doubt, propose to the Jews to settle in East Africa, on a stretch of territory not only outside the pale of Jewish traditions but even outside the pale of civilization? If it had been a question only of enabling the then badly persecuted Russian Jews to emigrate to other countries where they could live in relative freedom and happiness, were there not plenty of civilized countries where the Jews could find a refuge? These and similar questions were raised after Herzl brought forth the Uganda proposal. But those who were on intimate terms with the great leader later explained this apparently strange mood.
It was in 1903 that von Plehve began his policy of pogroms, and from 1903 to 1906 hundreds of pogroms were perpetrated against the Jews in Russia and Poland. Theodor Herzl, who witnessed the development of the tragic Dreyfus affair and who had some experience with western European anti-Semitism, knew perfectly well the prevailing hatred against the Jews everywhere, but he could not imagine that a Christian State, forming a member of the family of nations, should in the twentieth century resort to such barbarities as pogroms, in order to carry out its anti-Semitic policy. Man of delicate and fine feelings as he was, he became so disgusted with the situation and so downhearted on account of these pogroms that, in a moment of despair, he said to himself, “We would rather live among the Hottentots and other savages in Africa than among the civilized Christian nations in Europe.” The entire Uganda proposition can be understood as an expression of disgust with European civilization on the part of our great Jewish statesman and artist. In short, Uganda was a loud protest against Christian civilization and Christian political methods.
In a lesser degree Zionism, also, is partly a protest against European Christian civilization, which is an inheritance of ancient Rome. We want to go back to Palestine not only because we want to live a national life of our own there, but also because we are utterly repelled by European civilization and because we do not believe in a civilization that leads to the murder and pillage of entire nations and the reign of horror and brutal might. We are disgusted with this civilization because we do not believe that “might is right,” because we do not believe in the political heritage of ancient Rome.
We cannot say whether or not every nationalistic Jew is conscious of this fact, but the conscientious historian who does not believe in the inheritance of Rome will certainly ascribe the revival of Jewish nationalism not only to the national memories of the Jews, but also to the radical difference between Jewish and Roman political ideas and ideals and to the difference in the concept of life of the Jew and those who live on the political inheritance of ancient Rome. We, for one, firmly believe that Zionism, in spite of its purely political aspects, has the ethical consciousness of the Jewish nation as its basis and as its driving power; Zionism is thus to our mind not only a political, but also an ethical movement—or even a revolutionary movement, in the sense that the Jewish people revolts against a system of civilization from which not only entire humanity has suffered, but from which it has suffered most. Now, since Zionism is also an ethical movement, one can easily see to what its realization should lead.
Though the Jewish people lived in a Europe dominated by Roman ideas for two thousand years, it did not become an adherent of the Roman school of thought. We have remained Jews, still cherishing Jewish ideals of justice and equity, and we mean to go back to Palestine not as “Europeans,” but as Jews pure and simple. It cannot possibly be our desire to erect in Palestine such a system of civilization and to establish there such an order of things as have created the present state of affairs in Europe. We are going to Palestine not only to begin a new national life, but also to create a new system of civilization. This is the justification of Zionism from a broad ethical point of view. We are going to realize there not the old Roman inheritance but the old Jewish inheritance. We have for the last 2,500 years had a political philosophy of our own, a political philosophy that is just the opposite of the Roman political philosophy. We believe that the political philosophy of the old prophets is just as human and at least as near to reality as the political philosophy of the ancient Romans, and we believe that our national political philosophy, which considers men not only as physical beings but also intellectual and spiritual beings and urges them to live up to their spiritual and intellectual nature, is at least as sound as the one-sided Roman political philosophy, which takes into account only the physical nature of man and hence teaches that “might is right.”
It is our firm conviction that Jewish national ideals of old, though buried in books for the last two thousand years, can be turned into reality and be applied to life. This is what we are going to do in Palestine. But, people will ask, if the Jewish ideals are based on life’s reality, why did not the Jewish people succeed in making its ideals a force in life when it lived on its own soil and enjoyed independence? To this we reply that the ancient Jewish genius, which devised such grand plans of life, failed, for reasons which we cannot enumerate here, to create the technique and methods, with the help of which these grand plans could have been carried out. The Romans, on the other hand, invented a wonderful technique of life, but failed to devise a plan of life which would make life more worth living than it is now. We have lived under the system of Roman civilization for nearly two thousand years. We have not been imbued with Roman ideals. We have not accepted the Roman doctrine of life, but we have learned a great deal from Roman technique, and we are therefore now equipped with both—with the Jewish idealistic traditions and with the experiences of Roman civilization and Roman technique. Now we are in a position to apply our ideals of old to life, because we possess the methods and the technique of the application. We know today a great deal about administrative and constitutional technique, of which our ancestors knew next to nothing. We know today a great deal about organization, of which our ancestors had not the slightest idea. Having gone through the Roman school, we today know something about organization and this knowledge of organization we are going to apply to our political traditions, to our philosophy of life; we are going to create in Palestine that synthesis of civilization which will be Jewish to the core in its contents and Roman in shape and form. Might will not be right, because man is not only a physical but also an intellectual and spiritual being. Justice and equity will be thoroughly organized and will not be left to the conscience of the idealistic individual only, as was the case in ancient Judea.
Whether the future Jewish State in Palestine will be a republic or a monarchy does not matter. The form of government never testifies to the soundness of the state; there are good monarchies and bad republics. One thing is as clear as day: If there is going to be a Jewish Palestine, it will be a land of justice and freedom, where right will prevail and where the demands of the spirit will be complied with. All forms of life will have to be different from what they are in the pale of Roman civilization. “Thou shalt be a light unto the nations.” This must be our ambition.
Jews as individuals can accomplish very little for Judaism, cannot help to realize its ideals and cannot possibly make it a force in life. For two thousand years we have lived in the Diaspora as individuals, and what did we accomplish for the realization of our old ideals, of which we are so proud? Nothing. Only feeble-minded rabbis, who are constantly talking of the mission of Judaism without knowing what they are talking about, can speak of the mission of the Jews in the face of the present catastrophe. Jews as individuals cannot have any Jewish mission in life, but a people can, if it is inspired by ideals.
What we have failed to do as individuals for two thousand years—to make humanity recognize that the political philosophy of the old prophets is much stronger than that of the old Romans—we may be able to realize in Palestine as a people. It is only with reluctance that we use the much abused phrase, “Jewish mission,” but if there is such a thing as the Jewish mission, it will only be realized when the Jews are reorganized as a people on the soil of their ancestors and lead such a life as to justify the prediction of the prophet of old: “Thou shalt be a light unto the nations.” This is the true meaning of the Jewish mission. This and nothing else.