1.3 New Links Between Communities

Leslie Fry

Waters Flowing Eastward

The Jews, disseminated in all lands and claiming the same rights as other nationals, jealously guarded the secret of their hierarchy. Prior to the eighteenth century various nations had from time to time granted equality of rights to the Jews within their borders, 1 but in every case had retracted them.

About 1770, Moses Mendelssohn 2 and others began preaching emancipation for all Jews everywhere, as the ultimate goal of the race. This suited the Kahal: if its members enjoyed the privileges of other nationals, they would eventually occupy important posts in gentile governments and thus extend its own power and influence. The aim was to a large extent realized a few years later. With the French revolution in 1789, the status of the Jews in that country was completely changed. 3 Not only did they obtain the franchise, but, profiting by the sale of confiscated property, they soon acquired great wealth. Napoleon remarked in 1806:

" By what miracle did whole provinces of France become heavily mortgaged to the Jews, when there are only sixty thousand of them in the country? ". 4

Jews in Austria and Germany as in France and England, obtained about the same time political freedom and soon rose to high social and administrative rank in the land of their adoption: the names of Rothschild, 5 Cremieux, 6 and Disraeli, 7 at once suggest themselves.

But, freed from the restricting influence of the ghetto, the Jews tended to become assimilated not only in appearance, but in reality. The yoke of the Kahal seemed more irksome to those who had acquired wealth which they wished to enjoy undisturbed. As it could add nothing to their success in life, they longed to be rid of its ritual, indirect taxes, demands of personal services, and its threats.

Jewish leaders, observing this tendency, felt the need of new links between communities, the more so, as the new facilities of communication of the nineteenth century- telegraph, railways, steamships-rendered intercourse between distant bodies much easier. A group of so-called " universal brotherhoods " was accordingly organized in only five years, 1864-1869; they were:

a) Brotherhood for the awakening of the slumbering Jews, 8 at St. Petersburg;

b) Alliance Israelite Universelle 9 at Paris;

c) Jewish Emigration Society, 10 at London;

d) Brotherhood for the enlightenment of the Jews, 11 at St. Petersburg;

e) Brotherhood for the repopulation of Palestine. 12 The first of these societies was founded in 1864: in 1866, it already numbered twelve hundred members among the wealthiest and most influential Jews, at whose head stood:

L. Silberman Prussia
M. S. Magnus Prussia
M. Strahun Russia
Rabbi Albert Cohn France
D. L. Loewe England
Sir Moses Montefiore England

In 1864 was also founded the Brotherhood for the enlightenment of the Jews (fourth in the above list) with its centre at St. Petersburg; within a year it numbered 227 wealthy Jews, including Dr. Bernstein, the bankers Ginzberg, Dr. Kalisher, Dr. Schwabacher, 13 and men prominent in science. It is therefore not surprising that their efforts should have met with sympathy among Christians.

On closer examination, the enlightenment these societies sought appears not to be of the kind to raise the people above the racial prejudices fostered in the ghetto. On the contrary, the literature which the society for the awakening of the slumbering Jews published, with the exception of a book of travels, was strictly a course of studies in Talmudic laws, 14 and calculated to revive the sentiment of a common aim and common hatred found in the Shulchan Aruk.

The book of travels, Even Saphir, is more stimulating: it points out in subtle language the power of the Kahal and Jewish solidarity. A passage may be quoted as illustration: 15

" Here in Cairo, Jewish business is exchange, banking, and usury... The Jews derive great benefit from these three operations, thanks to the different foreign currencies and the fact that there are two rates of exchange, one fixed by the government, the other by merchants.

" These two rates constantly vary, rising and falling, and people who do not deal in money matters are easily misled. These operations are for the most part in the hands of the Jews, wise and clever people who, among capitalists, rank as high as the wealthiest in Europe. They occupy important positions in the pasha's palaces and government offices. In fact the Jews at the present moment enjoy full freedom in every way: their word counts for much, and in trials and lawsuits with non-Jews their side always wins."

The Kahal resorted to another device to keep its flock within the fold. Whenever opportunity offered, it made a cause celebre of some Jew brought to trial in a gentile court, and then, when the case had become the common talk of the day, it had him released. In what better way could it show its power?

The murder of a French missionary by three or four Jews in Damascus in 1840 furnished one such occasion, and the Dreyfus case in 1896 another.

It found, too, little difficulty in organizing pogroms in Poland and in Russia. The peasants in these countries, though of a trusting, friendly nature, could be provoked by fraud and extortion at length to retaliate. A few Jews were killed, and millions of their race rallied around the synagogue. The privileges granted the Jews by the Tsar Alexander II necessitated the pogroms of 1882; and these were followed by a cry of " anti-semitism," which, as Herzl used to say, always gathered the sheep into the fold " -the time at the conference at Kattowitz in 1884.

Here eastern Jews 16 met their more assimilated brethren from the West, but little was accomplished. The latter, whose views had been modified by long contact with Frenchmen, Englishmen, and Germans, failed to understand the violent nationalism of the eastern ghettoes, where the aim was a return to Palestine, the creation of a Jewish state, and eventual world domination.

The eastern group was known as "The Friends of Zion" 17 and was led by Leo Pinsker and Moses Lilienblum. Pinsker had already set forth his programme in a book, Auto-emancipation (1882), in which he had been inspired by the Rome and Jerusalem (1862) of Moses Hess. Fear of the Russian authorities preventing a full exposition of his aim, he had limited himself to claiming Palestine for the Jews as a refuge against persecution.

One of his colleagues, Asher Ginzberg, was destined to carry his work much further. The latter, a fanatic, fanned Jewish national aspirations in the East, and from the date of the founding of the " Sons of Moses " in Odessa in 1889, the movement spread rapidly. Meantime in Germany and Austria, another active nationalist, Nathan Birnbaum 18 of Vienna, organized the Jewish students into a body called the kadimah. Its aim was to establish a Jewish centre in Palestine which should rule the world in the three spheres of politics, economics, and religion, through the medium of Jews at the control of affairs in every nation.

If the western group, on the other hand, did not respond readily to a nationalist appeal, they yet were intrigued by the idea of world domination. International and clannish at heart, in spite of their outward assimilation, they were to prove by the sequel that they could be won to the eastern point of view: if they rejected it at first, it was largely because they thought they could obtain all they wanted without the help of their retrograde brethren. They were, moreover, divided into two camps: the Rothschilds and the German Jews in Germany and America. The second camp had invested a large part of their capital in German industry, which proved very productive in the years 1884 to 1896; they also shared, or pretended to share, in the plans of pan-German ambition.

But when, in 1896, Germany obtained from the Sultan the concession for the Bagdad railway and reached out over Palestine towards India, some leading western Jews were alarmed and felt the need of uniting Jewry. The only basis of union was the eastern programme, for the eastern group, being fanatics, would accept no other.

To win over the western group to the new aim, an assimilated Jewish writer, Theodore Herzl, was called on to paraphrase Leo Pinsker's Auto-emancipation.19 This paraphrase, published in 1896, bore the title, The Jewish State. There was little that was original about the book, but the character and influence of the author carried much weight.

Theodore Herzl was a typical assimilated Jew. 20 Born in Hungary in 1860, after finishing school in Budapest and studying law at the university of Vienna, he devoted himself to journalism and literature. As reporter for the Viennese paper, Die neuefreie Presse, he worked in Spain and later in France. While in Paris, he reported the Dreyfus case, under the influence of another Jew, the famous Dr. Blowitz, correspondent of the London Times.

It is said that the Dreyfus case " made a Jew of Herzl." He did not know Hebrew, and had never been taught the fanatical books of the Talmud, such as the Shukhan Aruk and the Abodah Zarah. He was opposed to violent methods, and in one of his novels, Altneuland, has left a picture of a civilized Jewish state, patterned on those of Western Europe.

In any case, after the publication of The Jewish State, the Friends of Zion in Odessa, and the body of students (Kadimah) under Nathan Birnbaum, adopted Herzl. The first Zionist congress was called at Basle the following year (1897). Herzl was elected president, a position which he held till his death (1904).

At the congress, as the eastern group was the more numerous, the name " Zionism", coined by Nathan Birnbaum in 1886, was adopted, and its aim declared essentially democratic. But the western group was not wholly won. Some of them, mostly from England and France, responded coldly to Herzl's appeal, fearing to compromise the rights and positions already acquired in those countries. The desired union could not yet be effected, and the two groups rallied around their respective leaders, Herzl and Ginzberg.

Herzl nevertheless remained faithful to the task he had undertaken. 21 He entered into negotiations with the rulers of several nations to obtain some suitable home for the Jews. He failed to get Palestine from the Sultan, and later, the El Arish peninsula from the Khedive of Egypt; but he received, and virtually accepted, the offer of Uganda from Great Britain. In 1903, he laid this proposal before the sixth Zionist congress: it was thrown out by the Zionists who would have no land but Palestine. Herzl died the following year, and with him the leadership of the moderate party was soon to pass into the hands of the violent nationalists. 22

An article in the Judisk Tidskrift (No. 6, Aug.-Sept., 1929), written by Dr. Ehrenpreis, Chief Rabbi of Sweden, contained, according to the Swedish paper Nationen, the following passage:

" I participated with Herzl in the first Zionist Congress which was held in Basle in 1897. Herzl was the most prominent figure at that first Jewish World Congress. He worked to achieve an object which had been fixed beforehand. Just as Isaiah foresaw, decades before the event occurred, the victorious power of Cyrus before anyone else, so did Herzl foresee twenty years, before we experienced them, the revolutions brought about by the Great War, and he prepared us for that which was going to happen. He foresaw the splitting up of Turkey, and he foresaw that England would obtain control over Palestine. " We may expect important developments in the world." These were the words spoken by Herzl twenty years before the Great War. He added that the events would offer the Jewish people fresh opportunities."

1. For example, in Spain, before the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella; in England, under Cromwell; in Russia, under the Tsar Alexis in th" seventeenth century.

2. Grandfather of the composer (1729-1786).

3. J. Darmstadter, in his essay, Histoire du peuple juif (Paris, 1886) says that, from this date, the Jews looked on France as their own possession.

4. Letter of Nov. 29, 1806, to Champagny, quoted in article " MSS of Napoleon ", Synhedrian Allgemeine Zeitung des Jud. (Leipzig 1811), p. 33.

5. Cf. Corti, House of Rothschild (New York, 1928).

6. Cabinet minister in 1846 and 1871 ; one of the most active men in the coup d'etat of Louis-Napoleon in 1851 (1796-1880).

7. First Jewish M.P. The leading source for the life of Disraeli is W. F. Moneypenny and G. E. Buckle, Life of Disraeli (London, 1923) ; see also the admirable sketch, entitled Vie de Disraeli, by the Jew A. Maurois (Paris, 1927).

8. Haburah mekidze nirdamim. See Brafmann, Jewish Brother hoods, pp. 96-98.

9. Haburah kol Israel haberim.

10. Haburah shiluhe plakiloth.

11. Haburah marbe.

12. Haburah yishub Israel. To the foregoing list might be added the Jewish immigration society of New York, and also the Independent Order of B'nai B'rith (Sons of the Covenant) founded in 1843.

13. Op. cit., p. 100.

14. Including Pachad Ishak, " fear of Isaac ", an index to Talmudic literature; Teschubat ha-gaonim " decisions of the illustrious " viz., of the ancient authorities on religious and legal matters, etc. Op. cit., p. 101.

15. Even Saphir, p. 18.

16. The two principal branches of the Jews are the Sephardim, settled mostly in the Spanish peninsula, and the Ashkenazim of Alsace- Lorraine, Germany, Poland and Russia. The former are the more cultivated.

17. Hoveve Zion.

18. His pen-name was Mathias Asher.

19. Whose direct orders Herzl was obeying is not clear: probably those of David Wolfsohn, acknowledged leader of western Jewry.

20. His enemies in the Zionist camp later hurled the epithet " assimi lated " at him to express their scorn for his moderation.

21. Osiah Tonn mentions several letters of Herzl, expressing the wish to retire from the Zionist movement as soon as possible.

22. David Wolfsohn succeeded Herzl as president for a short time.

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