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“Harmoniously Functioning Nationalities”

“Harmoniously Functioning Nationalities”

Yiddish Socialism in Russia and the United States, 1892–1918

(p.19) 1 “Harmoniously Functioning Nationalities”
All Together Different
Daniel Katz
NYU Press

This chapter discusses the peculiarities of European Jewish nationalisms—both Yiddishism and Zionism—that influenced dominant and subordinate currents of Jewish American thinking in the twentieth century. It follows the immigration of Russian Jews who came to New York in the 1880s and 1890s, and founded mutually supporting institutions on Yiddishist principles. Due to their experience living as cultural foreigners in Russia, Russian Jewish immigrants to America were generally better prepared for the difficulties of living in a foreign culture compared to other groups coming from countries in which they spoke the majority language and worshiped in the dominant religion's churches. The movement to elevate Yiddish as the medium of Jewish national culture emerged in Russia just in time to arm a generation of radical Jews with revolutionary thought before they immigrated and confronted the tenements and sweatshops of America. The 1905 generation of revolutionary Jews brought with them a clear sense of the links between capitalist exploitation, national cultural repression, control over education, and the meaning of citizenship.

Keywords:   European Jewish nationalism, Yiddishism, Zionism, American Jews, Russian Jews, immigrants, Jewish national culture

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