In this multidisciplinary volume, leading historians provide new understanding of a time that sent shockwaves through Jewish communities in and beyond the Russian Empire and transformed the way Jews thought about the politics of ethnic and national identity.
2008 | 336 pages | Cloth $65.00
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Table of Contents
PART I. REASSESSING THE 1905 REVOLUTION
1. Interpreting 1905
2. Nicholas II and the Revolution
PART II. THE OLD REGIME CONFRONTS ITS "JEWISH QUESTION"
3. A Note on the Jewish Press and Censorship during the First Russian Revolution
4. The Russian Right Responds to 1905: Visual Depictions of Jews in Postrevolutionary Russia
5. "The Jewish Question" in the Tsarist Army in the Early Twentieth Century
PART III. 1905 AS A CROSSROADS FOR THE EMPIRE'S JEWS
6. Victory from Defeat: 1905 and the Society for the Promotion of Enlightenment among the Jews of Russia
7. The Generation of 1905 and the Politics of Despair: Alienation, Friendship, Community
8. The Jewish Socialist Parties in Russia in the Period of Reaction
9. 1905 as a Watershed in Polish-Jewish Relations
—Theodore R. Weeks
PART IV. CULTURAL REFLECTIONS OF REVOLUTION
10. Polish Literature's Portrayal of Jewish Involvement in 1905
11 Rebellion in Writing: Yosef Haim Brenner and the 1905 Revolution
12. The Revolutionary Origins of Yiddish Scholarship, 1903-1917
13. 1905 as a Jewish Cultural Revolution? Revolutionary and Evolutionary Dynamics in the East European Jewish Cultural Sphere, 1900-1914
14. Jewish Cultural Associations in the Aftermath of 1905
15. Writing between the Lines: 1905 in the Soviet Yiddish Novel of the Stalinist Period
PART V. OVERSEAS RIPPLES: 1905 AND AMERICAN JEWRY
16. The 1905 Revolution Abroad: Mass Migration, Russian Jewish Liberalism and American Jewry, 1903-1914
17. Democracy and Assimilation: The Jews, America, and the Russian Crisis from Kishinev to the End of World War I
List of Contributors
Like so much else that occurred in tsarist Russia, the Revolution of 1905 occupies a controversial and much-visited site in the landscape of modern Jewish history. Debates over its significance began even before the revolutionary heat had dissipated, as participants sought to make sense out of a staggering chain of events that, in the space of less than a year, gave rise to Russia's first democratically elected parliament as well as to campaigns of murderous anti-Jewish violence on a scale hitherto unknown under tsarist rule. For each of the dozen Jews elected by their fellow citizens to the Duma, as the new parliament was known, more than two hundred and fifty paid with their lives in pogroms across the Pale of Settlement. Why, asked an eyewitness in Vilna, had "popular spontaneity destroyed what had been achieved by revolutionary reason and conscious will?" Should the Russian Empire's Jews—the majority of the world's Jewish population—join hands with the revolutionary cause? To what end, in what manner—and at what cost?
Historians, in search of the long view, have elaborated these debates in a variety of directions. Some have understood 1905 as the final collapse of hopes for Jewish emancipation under tsarist rule, a generation-defining transition to militant mass politics on the Jewish street. Others, by contrast, have regarded 1905 as a lethal blow to the hothouse of socialist and nationalist ideologies, turning Jewish youth (like their Russian counterparts) inward to the self, to aesthetics, and other manifestations of so-called decadence. And still others have found in it the catalyst of the record-setting exodus of Jews to North America, or by contrast, of a smaller group destined for—and destined to transform radically—Palestine and the Land of Israel. The Revolution of 1905, in short, has served as a nodal point in the history of Jewish Eastern Europe and a crucible for ideas and practices that would shape Jewish life in Europe and beyond.
The Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin famously described 1905 as a "dress rehearsal" for the ultimate revolutionary drama of 1917. There is much truth to this assessment. All the principal elements of 1905 resurfaced, as if on cue, twelve years later. Once again a disastrous war (this time against Germany and Austria-Hungary rather than Japan) eroded popular support for Tsar Nicholas II. Once again the revolutionary dynamic was governed by the successive appearance on stage of liberal and socialist groups and their putative popular constituencies. And once again, political upheavals triggered waves of ethnic violence. But Lenin also—though less famously—described the Paris Commune of 1870 and the February 1917 Revolution in Petrograd as dress rehearsals for the events of October, suggesting that, for him at least, actual historical lineages were less important than the inexorable forward march of revolution itself.
The present volume seeks to loosen the bonds that tie 1905 to its alleged world-historical antecedents and consequences, to bring the reader face-to-face with participants and eyewitnesses, and to confront a revolutionary process whose hallmark, as Abraham Ascher puts it in the opening chapter, lay precisely in the ambiguity of its outcome. This very ambiguity invites us to explore not only the transformative impact of 1905 but also the ways in which the revolution failed to deflect certain continuities of Russian Jewish life, while steering others in unanticipated directions that do not comfortably align with conventional notions of revolutionary radicalism or cultural decadence. It further invites us to consider whether, for Russia's Jews, the turning points of the 1905 epoch were not only such empire-wide events as the general strike, the creation of a parliament, and the explosions of pogrom violence but also less visible changes in communal organization, print culture, and patterns of migration. The authors of the essays in this volume insist on viewing 1905 not as a dress rehearsal (whether for the Russian Revolution of 1917 or, at a greater distance, the achievement of Jewish political sovereignty in 1948) but as a performance in its own right. The volume's contributors have resisted classifying the revolutionary drama as triumph or tragedy, seeking instead to offer fresh reassessments of key actors (individual and collective), crucial scenes, and the shape of the plot as a whole.
The theatrical metaphor is not accidental. Over the course of the last two decades, historians of modern Russian and East European Jewry have broadened the scope of their investigations from political parties and ideologies to more diffuse—and often culturally mediated—forms of power and representation. This trend can be understood partly as a belated joining of the "cultural turn" that reoriented much of the humanities in the 1970s and 1980s and partly as a more local recognition that the highly combustible mixture of socialist and nationalist ideologies that defined so much of twentieth-century Jewish life is now "history"—and has thereby lost its near monopoly on our historical imagination.
The widening of the study of Russian Jewry to include not just politics but political culture, not just ideologies but identities, and, most important, the shift from analytic categories defined by historical actors to those selected by historians themselves found expression in a pathbreaking work of scholarship by the man in whose honor the present volume appears. Whatever the ambiguities of 1905 as a turning point in modern Jewish history, there can be little doubt that Jonathan Frankel's Prophecy and Politics: Socialism, Nationalism, and the Russian Jews, 1862-1917, first published in 1981, marked a turning point in modern Jewish historiography. More than a quarter-century later (and now reissued for a new generation of readers), it remains the preeminent study of the formation of a Jewish political culture, a virtual encyclopedia of the enormously influential Russian Jewish radical milieu.
Prophecy and Politics liberated Russian Jewish history from the inherited, largely Marxian paradigms fashioned by fin de siècle Jewish political parties. It did so most dramatically in the case of the Bund, the Jewish labor movement whose turn to Yiddish and Jewish nationalism—in spite of its ideological commitment to internationalism—had long been understood as a natural concession to the linguistic and existential needs of Jewish workers, the movement's "base." Frankel demonstrated that, on the contrary, the turn to Yiddish and Jewish nationalism was neither natural nor inevitable and, in fact, stemmed from the existential needs of the Bund's intelligentsia leaders in the context of their tangled relations with their Russian revolutionary counterparts on the one hand and the specter of linguistic "self-russification" by Jewish workers on the other. It was Frankel's close attention to what he called "the problem of self-definition, the unending search for identity" on the part of the Russian Jewish intelligentsia that made possible this self-emancipation from the received wisdom. As one reviewer put it, the book's "true subject" was "the tension between personal inclinations and general interests, between the individual's subjective truth and the historical progress of the nation."
The analytic ambition of Prophecy and Politics, however, reached far beyond its volte-face regarding the relationship between individual and party genealogies. One of its signal achievements, in fact, was to show that rival parties, movements, and ideologies (socialist, Zionist, territorialist, autonomist, etc.) could most fruitfully be understood as parts of a single Jewish intelligentsia milieu whose internal affinities ran deep below the surface of incessant sectarian rivalries and antagonisms. Those affinities, Frankel argued, were nourished by a shared apocalyptic mood, a potent blend of religious and secular (ideological) messianism. Yet another breakthrough consisted in Frankel's insistence that radical Jewish politics evolved in a complex dialectic of emulation and estrangement vis-à-vis analogous Russian and Polish movements—which is to say, that Jewish politics could be fully apprehended only within a multiethnic, imperial framework. And as if that were not a sufficiently broad canvas, Prophecy and Politics pioneered a genuinely transcontinental Jewish history, following the radical Russian Jewish milieu as it transplanted itself onto the alien soil of the American labor movement and the Jewish settlements of Ottoman Palestine.
Across this wide-ranging narrative, Frankel's famously "thick" descriptions rendered his restless revolutionaries in their full complexity as human beings. While anchored in a conception of modern Jewish history that privileges moments of collective crisis as engines of change, Prophecy and Politics resisted the kinds of schematic models of historical development so dear to its protagonists, instead restoring a vital sense of contingency to their fate in tsarist Russia and beyond. The liberation from teleological models of development, it seems to me, helps account for the enduring influence of Prophecy and Politics. As the diverse essays in the present volume amply illustrate, it is virtually impossible to write about Jews, power, and culture in late imperial Russia—not to mention a host of related topics—without engaging the questions and arguments raised by Frankel over the course of his scholarly career.
Among those questions and arguments, of course, are some that touch directly on the subject of the present volume. The Revolution of 1905, Frankel has written, "did not represent a major turning point, a basic reevaluation of values, the creation of fundamentally new political movements." "What it did do was to make broader circles than ever before conscious of the urgency of the Jewish problem; to stimulate the creation of additional parties and organizations dedicated to its solution; and to bring them together into a complicated shifting system of alliances and rivalries." The effect of 1905, in other words, was additive rather than transformative. Frankel's assessment was grounded in a comparative framework: for him, 1905 was suspended between two historically more significant moments, namely, the pogroms of 1881-82 and the general crisis they produced in Russian Jewry and the nexus of world war and revolution in 1917, in the course of which the three empires crucial to the Jews' fate—the Russian, the Austrian, and the Ottoman—disintegrated.
And yet, the passage quoted above begs several questions: How did 1905 change the way the "urgency of the Jewish problem" was construed? What were those "additional parties and organizations" that arose during and after the revolution? And how did the "alliances and rivalries" they engendered differ from those that preceded 1905? The third and final part of Prophecy and Politics, "Ideology and Émigré Realities," shifts the mise-en-scène of the Jewish intelligentsia after 1907 (the effective end date of the first revolutionary epoch) from Russia to America and Palestine. While there is no denying the historical significance of these offshoots, the effect is a kind of optical illusion whereby the curtain drops on Jewish history in Russia until another revolutionary crisis erupts in 1917, as if, in the words of a Bundist newspaper in 1908, "Only ruins remain."
The present volume suggests that far more than ruins remained. Inspired by Frankel's self-emancipation from the Jewish intelligentsia's own master narrative and taking up where he left off, its authors offer a fresh look at the revolutionary dynamic as well as new analyses of Russian Jewry's post-1905 fortunes. As Brian Horowitz points out in his chapter on the Society for the Promotion of Enlightenment among the Jews of Russia, "as with so much of Jewish history, one has to be sensitive as much to potentialities as to realities." The postrevolutionary era, after all, lasted scarcely a decade, until the incursion of German and Austrian troops into the Pale of Settlement during World War I, transforming Jewish life far more radically than had the upheavals of 1905. During that decade, however, ideas and practices came to the fore that suggest an important shift in the political culture of Russian Jewry, a weakening of the "prophetic" mode of the previous era and of the messianic expectations that fueled it. It was this partial erosion of the apocalyptic that opened the field for the host of alternatives explored in the chapters that follow.
Part I of the present volume, "Reassessing the 1905 Revolution," introduces readers to the shaping forces of the revolutionary era as a whole, understood as extending from the semi-legal public gatherings of 1904 to the reassertion of monarchical authority in 1907. In "Interpreting 1905," Abraham Ascher, the doyen of Western historians of Russia's first revolution, emphasizes the extraordinary complexity of the revolutionary drama, its many unpredictable twists and turns, not least among them the unexpected outcome of Russia's first democratic elections. While pressure from below failed to transfer political power from one social class to another, the massive "assault on authority" was effective enough to make the toppling of the old regime suddenly more than credible. Hence the ambiguous outcome of 1905: tsarism was left intact, but the revolution weakened its foundations far more profoundly than had decades of attempted assassinations, terrorist attacks, and local uprisings.
The tsar, however, insisted on regarding the revolution as an unambiguous failure. In his essay "Nicholas II and the Revolution," Richard Wortman, the leading authority on the political culture of the Russian monarchy, argues that well before 1905 Nicholas had adopted a "national myth" prescribing that Russia be governed according to an imagined premodern ideal of autocratic rule, an "organic union" of tsar and people. Based on a shared religious faith and spiritual destiny, the "national myth" left little room for Jews and other non-Orthodox groups. If anything, Nicholas viewed the events of 1905 as confirmation of the threat to Russia posed by Jews and other outsiders, and they strengthened his own resolve to rescue Russia in the manner of his medieval ancestor from the Time of Troubles, the founder of the Romanov dynasty, Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich.
Some of the practical implications of the "national myth" in the revolutionary era are explored in Part II, "The Old Regime Confronts Its 'Jewish Question.'" As Semion Goldin demonstrates in his chapter "'The Jewish Question' in the Tsarist Army in the Early Twentieth Century," in the empire's largest and most multiethnic institution—the army—there was broad support, at least at the elite level, for ending the military conscription of Jews and thereby reversing the limited integration that had begun three-quarters of a century earlier under Tsar Nicholas I. In the wake of the 1905 Revolution, a majority of military commanders came to regard Jews not just as poor soldiers but also as politically subversive. This was a view graphically reinforced by the increasingly virulent depiction of Jews in the right-wing press, a phenomenon analyzed by Robert Weinberg in his chapter "The Russian Right Responds to 1905: Visual Depictions of Jews in Postrevolutionary Russia." Here it was not so much the army as the Duma, the revolution's most visible success story, that was cast as a tool of behind-the-scenes Jewish subversion.
It is important to note, however, that on the whole, the revolutionary era did not witness a retrenchment in the Russian state's Jewish policies. Jews were not expelled from the army (though their chances of promotion to officer status continued to be severely limited and, with the outbreak of war in 1914, were virtually eliminated). Although still restricted in their civil rights, Jews were granted equal political rights as voters and candidates in the Duma elections of 1906 and 1907. Dmitrii Elyashevich's analysis of state control of the printed word, "A Note on the Jewish Press and Censorship during the First Russian Revolution," shows that in 1905 government censorship ceased to apply distinct criteria to Jewish publications as opposed to those of other ethnic and religious minorities, including the largest minority of all, ethnic Russians. Thus Jewish publishing houses benefited equally from the lifting of prepublication censorship, with enormous consequences for the burgeoning Jewish public sphere.
That public sphere is the leading subject of Part III, "1905 as a Crossroads for the Empire's Jews." A freer press reduced the incentive to operate underground and thereby shifted the balance of power between legal and illegal political parties in the Jewish world. Similarly, the Duma privileged electoral politics over clandestine agitation, and radical Jewish parties that had boycotted the first elections (in 1906) quickly changed their minds and decided to join the fray a year later. The broadening of legally sanctioned public activities transformed the work of Jewish organizations across the political-cultural spectrum. In his chapter "Victory from Defeat: 1905 and the Society for the Promotion of Enlightenment among the Jews of Russia," Brian Horowitz explores the empire's oldest public Jewish organization as it shifted from educational philanthropy aimed at increasing Jewish enrollment in Russian schools to the creation of separate Jewish educational institutions such as primary schools, libraries, a rabbinical seminary, and a teachers' institute. His description of attempts to make the society itself more democratic—more like a Jewish parliament, in fact—suggests the complex mix of integrative and separatist forces at work, as a quintessentially liberal organization came to pursue an agenda of de facto cultural autonomy.
The post-1905 prominence of voluntary associations, as Vladimir Levin and Jeffrey Veidlinger show, was characteristic of both the Jewish and Russian worlds. Bundists and Zionists—like their Social Democratic and Socialist Revolutionary counterparts—found themselves on unfamiliar terrain, often disappointed that amateur theaters, orchestras, choirs, and literary discussion groups were uninterested in serving as legal covers for underground political work. Such associations threatened, moreover, to expose Jewish workers to the "bourgeois" influence of traditional Jewish society. And yet, Levin argues in his "The Jewish Socialist Parties in Russia in the Period of Reaction," voluntary associations quietly fostered a kind of internal Jewish revolution in the wake of the larger Revolution of 1905. Threatened with a loss of influence among the Jewish masses, Jewish socialists of all stripes were forced not only to cooperate with nonsocialist (i.e., "bourgeois") activists but also to work within traditional Jewish communal structures that many had previously criticized or shunned altogether.
The effect of such Gegenwartsarbeit—the Zionist term for "working in the here-and-now"—was, on the one hand, a tempering (one is tempted, following the historian Gershom Scholem, to say "neutralizing") of messianic instincts through an injection of pragmatism into Jewish political culture and, on the other, a potential revitalization of communal institutions whose authority had been eroding for over a century. Indeed, in his essay "Jewish Cultural Associations in the Aftermath of 1905," Veidlinger argues that such associations gradually usurped the leadership roles previously played by traditional religious and communal authorities. Such institutions as public libraries, moreover, served as "social equalizers," spaces where people of different classes and genders could mix in ways considered taboo by traditional Jewish society. Thus in contrast to Nicholas II's attempt to return to what he imagined to be Russia's medieval heritage of paternal rule through an unmediated spiritual bond between tsar and (Russian Orthodox) people, Jewish efforts focused on the local level, on modernizing the heder (the Jewish primary school), opening its doors to girls, forming a variety of mutual aid and cultural societies, and democratizing the governing structure of local Jewish communities.
However, as Scott Ury shows in "The Generation of 1905 and the Politics of Despair: Alienation, Friendship, Politics," 1905 by no means extinguished the instinct for radical change. Ury looks closely at some of the young Jewish men who flocked to the empire's cities in the years leading up to and during the revolution, including David Yosef Green (later Ben-Gurion) and other future Zionist leaders. Before they made their name (literally, in Green's case) as a generation defined by the violent upheavals of 1905 and the subsequent exodus to Palestine, Ury contends, Green and others were united by a profound sense of dislocation from family, birthplace, and tradition, a "lost generation" desperately in search of new forms of community. These tormented figures were forged in Frankel's Russian Jewish radical milieu, desperately searching for "total solutions" (as Green put it in 1905) and often torn between personal and what were construed as "national" or "historical" needs. An exquisite example of the apocalyptic mood prevalent in such circles appears in a private letter by the nineteen-year-old Hebrew writer Uri Nissan Gnessin:
We must consecrate ourselves, purify ourselves. . . . Because all of these doubts and questions are nothing more than the result of our own profanity. Once our souls are purified, these [matters] will also disappear.... For the time being, dedicate your energies to the needs of the local community so that you can later be of use to the entire people of Israel . . . . Work, Work, Work!
Part IV, "Cultural Reflections of Revolution," moves the discussion beyond political culture to the tension between political and aesthetic commitments. Several essays in this section explore efforts to represent the revolution in literary form; others analyze the revolution's impact on cultural production and the idea of culture itself.
As Jonathan Frankel has recently observed, 1905 became the subject of "instant fictionalization" in multiple literatures of the Russian Empire. In her survey, "Polish Literature's Portrayal of Jewish Involvement in 1905," Agnieszka Friedrich extends Theodore Weeks's analysis of the Polish case, exploring over a dozen contemporary Polish-language fictional depictions of revolutionary Jews. Within the relatively formulaic genre of the revolutionary novel, she finds a variety of authorial stances, none of them particularly favorable to the idea of Polish-Jewish cooperation. Hannan Hever presents a very different critique of Jewish revolutionary activity in his essay "Rebellion in Writing: Yosef Haim Brenner and the 1905 Revolution." In Brenner, himself a veteran of the Zionist, Bundist (Jewish socialist), and Socialist Revolutionary movements, Hever finds a resurgence of the apocalyptic instinct, now however deliberately shorn of any political dimension, indeed cast as a revolt against Jewish politics itself. Sickened by explanations of anti-Jewish violence designed to confirm the ideological stance of this or that party, Brenner fashioned his own version of what was by then an established genre—the post-pogrom jeremiad. Unlike Lev Pinsker's 1882 pamphlet Automancipation! and Haim Nahman Bialik's 1903 epic poem In the City of Slaughter, however, Brenner reserved his deepest venom for the endless talk ("filthy nonsense") generated by Jewish political movements, "any contact or dealing with which," argues the hero of Brenner's 1906 Hebrew story "From A. to M.," "is [an] ineradicable disgrace." Instead, Hever shows, Brenner turned inward, to a "sublime, holy pessimism"—precisely the sort of "decadent" retreat deplored by his erstwhile comrades.
The conflict between aesthetic autonomy and revolutionary or national legitimation lies at the heart of Kenneth Moss's "1905 as a Jewish Cultural Revolution? Revolutionary and Evolutionary Dynamics in the East European Jewish Cultural Sphere, 1900-1914." Addressing the central theme of the present volume, Moss offers a key revisionist argument regarding the controversial role of 1905 as a turning point in modern Jewish cultural history. The revolution's ambiguous outcome, he suggests, did not so much introduce the tension between aesthetics and politics as catalyze a trend already well under way at the turn of the century, a trend best characterized as evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Dissatisfied with explanations of Jewish modernism (such as Brenner's) as a form of psychic compensation for failed revolution, Moss argues that the main function of 1905 was to force the tension between art and ideology to the surface of Jewish cultural life and, indeed, to transform it into "the central organizing conflict of the Yiddish cultural sphere for the rest of its pre-Holocaust history." Thus Moss subtly recasts Jonathan Frankel's own reading of 1905, concurring in Frankel's assessment of 1905's essentially additive rather than transformative impact on the Jewish world but shifting the frame of analysis from political culture to the relationship between politics and culture.
Like Moss, Barry Trachtenberg traces the emergence of new forms of Jewish cultural expression in Eastern Europe, in this case the development of literary criticism, folklore studies, philology, and linguistics, all centered on the Yiddish language and texts. The ambiguity of its title notwithstanding, Trachtenberg's "The Revolutionary Origins of Yiddish Scholarship, 1903-17" suggests that the origins of Jewish visnshaft (scholarship aspiring to scientific objectivity) lie in the prerevolutionary period. As in the case of Jewish literary modernism, one can discern in East European Jewish scholarship a tension between aspirations for intellectual autonomy and a desire to serve the cause of revolution or nation building (or both). Like Moss, Trachtenberg notes continuities in the development of Yiddish-language scholarship that extend well into the 1920s, with the founding of research centers such as the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in Vilna (Wilno) and Soviet-sponsored Institutes for Jewish Culture in Kiev and Minsk.
Mikhail Krutikov, too, looks to the interwar period for the legacy of 1905. In his chapter "Writing between the Lines: 1905 in the Soviet-Yiddish Novel of the Stalinist Age," Krutikov extends Agnieszka Friedrich's investigation of literary representations to the early Soviet decades, examining works by two Soviet Yiddish writers, Lipman Levin (who wrote under the pen name Lipman-Levin) and Pinkhas Kahanovich ("Der Nister"). Like Friedrich, Krutikov finds a high degree of formulaic consistency in literary depictions of the 1905 Revolution. The dominant scheme, a narrative triptych of war, revolution, and pogroms, conveniently reinforced the Bolshevik version of 1905 as a dress rehearsal for 1917, the three-part sequence appearing to fit both revolutions perfectly. Krutikov is able to show, however, that although this narrative became part of Bolshevik orthodoxy, it originated in late tsarist-era works by Sholem Aleichem and Sholem Asch, neither of whom was associated with the Bolsheviks. Furthermore, Krutikov argues, both Lipman-Levin and Der Nister subtly—and subversively—altered the officially approved narrative in ways meant to suggest the distinctively Jewish qualities of their revolutionary protagonists.
The final section of the book, "Overseas Ripples:1905 and American Jewry," moves the story not only forward in time but also—as pioneered by Prophecy and Politics—beyond the borders of the Russian Empire. Whether or not the revolution fashioned a "generation" (a term usually applied to the Second Aliyah, the tens of thousands of Jewish emigrants who made their way to Palestine after 1905, rather than to the hundreds of thousands who journeyed to North America and other points west of Russia), there is little doubt that the revolution's political tremors and ethnic violence set off some of the largest waves of Jewish emigration in modern history.
In her essay, "The 1905 Revolution Abroad: Mass Migration, Russian Jewish Liberalism, and American Jewry, 1903-14," Rebecca Kobrin proposes that migrants bound for the New World, like their counterparts in the Second Aliyah, formed a distinct cohort. Their exodus constituted a kind of social revolution—for those who left as well as for those who stayed behind. In part this was a consequence of their unprecedented numbers, which in turn reflected new commercial technologies of steamship transport and mass advertising. But Kobrin suggests that Jewish immigrants to the United States in the period of 1905 were also qualitatively distinct. Tapping the rich collection of autobiographical essays solicited from East European Jewish immigrants by the New York branch of YIVO in 1942, she finds a strong current of attitudes and aspirations best understood under the rubric of liberalism: respect for individual financial success, educational achievement, and social integration. In contrast to Zionism and Jewish socialism, liberalism in this sense hardly qualified as ideology, if by that term one means a program designed to transform the world. Most intriguingly, Kobrin proposes that these qualities were less an effect of migration to the United States than its cause, or to put it differently, that the American variety of Russian Jewish liberalism was born in Russia itself.
The persistence of Russia in the minds and collective action of Russian Jewish immigrants in America is the main theme of Eli Lederhendler's essay, "Democracy and Assimilation: The Jews, America, and the Russian Crisis from Kishinev to the End of World War I." The revolutionary era, and particularly the pogroms, were crucial to the narrative of persecution in the Old World and, by implication, redemption in the New. As Lederhendler puts it, the revolutionary crisis "lent the act of immigration the character of destiny or fate." Thus for Russian Jewish immigrants in America, and for their offspring, there could be little doubt as to whether 1905 constituted a turning point; it was, in the most literal sense, their point of departure.
Most works honoring distinguished scholars consist of essays and articles by former students of the honoree. It seems no exaggeration to say that virtually everyone who works on the history of Jews in Eastern Europe, or on the origins of modern Jewish politics, is a student of Jonathan Frankel. The authors represented in this volume include doctoral students and colleagues from Frankel's long and illustrious career at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, but the lion's share are historians and literary scholars from other universities, indeed from other continents, for whom Frankel's influence—personal as well as intellectual—has been formative. I am grateful to count myself among them. In Jonathan Frankel we honor a man whose exceptional kindness and generosity to younger scholars, like his pioneering scholarship, continue to make an indelible impression.