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June 24, 1977 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1977-06-24

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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56 Friday, June 24, 1977


Ahad Ha'am — Hebrew pen name of Asher
Ginsberg — the "atheistic rabbi," as he was
called, is a prime example of those giants of the
spirit whose influence is felt for generations.
Born in 1856 in the Ukraine, he lived at the time
of the birth of political Zionism and the renas-
cence of the Hebrew language and Hebrew
culture. The pen-name "One of the People" is
typical for the manthimself. Here was a son of a
traditional, well-to-do family, thoroughly
steeped in classic Jewish learning — Ahad
Ha'am was a Talmudist of note in his younger
years — who came under the influence of Rus-
sian and German thinkers of the 19th century; a
restless spirit who could never satisfy himself
with any kind of shallow tradition, but a man
who had to measure all thought and all culture
by his own criteria; a man who would become
the "conscience of Zionism," who never wrote
a line without an inner urge, hating all superfi-
cial propaganda. And just as his origins were in
Chassidism, so he harbored all his life a quest
for a critical world view. And he maintained an
uncompromising stand on the supreme value of

Ahad Ha'am never was a leadership figure in
the political sense. He never held office in the
Zionist movement. Yet his influence on men
such as Weizmann, Ussishkin, Bialik and
Buber, and on many other great figures of his
age, was profound. During the rise of political
Zionism, at the time of the Balfour Declaration

and the negotiations surrounding the Versailles
Peace Treaty, Ahad Ha'am did not appear in
the headlines even once. Still, Chaim Weiz-
mann would not act without consulting Ahad
Ha' am.
His criticism was, from the outset, directed
at two sides. He chided the political Zionists for
their lack of realism — never would it be possi-
ble, Mad Ha'am stated, to settle all of Euro-
pean Jewry in Palestine. The very idea of a
Jewish State, a political entity just like any
other modern state, was abhorrent to him. On
the other hand, Ahad Ha'am's position as a
Jewish thinker brought him into conflict with
official orthodoxy, as soon as he had left the
world of classical Jewish studies and turned to
contemporary Russian and German freethink-
ing philosophy.
For Ahad Ha'am it is the Jewish spirit which
is of preeminence in Jewish history, it • alone
imbued the Jews with a national will to survive.
This Jewish spirit is the grandeur of Jewish
civilization, its hallmark. Zionism must foster
it, in order to help the Diaspora Jew overcome
his inferiority complex.
"Al Parashat D'rachim" — "At the Cross-
roads" — with this title of Ahad Ha'am's
volume of essays he indicates the dilemma of
the East European Jew who has emerged from
the physical and spiritual ghetto and tries to find
an answer to the problems of his time. Ahad
Ha'am was totally opposed to assimilation, but
he felt no sympathy, at first, for the single-
minded political Zionism of Herzl either. His
earlier criticism of the Chovevei Zion move-
ment advocated a slow settlement in Palestine
by small, select groups ("Lo Zu Haderech" —
"This is not the Way") — instead of mass
colonization; he strove for the creation of a
"spiritual center" in Eretz Yisrael which even-
tually would radiate its influence as a uniting
force over all of world Jewry.
Ahad ,Ha'am held a deep belief in the cho-
senness of the Jewish people; he speaks fre-
quently of a Jewish mystique, a secret of Jewish
survival which nobody can explain. In this
sense, it is somewhat unfair to call him an
atheist. He did not deny a God concept, but he
could not bring himself to adhere to the tra-




Addressing a letter
—equivalent to
Dear . . .
Miss, Mrs., Madam
United States

Yylp —

— )3 11 1N

United Nations

•1 el Aviv

Israeli Pound
Ramat Gan
I td., or inc.
abroad, foreign
South Africa

0.:!,0 tfeW . :

ditional theistic faith, to an uncritical concep-
tion of a personal deity. It was the Jewish
genius for morality, the spirit of the Biblical
prophets, the ethical wisdom of the medieval
Jewish thinkers and poets, which for Ahad
Ha'am contained the reasons for Jewish cho-

Ahad Ha'am had a deep mistrust of the non-
Jewish world. His basically pessimistic view of
Jewish history would have found a bitter verifi-
cation in the horrors of the Nazi slaughter and it
is doubtful whether this prophet of the Jewish
spirit would have been able to cope, emotion-
ally and as a thinker, with the holocaust. On the
other hand, Ahad Ha'am would also be highly
critical of the American Jewish community to
the extent that it does not cultivate, in sufficient
measure, what he once called " . . . study —
study — study — the secret of Jewish survi-

There is no question -that the voice of this
aristocrat of the Hebrew spirit has much to say
to the present generation, both in Israel and
abroad. The constant reminder that we are first
and last a people of the spirit, has not lost any of
its validity as Ahad Ha'am proclaimed it in his
own life time. His quiet, noble voice sounds as
penetrating today as it did when the Jewish
State was nothing more than a dream.


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And here are some brand new Hebrew
expressions, strongly influenced by . . .
American English:

chewing gum
pin-up girl
stool pigeon
"dead" (as in
"dead tired")
big shot
to put one's cards
on the table
baby sitter




vt../. 15D



1 ,D5p me n?)

Ahad Ha'am Adages: —
". . . Spiritual Zionism is the whole of

Judaism, not a part of it, or an addition to it,
a Judaism which shall have as its focal point
the ideal of our nation's unity, its renas-
cence and its free development through the
expression of universal human values in the
terms of its own distinctive spirit . . ."




"The people's heart is the foundation on
which the land will be built."




What is national existence if not the exis-
tence of a national spirit? What is a nation's
importance, if not the importance of the
spiritual treasures it has added to human



"There is only one object — and that
is the moral object: the emancipation of
ourselves from the inner slavery and
spiritual degradation which assimila-
tion has produced in us."


New Hebrew Poets
From Texas!



%cc 111 -11cluvw Grow

Soviet Union

Upon His Fiftieth Yahrzeit

••••••••,,,,, •

an elementary school teacher by profession,
and currently working for her Ph.D. at the
University of Texas, has published last year a
collection of Hebrew poetry "Flowers of Be-
ing," issued by Kiryat Sefer, Jerusalem, with a
second volume of poetry, 'scheduled for publi-
cation this year. Ms. Ross-Daniel, whose
poems have previously appeared in "Hadoar"
and "Bitzaron," and who delivered a paper on
"The Sun Myth in the Works of D.H. Lawr-
ence and Saul Tschernichovsky" at the Miami
Beach Convention of the National Association
of Professors of Hebrew, is a specialist in
audio-visual Hebrew Education. Presently she
is at work developing a computer-assisted in-
struction course to teach the Hebrew alphabet,
vowels and writing system. Engaged in various
other research projects, among them: "Time
Theories in Jewish Philosophy," her avoca-
tional preference goes to creative writing in
Hebrew, in poetry and prose.

born in North Carolina and now living in Texas
began learning Hebrew at the age of 14 — with
the aid of books and records! His first contact
with the classroom was in 1968, when he at-
tended Ulpan Akiva during a summer stay in
Israel. And, low and behold, he has become a
superb Hebrew poet "writing in a living idiom
that ci .)es not differ from that which is current
today among the generation of native-born Is-
raeli poets." Such accolade comes, in a joint
statement, from such luminaries of modern
Hebrew creativity as Simon Halkin and Aharon
A first volume of Whitehills' Hebrew verse
will be published shortly in Israel. In addition
to his mastery of poetry, Whitehill has also
made his mark as a splendid, most sensitive
translator. He has rendered in English two
Megged novels, four Agnon stories, and the
novel on the Yom Kippur War "The Bitter
Lake" by Yossi Gamzu — just to list a few
among his recent literary efforts to make
modern Hebrew prose available to an English-
speaking readership. And in association with
Dan Almagor, now a visiting professor at the
University of Texas, Robert Whitehill plans to
work on translating the first Hebrew drama "A .
Comedy of Betrothal," dating back to the 16th

Both Dahlia Ross-Daniel and Samuel Robert Whitehill are students of Dr. Eisig Silberschlag —
'v-••,tov/ an illustrious name in American Hebrew poetry — former Dean of the Boston Hebrew Teachers
College and now Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Texas. Rightfully, Professor
Silberschlag can say: "I am proud of the crop."



Ai ks



This special feature is the latest in a series
prepared by the Tarbuth Foundation for
the Advancement of Hebrew Culture.



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