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February 03, 1984 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-02-03

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

-mummammumun

Friday, February 3, 1984 1

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Pioneer Ahad HaAm Helped Shape the Zionist Philosophy

By DR. DAVID GEFFEN

(Copyright 1984, JTA, Inc.)

(Editor's note: Ahad
HaAm (1856-1929) first
came to Odessa 100 years
ago, where, in the
Hovevei Zion (Lovers of
Zion), he started his pub-
lic activities. He also re-
sided in London and
spent his last years in Tel
Aviv. Dr. David Geffen,
who now lives in
Jerusalem, is an
educator and writer who
came to Israel from At-
lanta.)
What is the 'highest form
of flattery? When one's
ideas live on and • exert

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AHAD HAAM
broad influence without
people being aware of their
source. In this sense we
Jews owe many of our cur-
rently held perceptions of
Judaism and the Jewish
state to a man with whom
most of _us are unfamiliar.
Born Asher Zvi Ginsberg,
he wrote under the pen
name Ahad HaAm. In his
brilliant essays in Hebrew
he was not opposed to politi-
cal Zionism, per se, yet he
understood that acquiring a
state was only part of the
responsibility of the Jewish
national movement. How
that state's citizens would
help to create a cultural, in-
tellectual and spiritual
bridge to Jews around the
world was a key facet of his
approach to Zionism. His
views have been called
spiritual — as against
Theodor Herzl's political
Zionism — but the defini-
tion does not do full justice
to his views.

Born in Russia in 1856
he had a very traditional
Jewish education in
which his teacher even
refused to instruct him in
the letters of the Russian
alphabet. He learned
them on his own by read-
ing the signs on the local
storefronts.
When his family moved to
an estate in 1868, having no

interests in the natural sur-
roundings he locked himself
in his room and read the
words of medieval thinkers
such as Maimonides, Cres-
cas, Gersonides and Albo
and modern thinkers such
as Krokhmal and Graetz.
He moved on to the works of
the writers of the Haskala,
the Hebrew enlightenment.
Then he submerged himself
in the writings of positivist
thinkers such as Locke and
Mill.
In 1889, when he pub-
lished his first article, "This
Is Not The Way," he signed
it as Ahad HaAm, trying to
stress that he was not a man
of letters but as the name
implied — one of the people.
In 1896 he became editor of
Hashiloakh, the leading
Hebrew monthly which was
a forum for discussing con-
temporary problems of
Judaism. Since Ahad
HaAm advocated a Zionism
in which the cultural revi-
val of the Jewish people was
paramount, he came into
conflict with Herzl's politi-
cal solution to the Jewish
problem based on im-
mediate statehood.
Because .of his differences
with mainstream Zionism,
his bad health and reluc-
tance to hold office, he faded
into the background during
15 years in England from
the year 1906. His main
influence in this period,
aside from his essays, was
the impact he had on Chaim
Weizmann during the lat-
ter's negotiations connected
with the Balfour Declara-
tion.
In 1922 Ahad HaAm

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Soviet Jews
Also Aging

LONDON — The main
reason for the numerical de-
cline of Soviet Jewry during
the 1970s, apart from emig-
ration, is not so much in-
termarriage but the dwindl-
ing size of the Jewish fam-
ily, which reflects the ag-
ing of the population and
the low reproduction rate.
This is the major conclu-
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families from the 1979
Soviet Census, made by Dr.
Lukasz Hirszowicz of the
Institute of Jewish Affairs.

moved to Tel Aviv and was
such a revered figure that
when he rested in the after-
noon his street was closed to
traffic. In the fall of 1923 the
first of the six -volumes of his
collected essays began to
appear. He died on Jan. 2,
1929, and according to
newspaper accounts
everyone in Tel Aviv
attended his funeral.

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