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December 25, 1987 - Image 41

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-12-25

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

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where it would not need to
imitate others. Assimilation
could no more provide a con-
structive answer to the pro-
blems of the Jewish people, he
believed, than suicide could
provide an answer to the pro-
blems of Jewish individuals.
He co-authored a cor-
respondence course so that
adults could master Hebrew
at home, since he was con-
vinced that only through
Hebrew could the Jewish soul
be awakened. He celebrated
the growth of Hebrew courses,
clubs and periodicals, both in
Eastern Europe and in
Palestine.

Above all he stressed the
importance of the Land of
Israel for "modern" (that is
for Westernized and par-
ticularly, for Germanized)
Jews, because only there, he
believed, could Jewish
socialism and Jewish moder-
nity develop hand in hand.
Only Zionism, he maintained,
could unite Jewish thought
with pan-human thought. He
considered Zionism to be, first
and foremost, a cultural
movement that enriched
Eastern European Jews by
stimulating them to moderni-
ty (both in Yiddish and in
Hebrew), and by bringing
Western European Jews to ge-
nuine Jewish ethnonational
identity. Zionism alone, he
believed, could bring them
both together and unite them
again into one people, as they
had been before the Wester-
nization, emancipation and
assimilation of Western
Euroepan Jews.

Zionism could give both
Western and Eastern Jews a
joint footing in a land where
Jews would once again be
able to contribute to the
ethical and the aesthetic pro-
gress of mankind as a whole,
as they had done in days of
old.
Especially noteworthy is
the militant approach to the
status of Yiddish. Birnbaum
defended Yiddish when refer-
red to as the jargon of the
Jewish people. He condemned
those in German Jewry who
attempted to degrade it.

At the same time there is
acclaim in Birnbaum's
teachings for Hebrew as the
vital factor in the national
rebirth represented in the
Zionism he advocated as a
force for elevating the highest
moral aims in Jewry.
Prof. Fishman's biography
elevates Birnbaum the mili-
tant scholar, the defender of
-Yiddish, the interpreter of
ethical Jewish codes. A deep
interest is therefore revived in
an eminent Jewish
personality.

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

41

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