Appeal from the Reich President.
Sacrifice for Upper Silesia!
Synopsis: President Ebert and Chancellor Fehrenbach ask the German people to make donations to support the cost of ensuring that all former residents of Upper Silesia return to participate in the plebescite mandated by the Treaty of Versailles in which Upper Silesians will decide whether the territory be part of Germany or part of Poland.
“By the German people’s spirit of sacrifice may the Upper Silesians recognize that the Fatherland cherishes them.”
During the terrible war years we became acquainted with the strength of military, political, and economic power and as never before, experienced the collapse of this power. Now we see external power triumph and as Germans and Jews we suffer mightily under it. Intellectual and moral culture seems to have succumbed to decline, might goes before right, brute force rules, humanitarian ideals seem to have been buried. For many the consequence is that they give up all of their personal ideals and seek only power and pleasure.
Into this, the celebration of Chanukka brings a comforting message. Alexander the Great’s campaign created Hellenism and with it a common world culture. Through the Greek spirit, he freed unknown, slumbering forces and made the dying classical Greek culture fertile once again through contact with the culture of the Orient—this almost dead culture of the east was then enlivened through the Greek culture. But he also completely destroyed the chains that had bound the people. The right of individualism appeared; unlimited and uninhibited forces of nature, violent people came forward for whom nothing was sacred. Violence and insidiousness ruled. Only one other time in history was there a similar plenty of these forceful personalities who scrupulously disdained the laws of morality when it came to pushing their plans through, and that was in the time of the Renaissance. During this unique time of Hellenism, the great and the horrible lay closely wrapped together, seeping into each other. The contrasts between the Greek and the Barbarian disappeared; the notion of a single humanity gained dominance. But while in Judaism this notion had grown out of a belief in one God and brought forth the rule of love and justice toward every person, in Hellenism this rule was at most known in the teachings of individual thinkers and remained a foreign concept to the common conscience.
Into this world with its glistening exterior came Judaism, which until then had existed far from the great events. The highly technically, intellectually, and artistically developed Hellenism must have had a fascinating effect on many, but on the other hand, serious people must have recognized the superiority of their own religious and moral culture. So Judaism struggled back and forth and balance came only slowly. Then Antiochus Epiphanes dipped with an awkward Hand into the sacredness of religious conviction. A petty, narrow mind had taken on the grand idea of unifying his widespread kingdom on the foundation of Hellenistic culture. He believed he would instill Hellenism by forcing them to don Hellenistic clothing. He hadn’t understood the spirit of Hellenism, and naturally not at all understood the spirit of Judaism. He thought he could hellenize the Jews with police tactics, force Hellenistic customs and Hellenistic gods onto them through violence.
The Hasmoneans rose up against this. For the first time in the history of the world there was a freedom fight that was motivated not by national freedom, but by freedom of the spirit and the conscience. For the rebelling Jews didn’t want political independence. Rather they struggled for religious freedom. In this unequal fight, the idea won out over force and gave the world proof that God is not always “with the strongest batallions.”
But in order to win, ideas need the people that carry them to act resolutely and willingly sacrifice everything to realize them. Only thus do ideas come to life. But this can only be the case when the people’s lives are entirely imbued with the idea. The Hasmoneans and their troops were steeped in their Judaism; the Syrian mercenaries did not know for what they were fighting.
External might has never meant anything to Judaism. It loses its essential being when it strives for political power instead of spiritual meaning. Through millennia it withstood all storms because its people were permeated with its spirit. In this way could this spirit be an element of progress for the whole culture. This lets us confidently endure this present time of domination. But it is our duty to fill ourselves with the spirit of Judaism. We are convinced that this spirit of Judaism expresses itself in its purest form in the way that liberalism presents it. Chanukka teaches us to take hold of these ideas and actively advance them. They must be victorious.
Jewish Social Welfare Work.
The laws of the Jewish state made the impoverishment of a fellow Jew practically impossible. A sense of brotherhood permeated the entire people. The word Zedoko was used for donations to the poorer, which is the same word for justice. This similarity of words shows that the poor had a right to help, just as, of course, according to the Jewish point of view, every citizen has a duty to work.
The respect for the dignity of man is the source of ancient Jewish social laws. No one was allowed to be enslaved because he could not pay his debt, as Roman law prescribed where there was no protection of class, no legal recourse. “If your brother becomes impoverished and is indebted to you, you must support him; he must live with you like a foreign resident. Do not take interest or profit from him, but you must fear your God and your brother must live with you.” [Lev. 25:35 – 37]
Jubilee and Sabbatical years prevented widespread poverty.
When communities formed after the exile, as the Jewish agrarian laws fell along with the Jewish state, the Talmud further expanded social welfare. Just as in the temple in Jerusalem in the “Kammer der Verschwiegenen” the wealthy made donations for the poor, so did the local poor receive donations from the weekly collection to address their need. They received food for the holy days, the sick were taken care of, brides outfitted, the dead buried out of the feeling of Zedoko, of the right to help from their brothers.
Synopsis: The article then describes how charity has remained the most important religious obligation throughout the changes Judaism has undergone. Even those who have given up religious aspects of Judaism continue to emphasize charity. Eventually, charitable activities were organized to make them more effective. Charity has been transformed from alms-giving to assisting individuals to work, the lack of work being seen as demoralizing. (Maimonides’s endorsement of earned income over receiving alms is cited and compared to the principles of modern social welfare.)
This social welfare work is best carried out through a centralized organization, so it is very important that Jewish communities remain unified in their goals. A centralized organization sponsored by German Jews was founded on May 16, 1917 in Berlin by the B’nai Brith and the congregational and women’s associations. These are struggling to address the poverty created by the war, especially those of widows and orphans. The paper-money economy is now impoverishing the middle class. These will not be overcome by money, but by thrift and hard work. The article is signed “Walsch.”
A word on our own affairs.
“Our local sister paper, the Jüdische Volkszeitung, dedicated an essay to greet us, and an article too. That was very friendly. The content less so.”
Synopsis: After recalling the evil fairy who was not invited to Sleeping Beauty’s christening, the writer goes on to compare the hundred year’s sleep to liberal Judaism’s, which had been relatively silent since its founding about a hundred years prior. Now it’s awake and vibrant.
The new paper had been accused of spreading division among the Jewish communities. Admittedly, there is some competition with the orthodox Jews because although they have divergent ideals, both groups want to win over the youth, and that won’t happen without a fight. But let it be a chivalrous fight. One of this new paper’s main goals, however, is to fight anti-Semitism, not other Jewish groups.
The “Jüdische Volkszeitung” recounts a passage from the Talmud about Jews walking through a strange needing to note each tree and bush so as not to lose their “direction.” Jews walking in their hometown don’t need to worry about the “direction.” The liberals are the former, the orthodox the latter. This new paper interprets the legend differently: Today’s Jewish life defined by partisanship is the dark forest. Without a sense of direction, one runs the risk of tripping over a root. The parties have their camps on the edge of the forest—the Orthodox, the Zionists, and the Liberals. The Orthodox and Zionists might want to stage a fight in the middle of the forest, but the Liberals want to find the path to the heart of Judaism. This fight amongst the three recalls Nathan the Wise’s lines:
Let each feel honoured by this free affection.
Unwarped of prejudice; let each endeavour
To vie with both his brothers in displaying
The virtue of his ring; assist its might
With gentleness, benevolence, forbearance,
With inward resignation to the godhead.*
“And so we extend our hand to the mean sister in reconciliation. As far as we’re concerned, let this first family tiff be the last one.”
*Gotthold Ephraim Lessing,Nathan the Wise: a Dramatic Poem, translated by William Taylor. London, R. Philips, 1805. This translation is available at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3820
Secret Jewish Laws?
Synopsis: In a newly appeared piece, “Secret Jewish Laws?”, Professor of protestant theology, Dr. Hermann Strack, clearly states that there are none, these “secret laws” often having been the topic of anti-Semitic propaganda. Strack studied the Talmud and the Schulchan Aruch and affirmed that Jews are not hiding anything from Christians. In 1885 German rabbis published fifteen principles of Jewish morality (Grundsätze der jüdischen Sittenlehre) which are core to modern Judaism and Christians find unassailable. Strack specifically addresses Rohling, Ecker, and Dinter who are the source of current anti-Semitic writings and Captain a. D. Müller von Hansen’s The Secrets of the Elders of Zion, which turned extreme Russian nationalist propaganda into an anti-Semitic diatribe against the so-called Jewish attempt at world domination.
Jewish Spirit in the Newer German Literature.
by Dr. Ludwig Davidsohn. (continued)
Powerful and standing above everything else are, however, the manifestations of the Jewish spirit where it tries to connect to its greatest legacy, to those biblical times when Judaism formed the myths and poetry of mankind whose bronze tones hum through the millennia with unchanged clarity and greatness.
“I will not leave you, because you bless me”—an Israelite patriarch once wrestled with God—the blessing has not occurred, at least it has not been fulfilled in the way that the best of all peoples had hoped. The “third Reich” seems to be farther than ever, and that which we fearfully experience is the struggle of everyone against everyone else in a thoroughly mechanized era in which raw egoistic instincts are uncontrollably multiplied a thousand times.
It is as though the sorrow and grief over this lack of fulfillment of an ancient longing forms the deepest trait of the great Jewish literature of our day. This harrowing melancholy of a resigned seeking of the divine is the clearest marker of contemporary Jewish thought which differentiates it from non-Jewish literature.
The original, wholly Germanic also knows the melancholy of the disappointed very well; but somehow it always strives for the idyll: starting from Möricke’s, Eichendorf’s [sic] works to Count Eduard Keyserling, Friedrich Huch or one of the most German and greatest poets of our day, the Swabian Hermann Hesse.
The fervor and soul-stirring power of the Jewish sorrow over the demise of the divine in our lives and era are foreign to the Germanic.
Jewish, remembering Job’s cry, is the lament of Beer-Hofmann’s magnificent piece on Jacob’s dream, unforgettable the melancholy-become-music in the wonderful “Lullaby for Mijiam,” one of the most beautiful poems of the last decade.
This lament appears with all of Germany’s Jewish poets. It constantly comes through in Georg Hermann’s large and small novels—one need only read his typical small sketch “The Value of Life”—serious and masculine, the lament appears in Max Brod’s powerful book Tycho Brahe’s Path to God; like a powerful bell tolling, it echoes with the social Jewish poets Holitscher and the young Toller.
It is especially significant that it was a Jewish poet, Georg Hirschfeld who gave the most articulate expression in his novel, The Tavernkeeper of Beladuz to the sorrow over the modern de-spiritualization and economization of existence that killed all that is noble and beautiful in the life of the people!
And how loud and moving we find this and similar tones sounding in Jakob Wasserman’s great novels, Die Juden von Zirndorf (English title: The Dark Pilgrimage), Gooseboy, and Christian Wahnschaffe. Also, a large part of Franz Werfel’s poetry—cf. “why my God?”—is a continuous, convulsive weeping over the de-souling of the world.
We can find the deepest seriousness and powerful will to heal these wounds of our modern life in the great Jewish philosophers of modern times such as, for example, Georg Simmel, Hermann Cohen, Constantin Brunner, and Alexander Moszowski [sic]. With an almost passionate pathos the literary historian Friedrich Gundolf holds our twitching and greedy race in his last great work which depicts the harmony of the way of life conceived by Goethe as an unreachable ideal.
To the modern aesthetic, Judaism has brought so fine a mind as Hugo Marcus; this writer started out as self-taught but what development he achieved! His “Ornamental Beauty in the Landscape” is rightly deemed by experts a masterpiece and the finely chiseled, poetic aphorisms of this still young thinker, that have appeared under the title of “Meditations” deserve more attention than they have found.
Whoever neutrally observes the work of all these Jewish poets and intellectuals must admit that it does not “harm” or “falsify” the essence and spirit of recent German criticism, literature, and philosophy. Rather it enriches!
Only those of ill will can deny that in modern Judaism there are infinitely more positive and constructive forces at work than the few destructive ones. These positive forces act to bring blessings to our common German fatherland.
Those damned Eastern Jews!
Synopsis: During the retreat of the Polish army Jews were forced into hard labor, tortured, raped, and murdered. Reports of these incidents (in Wyszkow, Plozk, Jablona, Bolszowe, Tumierz, Delejow, Jezupol, and Stanislau) are interspersed with anti-Semitic claims made by drunken officers wearing swastikas.
Aus dem Reich.
The Law Regarding Leaving the Church.
Synopsis: Leaving the church (or synagogue) is a civil matter. This article describes the new procedures and timelines for quitting a religious institution and no longer having to pay church taxes.
The Fate of the Israelite Church Constitution in Wurttemberg.
Synopsis: The leaders of the Jewish congregations request parity with the Protestant church as to their interactions with the state. Currently, the Catholic and Protestant churches appoint their own representatives to the common church council while the state appoints the Jewish members. The Israelite Church Constitution of 1912 should be annulled. The Jewish leaders have been discussing this with the Protestant leaders who agree that both denominations should be governed similarly.
Spiritual Desecration of a Corpse.
Synopsis: Death is supposed to be the great equalizer, but an obituary in the Deutsche Zeitung describes how foreign racial elements made the deceased succumb to the illness. Outrage at the departed one being subjected to anti-Semitic diatribe in her death notice.
School and Anti-Semitism.
Synopsis: Dr. Paul Hildebrand lectured on the roots of anti-Semitism being found in schools where the nationalist youth organizations are flourishing for which the school administrators are to blame. The most effective way to combat anti-Semitism is to teach how to critically analyze the historical facts. The head teacher for the Chamisso School, Lydia Stoecker, supported Dr. Hildebrandt’s position.
Yiddish in the Polish Congress.
Synopsis: When the Polish Congress debated the protection of minorities the topic of the Jewish language, “jargon” came up. One parliamentarian expressed his opposition to this “language of crooks” (Gaunersprache) being allowed in courts and administration. Jewish members countered that this language was spoken by 12 million people.
No Separation of American and European Zionists.
Synopsis: According to a report in the London “Morningpost,” the American Zionists want to split from the European Zionists. No reason was given.
East-Jewish Folk Poetry.
Synopsis: This article discusses two recently published anthologies of Yiddish folk songs and love poems translated into German. It begins by describing the prejudices German Jews have of Eastern European Jews, the difficulties they have dealing with the many wartime immigrants, and the general animosity they feel towards them. Learning more about them, through their literature, for example, is one way to overcome these prejudices. [Translator’s note: the language of these poems is referred to as “jargon” by the article’s writer.] The poems’ connection to the German folksong will make them especially accessible and enjoyable. Article by Erich Spitz.
From Breslau’s Communal Life
by Dr. Reich, Privy Medical Counselor, Breslau
The 1920/1921 and 1921/1922 budgets were reviewed. Recently, income had not kept pace with expenses as is the case with the Reich, the state, and individual budgets. Operating expenses have increased and so have the needs of the youth, the aged, refugees passing through, and the congregations’ employees. The two congregations’ expenses total 2,316,301 Marks; income is only 664, 579 Marks. As a result, tax rates have been set at 36% for city residents and 24% for those residing in the rest of the county.
Synopsis: The representatives approved the budgets almost unanimously; the Zionist representative abstained over a disagreement about funding the Zionist youth group at the same level as the Liberal youth group. It was pointed out that the Liberal youth group received funding because it was a religious organization dedicated to the spiritual development of its members. The Zionist group was not because it emphasized national themes. If there had been a Conservative youth group, it would have received the same level of funding as the Liberal group.
Natural Healing Association of Breslau and – the Eastern Jews.
Synopsis: The association’s annual meeting will take up the issue of whether Eastern Jews should be banned from using its outdoor facilities. Because of the implications of such a ban, members of all Jewish circles who belong to the association (and there are luckily many) are urged to attend.
Associations and Assemblies.
Synopsis: A public meeting of the local Agudas Jisroel group took place on December 6th. Rabbi Blum from Chemnitz spoke on “The Old Judaism in Modern Times.” He explored the contradiction between Judaism and the surrounding world and concluded that being different was beneficial. There have already been many instances of the contributions Jewish teachings have made in the areas of law, social welfare, and even the concept of making Sunday a day of rest. Agudas Jisroel’s task is to establish harmony between teachings and life—then will Judaism be relevant to the current times.
The Jewish-Liberal Youth Association of Breslau voted to make subscribing to the “Jewish-liberal Newspaper” obligatory for all members. The Association will host a Chanukkah celebration on December 12.
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Registration for a “Bar-Mizwah” course taught by Rabbi Dr. Sänger opens.
The Jewish Nursing Home is accepting women between the ages of 20 to 35 as unpaid nursing apprentices.