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Studies in Contemporary Jewry: XII: Literary Strategies: Jewish Texts and Contexts$
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Ezra Mendelsohn

Print publication date: 1997

Print ISBN-13: 9780195112030

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195112030.001.0001

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Rabbis, Rebbes and Other Humanists: The Search for a Usable Past in Modern Yiddish Literature

Rabbis, Rebbes and Other Humanists: The Search for a Usable Past in Modern Yiddish Literature

Chapter:
(p.55) Rabbis, Rebbes and Other Humanists: The Search for a Usable Past in Modern Yiddish Literature
Source:
Studies in Contemporary Jewry: XII: Literary Strategies: Jewish Texts and Contexts
Author(s):

Ezra Mendelsohn

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195112030.003.0004

This chapter discusses modern Jewish literature in Eastern Europe where the rise of secular forms of Jewish self-expression coincided with the Kulturkampf between Hasidism and Haskalah. It explains that the image of the rabbi and rebbe (a.k.a. zaddik, or guter yid), which became the battleground for the hearts and minds of the impressionable masses, is used to stake one's claim to the future. Even a new translation of the Book of the Proverbs into the Yiddish vernacular could be used by the reformers (wolves in sheep's clothing) to draw a firm line between the biblical zaddik, glossed as an erlekher, or a koshere neshome, and the usurpers of that title in the present. Meanwhile, in the rival camp, hagiographic tales about the great zaddikim of old were used for propaganda and popular education from 1815 onwards.

Keywords:   Jewish literature, Eastern Europe, Kulturkampf, Hasidism, Haskalah, rabbi, rebbe, zaddik, Yiddish vernacular, zaddikim

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