The Haskalah Movement in Russia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 216 pages of information about The Haskalah Movement in Russia.

All that tyranny could inflict, the Russian Jews endured.  Yet their number was not diminished.  No coercion could make them leave, in a body, the old paths they were wont to tread.  Nicholas’s so-called reforms only encouraged a reaction, and the more he afflicted the Jews, the more they multiplied and grew.  The behalot of 1754, 1764, and 1793 were repeated in 1833 and 1843; the missionary propaganda only strengthened the devotion of the faithful; and the denial of the means of support only increased the stolidity of the sufferers.  And if, like some stepchildren, they were first beaten till they cried, and then beaten because they cried, like some stepchildren they rapidly forgot their lot in the happiness of home and the studies of the bet ha-midrash, and could sing[48] without bitterness even of the behalah-days, when

  Little boys and little girls
  Together had been mated,
  Tishah be-Ab, the wedding day,—­
  Not a soul invited. 
  Only the father and the mother,
  And also uncle Elye—­
  In his lengthy delye (caftan),
  With his scanty beard—­
  Jump and jig with each other
  Like a colt afeared.

(Notes, pp. 314-317.)

CHAPTER IV

CONFLICTS AND CONQUESTS

1840-1855

The charges brought against the Jews of Russia by henchmen of the czar were grave, indeed, only they did not contain a particle of truth.  In Russia itself, not only Jews and non-Russians but even many Christians testified to the innocence of the Jews, and protested against their oppressors.  Bibikov, the Governor-General of Podolia and Volhynia; Diakov, the Governor-General of Smolensk; and Surovyetsky, the noted statesman, all write in terms of such praise of their unfortunate countrymen of the Jewish faith that their statements would sound exaggerated, were it not that many other unprejudiced Russians confirm their views.[1] The fact that Nicholas thought the Jews reliable as soldiers speaks against the imputation that they were mercenary and unpatriotic.  Neither was the conventional accusation, that they were a people of petty traders, applicable to the Jews in Russia.  Laborers of all kinds were very common among them.  It was they, in fact, who rendered all manner of service to their Gentile neighbors, from a cobbler’s and blacksmith’s to producing the most exquisite objets d’art and gold and silver engraving.  They were equally well represented among the clerks and bookkeepers, and the bricklayers and stone-cutters.  They took up with the most laborious employments, if only they furnished them with an honest even though scanty livelihood.[2]

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The Haskalah Movement in Russia from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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