Friday, May 25, 2007

Monday May 26

Eventless day, in afternoon
visited friends, and the
Zionist office, wrote there
an article for Dos (?) Yidishe Folk
critisizing the Z.Z.

Every morn. & eve, includes
now prayer service at the
synagogue with Kadish


Matt's Notes

The newspaper Papa refers to above, Dos Yiddishe Folk (The Jewish Nation) was an organ of the Zionist Organization of America (Z.O.A.), the group for whom Papa did most of his fundraising and recruiting work. He most likely did his writing at the paper's office at 114 Fifth Avenue between 16th and 17th Streets, a healthy stroll from Papa's neighborhood but one I'm sure he was glad to take -- he was just starting a week off from work and wanted to stay occupied to keep depressing thoughts of his father's recent death at bay.

The Z.O.A. published a number of other periodicals, including The New Palestine, a weekly, Hatoren, a monthly in Hebrew, and Young Judean, an English monthly for Jewish youth. They had also once launched a monthly back in 1901 called The Maccabean (when the Z.O.A. was in its earlier incarnation as the Federation of American Zionists) but it looks like it was defunct by the 1920's. This made Dos Yiddishe Folk, founded in 1908, the oldest publication in the Z.O.A.'s lineup.1

Here are the raw facts from Dos Yiddishe Folk's own masthead:

Dos Yiddishe Folk, published weekly in the interest of Americas Zionists, by the Zionist Publishing Corp., 114 Fifth Ave., New York.
Telephone Chelsea 10,4000. Abraham Goldberg, Editor; Simon
Bernstein, Managing Editor. Subscription Rates: Payable in advance,
U.S. for 1 year, $2.50; Canada, for 1 year, $3.00; Foreign, for
1 year, $3.50. Single copies 5 cents. Entered as second class matter
February 26, 1909 at the post office at New York, N.Y. under the
Act of March 3, 1879.
And here's what it looked like:

The page pictured above is from the May 30th, 1924 issue in which Papa's article appeared. Thanks to the low-tech wonders of microfilm and the helpful, Yiddish-speaking librarians in the Dorot Room at the New York Public Library, I was able to locate his article on Page 10:

Let's take a closer look:

Papa's byline appears at the bottom of the piece, and reads "Avrom-Zvi Sheyerman" (this was his real name, though he went by "Harry"):

As it turns out, the "article" appeared as a letter to the editor; since the paper was unabashedly partisan, I don't think it would have surprised any reader to learn that this "letter" was composed in the Dos Yiddishe Folk offices by a loyal volunteer on his day off. (How many hundreds of such papers must have been in circulation back then?)

As Papa notes, the piece criticized the Zionist-socialist Zeire Zion (Youth of Zion) organization. Papa occasionally socialized at Zeire Zion events, but he must have liked the company more than the politics, judging by what he wrote:

Praises Editorial in “The Jewish Nation”
Concerning the Youth of Zion Convention

Esteemed Comrade Editor,

Allow me to express in our “Jewish Nation” a few words thanking you for the editorial in your most recent edition, about the Youth of Zion convention which recently took place in Buffalo.

As someone who has been well acquainted with the aforementioned organization since its establishment, as well as with its activities, I know what harm they are doing with their separatist policies that are of no use to anyone. Everyone knows the truth, that they do nothing for their own organization as well. In the beginning, a few ringleaders, who were looking for publicity, tried to convince members of Zionist clubs to join them, and they even tried to break up these clubs. At first, some Zionists believed that they would be able to do something in order to appeal to young people with the Land of Israel ideology. But soon everyone saw that this was nothing with nothing. They created a little club in which they could play the roles of “leaders,” and they intoxicate people, encouraging them to fight against the Zionist organization. They prey upon young, recently arrived Zionists from Europe and tell them stories, the Zionist organization in America is too chauvinistic, capitalistic, etc… And the naïve young people, who sincerely believe what they are told, then find themselves unemployed: they are torn away from Zionism and they are given no other work to perform. I am convinced that the honest members of the Youth of Zion organization will have to do what many of their comrades have done for the past two years: they left the Youth of Zion organization and joined the “General” Zionist organization where, whoever wants to, can find their own place and their own tasks to perform.

It is worthwhile to mention that even the “Jewish Nation” greatly exaggerated the amount of money the Youth of Zion raised for the Pioneer Fund. Here, we saw a small group of young Zionists, who are regular members of the second and third districts, collecting money for the World Pioneer Center. There were perhaps not fewer of them than there were members of the Youth of Zion, and they went about their task with no ceremony or publicity, without “leaders” or “national executives.”

And is it not just awful when people organize a so-called convention, and they send a telegram to President Coolidge, and a cable to Prime Minister Macdonald? Do these young people not understand what the Jewish public thinks about such comic and irresponsible actions? Therefore, I offer you my sincere congratulations for your excellent editorial.

With respect and Zionist wishes,

Avrom-Zvi Sheyerman2
I was, unfortunately, unable to locate the editorial to which Papa's letter refers or even get much more information about Zeire Zion's nefarious doings. I do know that the Zionist establishment was extremely cautious in its dealings with world leaders and would have been horrified by a splinter faction's attempts to contact President Coolidge or British Prime Minister Macdonald. And, in keeping with what we know about Papa's own earnest, unselfish ways, he seems especially annoyed by what he sees as Zeire Zion's lack of seriousness and self-aggrandizing approach.

I wonder, though, if his friends at Zeire Zion really would have really gotten upset by this letter or if such strident, angry-sounding debate was simply par for the course in the world of Zionist politics. To ears unused to Jewish argument, even Talmudic scholars can sound like they're about to kill each other as they debate some minor point. Is this just the way Papa and his friends talked when they discussed Zionism over coffee?



1 - 1923-1924 American Jewish Yearbook

2 - Translation by Marc Miller

If you're so inclined, you can download a PDF of Papa's article here.


By the way, Dos Yiddische Folk's advertisers seem to have consisted entirely of tobacco companies hawking Middle Eastern-themed cigarettes. Here are a couple of ads:

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