Saturday, August 25, 2007

Monday Aug 25

Attend an Executive m.
of the camp, at Nathan
Zichlinsky's house in
Willoughby Ave. Bklyn. I
initiated and swore in
Treskinoff a new member.


Matt's Notes

I love this entry. While we know what Papa's talking about here -- his chapter of the Zionist fraternal order B'nai Zion met in Brooklyn and Papa, as Master of Ceremonies, swore in a new member -- the furtive quality of his sentences, the use of abbreviations, and the presence of a character named "Treskinoff" makes it seem like a passage from a spy novel, or maybe Doestoevsky.

Then again, the ritual Papa conducted would have involved some kind of secret combination of oaths, prayers, and the use of physical props, perhaps even in a candle-lit or blacked-out room. Maybe this put him into a clandestine, adventurous mood and accounts for the whiff of espionage on this page.


Additional Note

Fraternal and mutual support organizations (a.k.a. landsmanshaftn) provided the only real sense of community for early Jewish immigrants, especially those who arrived befor the 20th Century. Their initiation rituals were accordingly elaborate, the better to establish a sense of exclusivity, belonging, and safety in a world where they were otherwise strangers. By the 1920's, as the greater Jewish community grew more established and the process of assimilation less onerous, fraternal organizations played a less central role in the lives of people like Papa and their ceremonies, predictably, became a little more low-key. I'm sure the rite Papa administered to Treskinoff was far less involved than what their predecessors went through.

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