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From Jewish Jesus to black christ: Race violence in leftist Yiddish poetry

Abstract

© 2015 The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. This article examines shared metaphors in Yiddish poems about lynchings and pogroms in the 1930s. Leftist Yiddish poets in particular often equated lynching victims, as well as pogrom victims, with Jesus. The poet Berish Weinstein serves as a case study, for he used strikingly similar motifs in his poems about anti-Semitic and anti-Black violence. It is no coincidence that a rise in poems about race violence occurred during the most heated years of the Scottsboro trial, an event that became a symbol of American racism for the Communist Party. Yiddish writing about violence against African Americans reveals the commitment of many Jews in the 1930s to move from ethnic particularism toward leftist universalism. However, this examination of shared poetic motifs shows that in writing about racism in America, many Jews were also implicitly responding to the rise of Nazism in Europe.

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