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The language choices of the Jewish National Enterprise and the Zionist movement in 1897

  • Author(s): Maslennikova, Aleksandra Innokentievna
  • et al.
Abstract

This study examines the languages of Jews in Europe and Palestine on the one hand, and the Jewish intelligentsia within the Zionist movement on the other. I compare the linguistic preferences of different social strata within European Jewry. The Zionist movement claimed to address the needs and aspirations of the common people. However, in regard to the language issue, Zionism was far from being rooted in everyday practices of the Jewish common people. The major conclusion from this study is twofold. Firstly, I argue that the choice of German as the official language of the Zionist movement was stipulated by the political situation and considerations, particularly Germany's geopolitical interests in Palestine. I suggest that in a different political situation, Russian would have been chosen as the official language of the movement, given the prominent role that Russian Zionists played in Zionist activities in general and on the Congresses in particular. Secondly, I argue that the Zionist policy against Yiddish was a wrong move from the beginning Instead of renouncing Yiddish at the First Congress and thereafter, the Zionists could have established this language as the official language of the Diaspora, of Jews dispersed outside Palestine. Thus, by the time of the birth of the State of Israel Jews would have not just cultivated the new, Eretz-Israeli culture and mentality with Hebrew as the national language, but would have also kept and maintained culture developed through the centuries along with its language, Yiddish

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