Nationalism, Zionism and Ethnic Mobilization of the Jews in 1900 and Beyond

By Michael Berkowitz | Go to book overview

APPENDIX
Songs Before and After Hebrew Song—An Anthology from
Early Zionist Anthologies

The songs in this appendix are in many ways quite unlike the contents of Zionist songbooks published during the several decades before and after the founding of Israel, in other words, during the period from ca. 1930 until ca. 1960. Yiddish and German predominate in the lyrics of the songs in the appendix, as well as in the collections from which they were taken, whereas Hebrew lyrics are most common in later Zionist songbooks. Genre, too, functions in different ways in the collections from which these songs come. Here we find an abundance of narrative genres, many of which consciously historicize the Jewish experience in the Diaspora. Narrative genre makes occasional appearances in later Zionist songbooks as well, but rather than narrative songs referring to the history of the Diaspora there are work songs and lyrical genres that idealize the future.

Those who gathered the early Zionist songs sought to tap as many different sources as possible, and to use a surfeit of musical sounds and melodic models to signify the nation. On one hand, it was crucial to include folk songs, but on the other it was vitally important that these achieve a measure of popularity. Art song, too, often qualified as proto-Zionist song, especially when it might provide the telos for a trajectory that began with folk song and passed through oral popular traditions. The Songs Before and After Hebrew Song, therefore, represent a process of transition, a departure and move away from the canons of European, especially German-language, folk music. In contrast, Zionist anthologies, almost by definition, have come already to represent the canon of the nation.

The songs that follow unfold historically and suggest a certain chronological tendency, not least an increasingly intensive response to growing anti-Semitism, which is coupled with a growing awareness of the culture of the Yishuv. The songs chart several historical paths, and as such they reveal that they were responsive to the numerous debates within modern Zionism itself about the best means to resolve the dilemmas facing modern Jewry during the opening decades of the twentieth century. The intersecting landscapes of the

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