Shlomo Dikman: The Spirit of Polish Jewish Youth

By Rosenthal, David | Midstream, December 2000 | Go to article overview

Shlomo Dikman: The Spirit of Polish Jewish Youth


Rosenthal, David, Midstream


From the walls of Polish college halls shone the Latin words, hinc igitur ad astra -- "from here we will raise ourselves to the stars." Here, within the walls of the universities, the student was supposed to raise himself to the skies of learning and human progress. Here the mind of the citizen of the young nation on the Vistula was to be sharpened and his heart ennobled. This motto, however, could easily have been moved from the universities, where it was profaned at every step, and inscribed on many a simple Jewish home, where the young generation lived and dreamed.

Many in this generation grew up in poverty and want, and some were from the middle class, but it was a generation whose eyes were always turned toward the heights. The poverty was a "holy" one -- it did not stifle zest for life but rather urged it on to struggle. In the homes of these youths, Zionism and Bundism flourished as did both devout Jewish observance and revolutionary free thought. With these traditions, the young people went forth into the wide world. For some of them, that wider world included the Polish university.

Their numbers were not large. The historian Philip Friedman reports that in 1921-22, there were 35,000 students in all the universities in Poland, and that 8228 (24 percent) of them were Jews. In 1936-37, the overall total rose to 48,200, but the Jewish students numbered only 5700, or 11.8 percent. Many Jews in Poland went to other countries to study. In 1934, this number going elsewhere was estimated to be 3000. The number of Jewish professors and deans was minimal. Of approximately 1700 in 1935-36, there were 77 of Jewish origin, and more than half of these were converts to Christianity. Most of the balance was far removed from its Jewishness.

Jewish student circles, however, were not isolated from surrounding Jewish life. They were part of the multifaceted Jewish community. They provided the activists and the leaders for the Bund and the Poale Zion, for Revisionism and Socialism, for all the various shadings of political thought. The following lines are dedicated to the memory of Shlomo Dikman, one of that marvelous generation, who symbolized its creative potential, its spiritual energy and impetus, its love for the people and their cultural treasures.

The name of Shlomo Dikman was already surrounded by an aura of legend in prewar Warsaw. A master of Polish and Hebrew, who played like a virtuoso on both language instruments, he reached the heights of linguistic achievement while he was still in his early twenties. Shlomo Dikman, the translator of Saul Tschernichowsky (1875-1943) into Polish, in 1939 also translated all of Chayim Nachman Bialik's (1873-1934) works. He did this translation with such genius that the critics compared his work to Jabotinsky's Russian translation of Bialik, which had evoked such high praise from Maxim Gorky. (It is interesting to recall that Jabotinsky also translated Bialik in his student years.)

Was it accidental that Dikman brought precisely Bialik and Tschernichowsky to a Jewish youth steeped in Polish culture? What was it he found in those poets that made it possible to relate them to the Jewish reality? Bialik's work contains tremendous pain, hidden faith, and a summons to better days. In Bialik, and in Tschernichowsky -- who lived at the same time as Bialik but who had a different orientation -- was embodied the renaissance of Hebrew poetry. For Bialik, literature was a serious matter. He did not deceive himself, nor did he allow others to deceive themselves. He taught us to be tough on ourselves in demanding the maximum of which we were capable.

And although I know how risky it is to ascribe to poets didactic motives, it does seem to me that, through Bialik, Dikman wished to bring the assimilated Polish Jew closer to the basics of Judaism, to the eternal treasures of emotion and hope, to the essential components of the Jewish world-view and Jewish thought. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Shlomo Dikman: The Spirit of Polish Jewish Youth
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.