I. L. Peretz and the Making of Modern Jewish Culture

I. L. Peretz and the Making of Modern Jewish Culture

I. L. Peretz and the Making of Modern Jewish Culture

I. L. Peretz and the Making of Modern Jewish Culture

Synopsis

I. L. Peretz (1852–1915), the father of modern Yiddish literature, was a master storyteller and social critic who advocated a radical shift from religious observance to secular Jewish culture. Wisse explores Peretz's writings in relation to his ideology, which sought to create a strong Jewish identity separate from the trappings of religion.

Excerpt

"Peretz is the first and finest work of art that the Jewish people created during this brief period of its secular existence."--Kiev, April, 1917

". . . upon the foundations of earlier aesthetic and cultural values Peretz erected a splendid monument that is the quintessence of our spiritual life. . . ."--Cracow, 1942(?)

"The modern secular Jewish world people began to discover itself in the framework of the new world that was coming into being. Its ideology was in place: Yitzkhok Leybush Peretz was its ideology."--Tel Aviv, 1972 3

WITH THE EXCEPTION OF Theodor Herzl, founder of political Zionism, no Jewish writer had a more direct effect on modern Jewry than Isaac Leib (Yitskhok Leybush) Peretz. Peretz may not have promoted any fixed political program, but he tried to chart for his fellow Jews a "road" that would lead them away from religion toward a secular Jewish existence without falling into the swamp of assimilation. From the mid-1880s until his death at the beginning of World War I, he shaped literature in Yiddish, and to a lesser extent Hebrew, into an expression and instrument of national cohesion that would help to compensate the Jews for the absence of such staples of nationhood as political independence and territorial sovereignty. He expected that the modern culture of the Jews, embodying the distilled ethics of centuries of religious refinement, would help to sustain the modern people much . . .

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