“Awake My People!” Versus “The City of Slaughter”
The Jewish people have an extensive history of Diaspora (migration), long after their exile from Israel in 587 B.C.E. by the Babylonian (Spitzer, J). Their struggles for inclusion into other nations were met with repeated rejections due to their inclination to preserve their distinct culture, which only alienated them. Without a permanent homeland, they migrated to several locations in Europe, notably in Russia during the late 19th and early 20th century. Anti-semitism existed in many European countries like Russia, where Jews were treated unequally and due their lack of national identity, it was difficult for the Jewish people to obtain the equality rights. It was during these times that two very influential poems, “Awake My People!” and “The City of Slaughter” wrote by Judah Leib Gordon (1831-1892) and Haim Nahman Bialik (1873-1934) respectively contributed to modern Jewish history; obtaining equality rights for Jews and eradicating anti-semitism. The former empowered Jews to enlighten themselves by integrating in other different cultures of nations across Europe, while the latter advocated for Jews to mobilize against anti-semitism by demonstrating the defenseless nature of Jews. Considering the attitude towards dealing with anti-Semitism, Gordon “submits” to assimilation while Bialik “resists” it, but however, both authors criticized fundamental Jewish character as the root of all their long-term misery that required drastic self-change to truly liberate them from anti-semitism.
Judah Leib Gordon wrote “Awake My People” in 1866, several decades before “The City of Slaughter” by Haim Nahman Bialik. As influentially optimistic as it was, it re-enforced the idea that being a Jew, retaining their core Jewish elements would never allow them into European society, and thus in a sense can be considered ironically an acceptance or a greater tolerance of anti-Semitism. This idea manifested to Jewish Enlightenment,...
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