• נטע שרם

From the Shtetl to the Kibbutz: Translated Excerpts from a Forgotten Zionist Tzene U’rene

פרסום אקדמי בשיתוף פעולה עם אבא(!) שלי, המתרגם הכי מוכשר, הכי ידען, בתבל.

This article presents five short homilies on the Torah written in Israel in the 1970s by David Cohen (1894–1976), a secular socialist Zionist. The sermons are striking not only in content but also in form, in that they imitate the style of the most popular Yiddish gloss on the Torah, the Tzene U’rene.1 This intriguing fusion demands a sketch of its historical context.

Among Jewish habitats, the shtetl and the kibbutz are polar opposites. The shtetl was pre-modern, religious, tradition-bound, and an offspring of feudal Europe; the kibbutz was modern, secular, even anti-clerical—the cutting edge of the Zionist project and the germ of the new Israeli nation-state. Yet, thanks to the rapidity of modernization in Eastern Europe, many Jews who lived and died on the kibbutz had been born and raised in the shtetl. They carried with them strong memories of the traditional Jewish Torah reading and the midrashic tradition that accompanied it.

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