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GONCHAROK, Moshe. The Yiddish anarchist press in Israel
Translated by Jesse Cohn from Archivio G. Pinelli, Bollettino 15
Article published on 18 December 2004
last modification on 19 March 2005

by r-c.
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The anarchist ideology arrived in Palestine at the beginning of the 20th century, carried by a big wave of emigrants from Eastern Europe (Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Poland). The ideas of Peter Kropotkin and Leo Tolstoy had one remarkable infuence on famous exponents of the Zionism of the left, like Yitzhak Tabenkin, Berl Katzenelson, and Mark Yarblum. In his turn, the organizer of the Jewish self-defense movement, Joseph Trumpeldor, was very close in his ideas to anarcho-syndicalism. Anarchism has also had some infuence on the constitution of socio-political movements such as Poalei Zion, Zeirei-Zion, He-Halutz, and Gdud ha-Avoda.

The anarchists in Palestine at the beginning of the century, nearly all coming from Eastern Europe, did not have connections with the Yiddish anarchist movement and had adopted the Hebrew language. In the 20s and 30s all lived on the kibbutz: for example, the famous anarchist Aharon Shidlovsky was one of the founders of the kibbutz "Kvutzat Kinneret". During the Spanish revolution many anarchists of Palestine rushed to Spain in order to fight against Franco and fascism in the ranks of the libertarian CNT-FAI militia.

Until the 40s, there were no anarchist organizations in Palestine. A little before and immediately after the constitution of the State of Israel, in 1948, there was an influx of western European anarchist survivors of Nazism, educated in Yiddish, and among them, anarchism had a specific and visible presence. Between the end of the 40s and the beginning of the 50s, Polish immigrants formed an anarchist group in Tel Aviv whose main exponent was Eliezer Hirshauage, author of a book on the history of the Polish anarchist movement published in 1953. Beginning in the 50s, Israeli anarchism makes reference to Abba Gordin (1887-1964), writer and philosopher, one of the more remarkable representatives of the Yiddish anarchist movement. Gordin had been the inspirer of the pan-Russian anarchist movement and one of the organizers of the Anarchist Federation of Moscow (1918). From 1925, he lived in New York, where he had emigrated and where he published a literary philosophical review, "Yiddishe Shriften" (1936-1957), as well as being a habitual contributor to the most long-lived anarchist periodical in the Yiddish language, the Freie Arbeiter Stimme (1890-1977).

In 1958, Abba Gordin moved to Israel, and in Tel Aviv, founded a Yiddish anarchist circle, "Agudath Schochrei Chofesh" (ASHUACH), with a library of classic anarchist works in Yiddish, Hebrew, and Polish, and with a large hall for meetings and conferences. He also began to publish a bilingual monthly review (in Yiddish and Hebrew), "Problemen/Problemot," which he directed from 1959 to 1964. During this period, ASHUACH had approximately 150 members and drew hundred of people to conferences on the philosophy of anarchism. Among the more debated topics: the spiritual roots of anarchism and the connections between anarchism, the Book of the Prophets (Neviim), and the Qabbalah. "Problemen" published stories and articles on the history of anarchism, Hassidic legends, medieval Jewish literature and the current problems of Yiddish literature.

After the death of Abba Gordin, from 1964 to 1971 the review was directed by Shmuel Abarbanel. In 1971, Joseph Luden (born in Warsaw, 1908) took his place and affiliated the review with a publishing house that published fifteen or so books and pamphlets of fiction and poetry, all in Yiddish. Therefore, since "Problemen" came to be solely in Yiddish, it lost the Hebrew half of its title. The number of pages went from 24 to 36.

ASHUACH and "Problemen" were in permanent contact with the Yiddish anarchist movement and in particular with "Freie Arbeiter Stimme" of New York and "Dos Freie Wort" of Buenos Aires. In the meantime "Problemen" was becoming less philosophical and more literary. The readers of the review belonged to every field of the Israeli society. The writer Leonid Podrydchik defined Problemen as the best Israeli publication in Yiddish language.

ASHUACH comes to a halt in the 80s. The old anarchists died one after the other and none of the young ones knew Yiddish. The last number of "Problemen" was published in December 1989 (it was the one-hundred-and-sixty-fifth issue!). Subsequently Joseph Luden tried to share with one new review, "Freie Stimme", in order to continue the tradition of "Problemen", but only printed a single issue in September, 1991. This was the last Yiddish anarchist
publication in the world.


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