Byron and the Jews by Sheila A. Spector

By Sheila A. Spector

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After contracting tuberculosis, Ben-Yehuda abandoned his medical studies and settled in Palestine, where he enrolled in the teachers’ seminary. There, he began studying Hebrew in preparation for his life’s work, the revival of the language through the creation of a simple style and the introduction of neologisms. In 1922, Hebrew was accepted as one of the country’s official languages; and by 1948, when Â�Israel gained statehood, Hebrew had been fully consolidated as the national language. 52 The state was initially founded by Ashkenazi Jews who, upon becoming Israelis, effectively severed their ties with their past, changing their languages and often their names.

Translation and Identity Budapest and raised a secular Jew, Herzl worked as a writer and journalist in central and western Europe, where he became concerned about the growing anti-Semitism that he encountered. Eventually, he developed the idea of a Jewish state, and by 1895, he began actively lobbying Jewish philanthropists for contributions, and publishing Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), a pamphlet arguing that the best answer to anti-Semitism would be to give the Jews a state of their own, although Herzl did not specify the precise location of the state—Uganda and Argentina were both considered at different times.

Ll. 13–16) 39 c hap t er 1 Thus, what opens as a skeptical theological inquiry concludes with an affirmation of spiritual belief. Nathan reports in Fugitive Pieces, “In a subsequent conversation, he [Byron] observed to me, ‘they accuse me of atheism—an atheist I could never be—no man of reflection, can feel otherwise than doubtful and anxious, when reflecting on futurity. . Alas! ’”37 Both “If That High World” and the Kaddish affirm a spiritual belief, but Byron’s lyric makes a conscious choice that redounds back against what, in contrast, appears to be the absolute faith inherent in the liturgy, privileging, by contrast, the active choice to believe, as opposed to passive acceptance of a religious tradition.

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