This ten-day exhibition opened on 17 December 2009 under the auspices of Beit Hatfutsot located on the campus of Tel Aviv University:
Sounds of Silence -- Traces of Jewish Life in LithuaniaSee also this essay on the subject:
The Sounds of Silence of Jewish Lithuania by Dovid KatzThis essay mentions two of my favorites in the same sentence -- L.L. Zamenhof, and the great philosopher of the Jewish Enlightenment, Salomon Maimon (much more confrontational than Moses Mendelssohn but highly respected by Immanuel Kant, the latter's anti-Semitic proclivities notwithstanding):
Then there were the modern realms of Jewish civilization, where Lithuanian Jewry also took a lead. The scope was breathtaking. It included the revival of the modern Hebrew language, and its first contemporary-grade literature. And modern Yiddish scholarship and research as a new field of humanistic inquiry. And a unique branch of Jewish socialism that stressed the development of Yiddish as a national Jewish language in the context of autonomy for minorities. The Litvak’s love of learning and education became proverbial. One result was a long line of original, maverick creators, among them the philosopher Solomon Maimon, the inventor of Esperanto Ludwig Leyzer Zamenhof, the artists Marc Chagall and Chaim Soutine. For centuries, the compact and exalted culture of Lithuanian Jewry never failed to impress. In his 1899 Journey through Lithuania (in Hebrew), Nahum Slouschz comments: “We are in the Jewish country, perhaps the only Jewish country in the world.”Who knew? And here is a sample of Maimon's chutzpah I translated into Esperanto:
Pri Proponita Konvertiĝo al Kristanismo: El la Aŭtobiografio de Salomon Maimon
L.L. Zamenhof and the Shadow People
The amazing story of how Esperanto came to be.
The New Republic
December 30, 2009
By now many of you have probably seen this. I wouldn't call Zamenhof my household god, but otherwise I am very pleased to see this article, in which Esperanto takes second place to Zamenhof, meaning that the picture of Zamenhof--his underlying motivations, what he tried to accomplish in the various phases of his life--has finally migrated from the small world of Zamenhof Esperanto scholars that have emerged since the 1970s to the non-Esperantist public at large. Esther Schor has been engaging the general public on a number of fronts, and if she speaks on this theme at the national Kongreso in Washington DC in May 2010, then I won't have to, since she has already accomplished with Zamenhof what I only recently set out to do.
The "shadow people" were the Jews of Eastern Europe, and "Hilelismo" was a key phase in Zamenhof's overall trajectory, wherein the Jewish question and the quest for a universal language again merge. Schor focuses on this phase, but also covers the various twists and turns of Zamenhof's personal trajectory as well as of the Esperanto movement, showing the English-speaking public how complex was the terrain that Zamenhof sought to navigate and making sense out of his strategic maneuvers. She also illustrates the important point about how the twists and turns of history elude our various attempts to get a grip on it. This was as true for the various political and cultural positions taken by East European Jewry as it was for the Esperantists seeking the universal adoption of their language. A century ago who could have imagined the twisted course the 20th century would take?
It turns out that Esther Schor and I already crossed paths, though she wouldn't know it. I attended a talk on her book on Emma Lazarus a few years ago, which was pretty inspiring. Then I had no idea she was interested in Zamenhof or Esperanto.