Bridge of Words (1)

I mentioned Bridge of Words: Esperanto and the Dream of a Universal Language by Esther Schor (Metropolitan Books, 2016) in a recent post, but I've been negligent in blogging about it. I am also acknowledged in it, as my web site is an invaluable source for research into Esperanto and its history.

April 14 marked the centennial of Zamenhof's death, which has been commemorated in various ways. (I have begun to blog about this, more to come.) In Zamenhof's lifetime, and for decades afterward, it was necessary to downplay Zamenhof's Jewishness due to the prevalence of Zamenhof, and in fact all of Zamenhof's children were murdered by the Nazis. Esperanto researchers and scholars, writing in Esperanto -- N.Z. Maimon and Adolf Holzhaus come to mind -- began to undo this enforced silence with documentation of Zamenhof's investment and activity in the Jewish world.  This dimension of Zamenhof's Jewish interests and their relation to Esperanto remained even more obscure in the English-speaking world than Esperanto generally. A few years ago Esther Schor began to write and speak about this in the USA. We lectured together at a symposium on Zamenhof on December 15 (his birthday), 2010, at a U.N. building. George Soros made a surprise visit, and while the rest of us got a photo op with him, only he was reported in the mainstream media. I was covered by the Jewish Daily Forward, though.

This book is the latest fruit of Esther Schor's endeavors. It has a strongly Jewish angle which is also bound to be emphasized in some reviews.

Michael Wex is a Yiddishist, known for such books as Born to Kvetch. It is not surprising that he would review this book in The New York Times (November 11, 2016) : "The Jewish Roots of Esperanto." Wex has some criticisms but overall appreciates the subject matter and whets the appetite, and of course highlights the Jewish dimension.

Stuart Schoffman's review "The Great Family Circle" in the Spring 2017 Jewish Review of Books is much narrower, but with some interesting anecdotes. Under the editorship Itamar Ben-Avi, the Jerusalem daily Do’ar Ha-yom published an item about Esperanto on January 23, 1924 and on several other occasions, its obsession with a Jewish renewal notwithstanding. On this date the writer noted that Zamenhof was a Jew, after reporting: "An anti-Semitic weekly in Germany had urged fellow anti-Semites to learn Esperanto, the better to communicate with anti-Semitic organizations in other countries." The short review also mentions Zamenhof's involvement in the proto-Zionist movement.

There is a contrasting pair of comments. The first is a poem from a snotty Zionist ridiculing Esperanto's universalism, Obama, and George Soros. The second is from an Esperantist posting Zamenhof's poem "La Espero" (Hope).

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