Pauline Wengeroff Essay

933 words - 4 pages

In order to adequately analyze the path that the Jewish community took to becoming integrated members in the majority society, it is important to look at the personal experiences of the Jewish individuals that had to continue leading their lives, despite the persistent discrimination and rejection that characterized much of their lives. Though there are many literary resources available to illustrate the experience of the Jew in the 18th and 19th centuries, the memoirs of Pauline Wengeroff, Salomon Maimon, and Sa’adi Besalel a-Levi will serve to shape the image of Jewish life after the emancipation processes were complete.
The topic of this essay will be the impact of the transitional and ...view middle of the document...

Before building a persona on the modern Jew based on the narratives from primary sources, it is important to correctly analyze the sources and recognize the importance of what is said and unsaid, along with the biases that could have influenced the writer. Best stated by the Library of Congress, “primary sources provide a window into the past” and represent “unfiltered access to the record of artistic, social, scientific and political thought and achievement during the specific period under study, produced by people who lived during that period.” Primary sources are especially valuable because they feature a first-hand perspective, instead of looking at a secondary source that is providing their personal analysis of an event and preventing the possibility of the reader forming their own interpretation from the material. That said, there is also a danger with primary sources that comes from determining who the author is, what biases may have influenced their writing, and most importantly, why they chose to write the piece in the first place. Shulamit S. Magnus, the author responsible for the introduction and translation of Pauline Wengeroff’s memoirs, concisely expresses the danger of relying on memoirs, or other primary sources, by saying “memory rose like “sculptures,” and there is no sculpture without the sculptor.” In this respect, Magnus is illustrating the difficulty of trusting primary sources because they are the tales of people that have complete control over which details they share and which details to omit.
The first author in focus will be Pauline Wengeroff and her experiences as told in “Memoirs of a Grandmother”. Wengeroff delivers a unique perspective on the effects of the Jewish Enlightenment, or the haskalah, as the only nineteenth century Russian Jewish woman to record and publish her story. Though her...

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