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"Remeberings" By Pauline Wengeroff: Jewish Enlightenment In Russia.

1200 words - 5 pages

In Pauline Wengeroff's memoir, Rememberings, we see the effects of the Jewish Enlightenment on Russian culture. In each region that was a home to Jews in the early nineteenth century, Enlightenment took hold amongst portions of the Jewish population. One of the goals of the Enlightenment was to make Jews more cultured and to be more like their neighbors. Although many Christian habits were adopted, the root of these activities came from each specific local culture. The results of the more enlightened Jew differed in each area. The German enlightenment was different from the Russian enlightenment but the core ideas were the same. The Jews wished to be entirely accepted by the country they lived in and cease to be foreigners, so they began speaking Russian, attending the theatre, and pursuing a secular education. Wengeroff respects the broader education aspects of the enlightenment, but mourns the loss of key Jewish traditions, such as the Sabbath, and Talmud-study.Wengeroff describes a clear picture of her upbringing in her devoutly religious home. Every detail of religious law was meticulously obeyed, and the commandments of the Torah were practiced with great joy. Sabbath was a time of holiness where thoughts of Torah were discussed, and weekday matters did not permeate the sacred atmosphere. What might seem to the reader as a burden, Wengeroff sees as a joyous expression of Jewish identity. All Jews were bound together in a community observing God's laws and taking the pleasures granted to them; they didn't need to go out and participate in the secular culture. Jewish life was enjoyable just observing the Sabbath and all the holidays. There were Jewish holidays that were specifically set aside for merriment and inebriation. All the culture that a Jew could need was found within each individual community. The original "freethinkers", the precursor to the Enlightenment, in their violation of Jewish law as it was practiced, offended the core ideas of the Jewish community. "He was offending the basic idea of the Law of Moses-the responsibility of the individual to the community. After all, the entire people would have to atone for the sin of the individual." (Wengeroff, p.67)After Wengeroff moved into her in-laws' town, she was disturbed that the Sabbath was not held in the same esteem as it was in her home. Business was talked about at the Sabbath dinner, and certain laws were transgressed. Sabbath was seen more of a burden than it was the great joy that Wengeroff had grown up with. Russian newspapers and cultural events were discussed on the Sabbath instead of the Talmud and the Torah. Sabbath as she had known it did not exist. The Sabbath was not the bond that held the Jewish community together; they were now linked through foreign philosophies and ideas. Wengeroff no longer felt the tight sense of family and community when she sat down after synagogue to enjoy the Sabbath meal. A piece of her Jewish identity had been seized.Wengeroff views on...

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