(Bund) Hagodeh Shel Peysekh With A Socialist Nusekh (1900/19)

Haggadah Socialist

‘There’s a lot of nostalgia going on at the anti-Zionist Jewish left for the heyday of Jewish socialism in East Europe. I wish I could read Yiddish or would love to see a complete translation of this Hogedeh with a Socialist nusekh. It’s appearance here is the 1919 version. As Seth Schwartz has noted on FB, the haggadah “was first printed in America in 1900 and then reprinted by “Sozialdemokrat”–the publisher of this 1919 edition–in 1910 with some slight changes to the first edition.” For now, I’ll settle for and share these snippets provided here at Jewish Currents. The whole thing in Yiddish is here.

Short of being able to read the entire text, I’ll only draw attention to the call for violent political action in the answer to the simple child’s question.

“Tam ma hu oimer, the simple honest person asks: “ma zois?” [What’s this?] What’s happening here between you? What are you fighting for? Over what are you struggling? Why don’t you just resolve this affair in good humour? V’amarto elav, to him you should answer: “B’chozek yad” [with a strong hand]. Only through violence were we liberated from Egypt, and so too only through violent struggle will we free ourselves today.”

And then the consummating conclusion to the Chad Oyvedo (a parody of the Chad Gadya):

“V’oso HaSocialism Borukh Hu—Then came socialism—blessed may it be—and ended the revolution that demolished the crisis that scorched the bankruptcy that annihilated the banker that wolfed down the loan shark that gobbled up the shopkeeper that displaced the bum that beat out the worker that my father bought for two pennies. Chad OyvedyoChad Oyvedyo.”

What was one to think in 1919, in Jewish Galicia? In historical retrospect, a critical reader might respond with sadness and horror. Some of you might find this thrilling. But there is something dispiriting about the Haggadah as an object, caught as it was between the advents of totalitarianism and fascism. As if innocent, although not quite, the violence of the rhetoric reflects the destructive political vortex at this historical moment that the ideological movement and its creators thought they would ride but which they could not and did not survive.

That’s my cynical political reading. Less cynical is the desire to pull this brand from the fierce fire that consumed it. Perhaps more interesting is a genre question, the way in which a left-political satire builds off the tradition whose authority it seeks to subvert. But again, a critical question intrudes, this one having to do with the shelf-life of this kind of satire.


About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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