(Modern Jewish Esotericism) Holocaust Parapsychology (Aaron Zeitlin)

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Of enormous interest to readers of the phenomenology of religion, literature and Yiddish literature, the Holocaust and postwar Jewish culture in Israel and the United States, trauma and memory studies, the occult and esotericism, psychology and philosophy is this extraordinary article by Ofri Ilany here at Haaretz. Ilany tracks the phenomenon of what I’ll call by way of shorthand “Holocaust parapsychology,” i.e. visions and occult communications between Jews murdered in Europe to their loved ones in America and in Israel through telepathy and telekenesis. The novelist Ka-Tsetnik wrote about this kind of stuff, some of which you can find in English translation. As per Ilany, it was widespread, as was a larger interest in the paranormal both in Israel and in the Yiddish press in the United States.

A central figure in this area of research was poet and playwright Aaron Zeitlin (the sole surviving son of the renowned mystic Hillel Zeitlin, murdered by the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto). Ilany mentions two books by A. Zeitlin —Ha-meziut ha-aheret (The other Dimension) and Parapsychologia murchevet  (Expanded Parapsychology) published in 1967 and 1973– respectively, and also two Israeli magazines dealing with parapsychology,  “Other Worlds,” edited by Aviva Sten, and “Mysterious Worlds,” edited by author Margot Klausner, one of the founders of Israeli cinema in the 1930s about whom more here.

Also noted by Ilany are poets Bialik, Agnon, Abba Kovner, and philosopher Hugo Bergman. Completing the picture, I’m seeing at his wiki page that Zeitlin’s milieu in America included I.B. Singer and Abraham Sutzkever.

About these diverse things, poetry, and psychology and the phenomenology of religion, etc., the reference by Ilani to Klausner, the filmmaker, provided the connective tissue, which is the image.

About the postwar Jewish scene at Miami Beach, Ilany cites Zeitlin, “Our brethren from among the Children of Israel flock to sun-drenched Miami, Florida, during the winter from every corner of the United States and Canada, and I must emphasize: In an atmosphere of leisure and shaking off of burdensome concerns, people may dredge up from their psyche a garland of notions that were [previously] rejected consciously or unconsciously, and here they rise to the surface.”

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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