Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kol Nidre, music, dancing, buffet

My knowledge of Jewish history is spotty. I was vaguely aware of "Jewish Anarchists" but had never seen anything like this video.

In someways it's pretty straight. A good solid Yiddish protest song. But it also reminds me of "Zog Nit Keyn Mol" the Vilna Partisans song I blogged about two weeks ago. There is a wonderful sense of determined self-empowerment. "Recognize your strength of steel!" It is also interesting that there is no evidence of observant Jews participating in the event. It appears to be strictly secular (or maybe Reform?).

I did some poking around and found a wonderful essay title "Anarchy in Yiddish: Famous Jewish Anarchists from Emma Goldman to Noam Chomsky" by Dr. Jesse Cohn of Purdue University. In it, Dr. Cohn discusses the conflict between observant Jews and Jewish anarchists (though there were some key anarchists who were observant). One of the colorful chapters in the conflict was the Yom Kippur ball's that took place in the 1880's.

In the late 1880s, a group of Jewish anarchists on the Lower East Side organized as a club called “The Pioneers of Freedom,” which “distributed Yiddish parodies of penitential prayers, mocking the traditions of Yom Kippur,” and organized “Yom Kippur Balls held on Kol Nidre night” (Kolel) In 1889, they leafleted to “[invite] Jewish workers to spend Kol Nidre evening at the Clarendon Hall on Thirtieth Street” – causing a “near-riot” when the proprietor, “under political pressure,” tried to call it off. In 1890, in Brooklyn, they threw a “Grand Yom Kippur Ball with theater” on the Day of Atonement (“A Life Apart: The Treyfe Medina”), advertising their celebration as “Arranged with the consent of all new rabbis of Liberty . . . Kol Nidre, music, dancing, buffet; Marseillaise and other hymns.”

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