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Nathan Birnbaum and Jewish ModernityArchitect of Zionism, Yiddishism, and Orthodoxy$
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Jess Olson

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780804778732

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804778732.001.0001

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The Origins of an Orthodox Ideologue

The Origins of an Orthodox Ideologue

World War I and the Turn to Religion

(p.209) Five The Origins of an Orthodox Ideologue
Nathan Birnbaum and Jewish Modernity
Stanford University Press

In 1917, Nathan Birnbaum published a short booklet called Divrei ha-oylim (Words of the Ascenders). The booklet signaled Birnbaum's religious conversion—to Orthodoxy. This unexpected turn can be traced to the time between the Yiddish Language Conference and the onset of World War I, when Birnbaum's presence on the nationalist political and cultural stage declined considerably. After his religious awakening, Birnbaum radically changed his conception of the Jews. This chapter examines the origins of Birnbaum's Orthodox ideologue, from World War I up to the time of his religious awakening. It first looks at Birnbaum's account of his teshuva in the pamphlet, From Freethinker to Believer, published in 1919 by the Agudath Israel Youth Organization press. It then turns to Birnbaum's relationship with the Galician rabbi Tuvia Horowitz, Horowitz's translation of Birnbaum's revolutionary ideas into an Orthodox idiom in Words of the ascenders, Birnbaum's new Orthodox orientation, the Oylim movement and the concept of kedushah (holiness), and Birnbaum's God's People.

Keywords:   Nathan Birnbaum, Words of the Ascenders, Orthodoxy, World War I, Jews, religious awakening, teshuva, Agudath Israel, Tuvia Horowitz, Oylim movement

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