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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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(p.1) Introduction
Nathan Birnbaum and Jewish Modernity
Stanford University Press

Nathan Birnbaum, the German-speaking cultural Zionist who coined the term “Zionism”, is known for his commitment to Jewish nationalism. One of the first Zionists, Birnbaum organized the 1908 Yiddish Language Conference in Czernowitz and founded the Agudath Israel, the first viable international Orthodox political organization. Midway through his life, he embraced Yiddish as the foundation for a national renaissance. In his last decades, Birnbaum turned to politicized, conservative religious Orthodoxy—a shocking decision at the time. Once he embraced Orthodoxy, he became a symbol of religious renaissance among secular Jews. Birnbaum's turn to Orthodoxy was more than just a religious awakening; it was a fundamental change in his intellectual life. In his lifetime, Birnbaum produced a huge collection of articles, essays, and manifestos. After his death in 1937, however, Birnbaum faded from historical memory in general and from Jewish historiography in particular.

Keywords:   Nathan Birnbaum, Zionism, Orthodoxy, nationalism, Jews, Agudath Israel, intellectual life, Jewish historiography, Yiddish Language Conference

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