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My Great-Grandfather the Bundist

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Molly Crabapple: Founded in 1897 in Vilna (Vilnius in modern-day Lithuania), and reaching its height in interwar Poland, the Bund was a sometimes-clandestine political party whose tenets were humane, socialist, secular, and defiantly Jewish. Bundists fought the Tsar, battled pogroms, educated shtetls, and ultimately helped lead the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Though the Bund was largely obliterated by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the group’s opposition to Zionism better explains their absence from current consciousness. Though the Bund celebrated Jews as a nation, they irreconcilably opposed the establishment of Israel as a separate Jewish homeland in Palestine. The diaspora was home, the Bund argued. Jews could never escape their problems by the dispossession of others. Instead, Bundists adhered to the doctrine of do’ikayt or “Hereness.” Jews had the right to live in freedom and dignity wherever it was they stood.

When the Bund is acknowledged at all today, it is often characterized as naive idealism whose concept of Hereness lost its argument to the Holocaust. But as I watch footage on social media of Israeli snipers’ bullets killing Palestinian protesters, I think that Bundism, with its Jewishness that was at once compassionate and hard as iron, was the movement that history proved right. More here.

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