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Simon Dubnow--A Revaluation

- Abstract

THERE is a widespread notion in American Jewish thought that the philosophies and ideologies of Jewish existence which developed in East Europe toward the end of the 19th century have become irrelevant and obsolete. These ideologies, it is said, were born, flourished, and died together with the Jewish community that produced them. In particular, the various brands of Jewish secularism and nationalism have either been forgotten or ignored, perhaps because the exponents of a religious point of view have come to dominate the discussion of Jewishness and the problem of Jewish survival. Yet it may be worthwhile, as the centennial of the birth of Simon Dubnow (1860-1941) draws to a close, to take a fresh look at the philosophy of Jewish existence promulgated by this, the greatest, advocate of Diaspora nationalism. Dubnow’s basic ideas-contrary to any general impression-are very much in tune with the realities of Jewish life in America, and they may offer us, particularly the secular and intellectual segment of the American Jewish community, some help in confronting the dilemma of living as an integrated minority within the general majority culture.

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