“We Jews are a part of humanity. Our deliverance, therefore, can come only through the deliverance of humanity.” It is a rather sardonic comment upon this statement that not long after its utterance the writer, a victim of anti-Semitism, shot himself to death.
He was Aaron Samuel Liebermann, the father of Jewish socialism. After his demise fifty-four years ago in Syracuse, little was said of his accomplishments in the local journals. The disgraceful combination of socialism and suicide precluded public notice of the subject, however significant were his contributions to civilization.
It was not until 1916 when members of the Workingmen’s Circle under the leadership of Louis Arkin, Boston editor of “The Forward,” organized a search for his remains, that it became known that the labor champion of the Jews lay in an unmarked roadside grave somewhere up-state. The locality, however, was only definitely established last week when the body was disinterred.
REAL FUNERAL AT LAST
And now, after half a century, Liebermann will be given a real funeral. Amid the eulogies of his disciples’ descendants he will be buried in the Mount Carmel Cemetery of the Workingmen’s Circle late in June.
Liebermann, who may be described as the economic emancipator of the Jews, was born in Lunno, a small town in the erstwhile Russian province of Grodno in 1851. Family tradition directed the course of his education to the town of Yeshiva. But during his rabbinical studies he encountered among his colleagues the doctrines of socialism.
These, aided by the influence of Erler’s satiric work, “The Spectator in the House of Israel,” distracted his interests from the more orthodox channels, and he began to explore the Marxian regions of though. Thence he arrived at the startling derivation of socialism from the writings of the ancient Hebrew sages. Very definitely, by the use of quotations, he established the chain of labor apostles from Moses to Marx, and on to Lassalle.
There were, of course, countless other Jewish socialists at that time. These, however, treated the problem as one affecting only the Russian people. Liebermann introduced a consideration of his own race. He rejected the contention that Jews as a people of unproductive elements were negligible factors in the social scheme.
“We must enrich the point of view of our wise men,” he said. “Those who laid down the principle of ‘Love thy labor.’ For that is the best that can be said of any man.”
The walls of a theological study hall could not confine his propaganda. He decamped, and went the Wilna Technological Institute where, with Aaron Zundelowitz, a member of the staff of the London Forward, he continued his chosen work along with his academic tasks. After graduation, three years later, he went about the country ostensibly as an insurance agent, but really as a Marxian agitator. The government quickly punctuated his work, and had him deported. Berlin came next, and there, with Zundelowitz, he organized the first Jewish Socialist League. Thence they traveled to London, where Liebermann joined the staff of Let There Be Light, a periodical.
FOUNDED “THE TRUTH”
It was not long, however, before he established his own organ. The Truth, written entirely in Hebrew. There were translations for the greater Jewish masses into Jewish and Russian, but the official language of this Semitic vehicle of socialism was to be that of the first. Semitic scribes of socialism. Difficulties on the Russian border made it necessary for Liebermann himself, after the fourth issue of The Truth, to supervise the transfer of the incendiary material on the continent. Leaving London, he went to Vienna. Agents of the Tsar, however, finally outwitted him, and he was sentenced to a year in prison.
Following his release, rumors of the freedom of expression in America exerted a strong influence upon Liebermann. Pursuing the illusion to these shores, he took up his abode in New York, where he associated himself immediately with the Narodowolzy, the People’s Party. After two days anti-Semitism manifested itself among the comrades and, despairingly, Liebermann fled to Syracuse.
Less than a week after his arrival there, in his room above a bakeshop he made his final comment upon the world.
“For one who suffers there is no place on earth. Judge me not adversely until you come to understand my position.” Relinquishing the pen that had found a place in the economic sun for his people, he took up his suicidal revolver.