Achad Ha’am, Hebrew Philosopher, Dies; Palestine Jewry Proclaims National Mourning
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Achad Ha’am, Hebrew Philosopher, Dies; Palestine Jewry Proclaims National Mourning

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(Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

Asher Ginsburg, famous Hebrew philosopher and writer, known under the pen name of Achad Ha’am (one of the people), author of the essays, “On the Parting of the Way,” died here yesterday at the age of seventy.

Achad Ha’am, who had been in ill health for the last few years, had been a resident of Tel Aviv since 1920. He came here from London.

Achad Ha’am died Sunday, Jan. 2, 1927 at five o’clock in the morning.

National mourning was proclaimed by the Jewish community of Palestine in honor of the late writer. His funeral took place on the same day, in the presence of vast numbers of Palestinian Jews who flocked to Tel Aviv from all parts of the country where the news of his death spread rapidly.

The municipal buildings were draped in black. All shops and offices were closed. The funeral began at two o’clock in the afternoon. Representatives of all shades of opinion in Jewry culogized the late leader. M. Dizen-goff, spoke on behalf of the Zionist Executive, David Yellin on behalf of the Vaad Leurni, the National Council of Palestine Jews, Dr. Ben Zion Mos-senson,. for the municipality of Tel Aviv, Chaim Naclunan Bialik, who was a close friend of Achad Ha’am, delivered a eulogy on behalf of the Hebrew Writers’ Association of Palestine. M. M. “Ussishkin, Dr. Schmarya Levin, and Rabbi Aaronson on behalf of the Ashkenazic community and Rabbi Uziel on behalf of the Sephardic community paid tribute to Achad Ha’am.

Asher Ginsburg was born in the town of Skvir, government of Kiev, Russia, in 1857, of well-to-do Chassidic parents. Up to his eighteenth year, young Asher lived with his parents in the village, Gofishitze, government of Kiev. Having received an extensive rabbinic education, he soon plunged, on his own initiative, into the study of Hebrew grammar and medieval Jewish philosophy, a thing unusual in Chas sidic families. He was married at the age of 17.

Visiting Odessa in 1878, he made his first acquaintance with the writings of the Russian critics, Pissareff and Dobroluboff. From that time on, Asher Ginsburg made several attempts to study in high schools and later at the universities of Vienna, Berlin and Breslau, but could not continue his studies because of his obligations to his family.

In 1884 he settled in Odessa, where he became a member of the executive committee of the Chovevei Zion, the embryonic Zionist movement which preceded Dr. Herzl. Ginsburg soon came into conflict with Dr. Leo Pin-sker over the question whether the national tendency in the Jewish colonization work in Palestine was to be emphasized, or that its philanthropic character be stressed. Achad Ha’am insisted on the former. The result of this conflict was the creation, under the leadership of Achad Ha’am, of a secret order, B’nai Moses, which had as its task the awakening of the national consciousness of the Jewish people. On the insistence of his colleagues in the secret at organization, Asher Ginsburg published his first essay in the Hebrew daily of Russia, at that time, the “Ha’meilitz”. The essay, which was entitled, “Lo Ze Ha’derech” (This is not the way) was signed with the nom de plume Achad Ha’am. This essay, which was caused by the conflict in the pioneer Palestine movement, constituted an event in Hebrew literature and was the beginning of the development of the modern Hebraic philosophy which was destined to be known as “Achad Ha’amism.”

Achad Ha’am visited Palestine in 1891. Upon his return he published an article in the St. Petersburg “Ha’mei-litz” under the title, “The Truth from Palestine,” which has, since then, become a household phrase in Hebrew literature. In that article he criticized the methods of the Chovevei Zion in the country. Two years later he again visited Palestine and published another “Truth from Palestine” which was more critical than the previous article. Since then his career as a Hebrew writer and thinker grew and developed. In a great number of brilliant essays, written in a Hebrew which had never been seen before, he formulated the philosophy which has as its aim the creation in Palestine of a Jewish “spiritual center.” A master of Hebrew style which represents a combination of the Biblical Hebrew, enriched by the linguistic additions from the Talmud, the Midrashic, medieval and later rabbinic, he introduced into modern Hebrew literature a precision and a clearness of expression which had no precedent in his generation.

In 1876 he became the editor of the Hebrew monthly, “Ha’shiloach”, which was published in Odessa with the support of the wealthy Russian Jewish merchant, Wysocki. When political Zionism, under the leadership of Dr. Theodore Herzl, made its appearance in those years, Achad Ha’am declared himself an open foe of the new movement, declaring it to be a danger to his “spiritual Zionism.” Political Zionism, he argued, co? itself merely with the fate of the Jews, while he was primarily interested in the preservation of the “Ruach Ha’yaha-duth”, the spirit of Judaism. A sharp controversy developed between him and Dr. Herzl, when the latter published his “Utopia Altnculand”. Dr. Nordau joined Herzl in his war with Achad Ha’am. Achad Ha’am’s attacks on Herzl’s political Zionism gave rise to a series of protests against him on the part of the political Zionists in various parts of Europe. In 1900 Achad Ha’am again visited Palestine and published a new scries of essays in which he made his points of argument and criticism stronger than before, causing a heated discussion in the Jewish communities in Europe. In 1908 Achad Ha’am settled in London, where he worked as the commercial agent for the Russian Jewish tea firm, Wysocki and Company. He remained there until the war. During the negotiations between the Zionist leaders and the British government. Achad Ha’am played an important role. It was in his house that the Zionists met and Dr. Weizmann frequently consulted him.

Dr. Mordecai Kaplan, president of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, eulogized the late Achad Ha’am. “It is not Achad Ha’am who passed away,” Dr. Kaplan declared. “The man who died was Asher Ginsburg, who, during the last few years, dragged about the frail and shattered body which at one time harbored the spirit of Achad Ha’am. That spirit is deathless because it lived in the heart of a deathless people. With that spirit to guide and animate it, the Jewish people made the valiant decision as it stood at the crossroad of history (A1 Parashat Derachim) to cease being half-free and half-slave and to become frankly and openly an international people with Palestine as its homeland.

“Achad Ha’am has inaugurated a new epoch in Jewish history. He has heralded the humanistic reconstruction of Judaism. Seeing the danger to the Jewish future both in vulgar secularism and in blind traditionalism, he has evolved a message of spiritual regeneration. He has been the true “Maran shel bnei hagolah” of this generation, the master mind that has helped to shape the destiny of the Jewish people. May the death of Asher Gir?burg spur us on to identify ourselves with the destiny of Israel as visioned by Achad Ha’am.”

Louis Lipsky, president of the Zionist Organization of America, declared :

“Achad Ha’am’s death will be mourned wherever there are Jews concerned for the Jewish future. He was a unique personality, harmonizing within himself the best elements of the Haskalah movement with a deep appreciation of the ethical values to be found in the civilization of the Western world. He gave intellectual form to the Zionist ideal. His restramed wisdom, carefully uttered, gave guidance to the Zionist movement from the earliest days to the difficulties of the present days.

“Physically always frail, his spirit was strong in spite of the fact that often his views ran counter to popular opinion. Truth and the finding of truth and the best form for its expression was his aim and he held steadfast to that aim during his long life. His last years spent in Zion endeared him to the whole Yishub which saw in him the symbol of a Hebraic culture. He represented in his character all that is noble and fine in the Jewish renaissance.”

Abraham Goldberg, president of the Histadruth Ivrith, stated: “Hebraists the world over will mourn the loss of the great thinker, Achad Ha’am, the creator of the new epoch in modern Hebrew literature, the man who contributed so much to the development of the Hebrew essay and to the refinement of the Hebrew style.

“Achad Ha’am exerted the greatest influence over Hebrew writers of the last age and even those that opposed him were under the spell of his influence. Achad Ha’am’s opponents were mainly Hebrew writers, but even these opponents grew to appreciate the weapon he forged for them–the modern Hebrew style.

“Acad Ha’am’s influence was great not only in Eastern Europe, but even in Western Europe where emancipation was a reality. Achad Ha’am found disciples and followers throughout the length and breadth of the globe, wherever intellectual Jews were found.

“Achad Ha’am influenced modern Hebrew thought not only by his writings but through his personality and through his great moral force.

“Hebraists, in their profound grief over this irreparable loss, should console themselves with the thought that his spirit will remain immortal as the language which he wrote in and as the culture to which he dedicated himself.”

Dr. Cyrus Adier said: “Asher Ginsburg, Achad Ha’am, One of the People. The choice of the pen name, was significant of the man. He was possessed of a philosophic mind and though he founded no philosophical school yet over the course of many years he gave a point of view on many Jewish subjects to a large section of the Jewish people. He was an enormous influence in spreading the idea of Jewish culture throughout the Jewish world. He was above all parties and one of the greatest Jewish figures of our day.”

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