Revolutionary Youth


Shmarya Levin was born in Russia in 1867. A politician and activist, he was elected to the first-ever Russian Parliament in 1906, as a representative of the Bund, a Jewish socialist political party. The Parliament was ultimately insignificant–it was both created and controlled by Czar Nicholas II–but Levin’s participation in it gave him the idea that he could influence people beyond the Russian town where he lived.

Levin’s memoir, Youth in Revolt, tells the story of his life, beginning with his teenage years as a religious yeshiva student, continuing through his service in the Russian army, and his dabbling in government. Later in life, Levin broke with both his religious background and the Bundist agenda. He found his calling as a Zionist activist, circulating among Jews in Russia and Germany–and, later, the U.S.–to encourage their support for a Jewish state. Most remarkable about Levin’s story, though, is his portrayal of the European Jewish communities that he encounters: the interactions between yeshiva students and ardent secularists, and the towns and shtetls where these folks all lived together, forced to contend with each other–much like a family.

In 1993, the author C.D. Payne used the title Youth in Revolt for a pop-culture novel, which was subsequently made into a film starring Michael Cera. Still, the original revolutionary youth belongs to Shmarya Levin.

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