An anti-Zionist movement that promoted Judaism as a secular culture shuts its doors - Israel News - Haaretz.com
They believed in a just society and wanted to teach Palestinians Yiddish. The Bund’s center in Israel closes, marking the end of a movement that offered a radical alternative to mainstream Zionism
By Shany Littman Sep 19, 2019
The first thing that a clearly agitated Eran Torbiner did, when we met to talk about the Bund movement, was to hand me a poster he’d removed from the door of Beit Brit Ha’avodah in central Tel Aviv, until recently the home of the Workmen’s Circle movement’s Israel branch. Torbiner had passed by there in the morning, as he does occasionally, still trying to come to terms with the fact that the place where he spent so many hours with his beloved friends, who themselves are now no longer alive, and where he shot his documentary film “Bunda’im” (Bundists) – had shut its doors for good.
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The poster is an announcement for a workshop on the subject of Yiddish art songs, which was, as it happens, was to be held at Tzavta, a Tel Aviv culture venue. What infuriated Torbiner was the illustration on the poster: a map of the Land of Israel with a Star of David flag, situated in the center of a map of the world, with arrows leading to it from far and wide. The caption, in Yiddish: “Wohin? Aheim!” – “Where to? Home!”
“It’s a desecration of the Bund’s name,” he fumes. “If any of them had seen this on the door, they would have died again.” For Torbiner, almost every element of the poster is wrongheaded. To begin with, the depiction of “Greater Israel,” which is marked as the only home for the Jews, and for the Jews alone. “The people in the Bund always talked about the injustice done to the Palestinians,” he explains. “It was a deep and thoroughgoing socialist, radical, secular, left-wing movement.” Moreover, the idea that Jews from around the world should come to Israel conflicts with the Bundist conception of doikayt, or “hereness,” by which every Jew should be capable of maintaining his culture in the country he lives in, with no advantage to Israel. As for the semi-official National Authority for Yiddish Culture, whose logo is at the top of the poster, some of its officials don’t even speak Yiddish, Torbiner says, and that, too, is a desecration.
But the unkindest cut of all for Torbiner in the poster is the logo of Beit Shalom Aleichem (Shalom Aleichem House), the organization to which the Bundists transferred ownership of their two floors in a building on Kalischer Street, in the Nahalat Binyamin neighborhood, and which decided to shut it down a few months ago. The books from the rich Yiddish library housed there for 60 years were moved to Shalom Aleichem House, on Berkowitz Street, and the Workman’s Circle activities – biweekly meetings, lectures, a choir and more – were discontinued.
Things could have been done completely differently, says Torbiner says, even though the last of the Bundists in Israel, journalist Itzhak Luden, died two years ago, at age 95.