Special Issue

“The Great Call of the Hour”

Hillel Zeitlin’s Yiddish Writings on Yavneh

Hil­lel Zeitlin (18711942) was the lead­ing fig­ure of what may be called philo­soph­i­cal neo-Hasidism” among East­ern Euro­pean Jews in the pre-Holo­caust era. A tire­less author, jour­nal­ist, and polemi­cist, he pub­lished con­stant­ly in both the Yid­dish and Hebrew press­es, offer­ing a bold new vision of con­tem­po­rary spir­i­tu­al life ground­ed in his read­ing of Hasidic sources. But Zeitlin sought to become an activist as well as a lit­er­ary fig­ure. He was espe­cial­ly con­cerned with the sit­u­a­tion of the root­less Jew­ish youth. Through­out his career as a pub­lic fig­ure, begin­ning short­ly after World War I, he issued calls for a new orga­ni­za­tion of Jew­ish life. In a series of arti­cles pub­lished in the 1920s, he sought to form an elite Jew­ish spir­i­tu­al fra­ter­ni­ty to be called Yavneh, which was the most ful­ly elab­o­rat­ed of his attempts at inten­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty. The present study col­lects togeth­er Zeitlin’s Yid­dish writ­ings on the Yavneh fel­low­ship, describ­ing its ambi­tion and scope with­in the con­text of inter­war Jew­ish and Yid­dish cul­ture. Along­side his arti­cles and essays pub­lished in the Yid­dish press, we also present a new­ly dis­cov­ered man­u­script signed by Zeitlin, a sin­gle-sheet four-sided text in which he describes more suc­cinct­ly and clear­ly the nature of the group and its intend­ed function.



“The Great Call of the Hour”: Hillel Zeitlin’s Yiddish Writings on Yavneh

Arthur Green and Ariel Evan Mayse

An introduction to the writings by Hillel Zeitlin on the intentional, neo-Hasidic community he tried to create in Warsaw in the 1920s.

Trans­la­tions of nine essays and arti­cles by Hil­lel Zeitlin about his plans for a new Jew­ish spir­i­tu­al fra­ter­ni­ty called Yavneh. 


Ariel Evan Mayse

University of Michigan

Arthur Green

Hebrew College