Today, the terms “identity-politics” or “recognition-politics” enjoy an important presence in public debate, and it is widely accepted that these terms started to be important especially the 1960’s. Yet, as this article wishes to prove, identity-politics form part and parcel of modern politics from its’ beginning some 200 years ago. In a nutshell, the essence of modern politics involves the constant process of power distribution, based on mass participation. Modern politics reveals a dichotomy between idealism propelled by concepts of ‘enlightenment,’ on the one hand, and the power and control of the various resources which in themselves constitute the essence of politics, on the other. Hence, various devices and mechanisms were created and used in order to close, or, at least, veil the gap. This historical process was accelerating in the 18th century, which gave birth among many others concepts to “ideology,” “enlightment,” “emancipation,” which in turn stood behind the emergence of mass-media. From this perspective, it becomes abundantly clear why “identity politics” must have been part of modern politics from the very beginning, and why the mass media became the de facto arena for political activity. All of these were present also in the modern-Jewish-history case: from early 19th century on, new Jewish leaderships were forging new Jewish ideologies, while trying to push them ahead through political groups whom expressed themselves through particular mass-media. Such was the case of the Jewish Daily Forward [JDF], an Yiddish daily newspaper, that was born in New York in 1897. The JDF was based on a specific sort of ‘identity-politics’ that in fact widen the gap between words and deeds. Hence, on the one hand it is a particular story of a particular Jewish case in a particular time and place. On the other, the JDF’s history provides an example of an early “identity politics” two generations before “identity” became a token and a reference-point.
Author: Ehud Manor
"A source of satisfaction to all Jews, wherever they may be living". Louis Miller between New York and Tel Aviv, 1911
Although throughout the middle-ages Jews used to live in urban environment more than non-Jews, urbanization process in the 19th century was as critical to Jewish modern history as in other cases. Modernization, in all aspects, had a deep impact on Jewish demography, socio-economic life and self understanding. On the same time Jews were immigrating by the millions to the “new world” (mainly to the United States), a small current of Jews was heading to Palestine (Eretz Israel if to use their specific term). As opposed to a common understanding of Zionism, the future city and the neo-urbanization of the Jews – and not only the new villages (Moshavot, Kibbutzim, Moshavim) – was a main Zionist goal. This article describes one of the first comprehensive observations of these issues, as seen from the eyes of Louis Miller, himself a Jewish immigrant that settled in the outmost city of the modern world: New York. In 1911 he paid a visit to the one-year-old Tel Aviv, and managed to see in this new modest garden-city the cradle of the Zionist revolution. Not less important: Miller understood as early as 1911, the crucial role Jewish settlements in Palestine would have in the crystallization of modern Jewish peoplehood. Tel Aviv took major part in this development. It still does.