From the Archive: When the Hebraists hit the Yiddishists

Jews nowadays often discuss the problem of intra-communal incivility erupting over issues like Israel, politics, religion, etc. Statements are issued about it. Campaigns are mounted about it. Pledges are taken about it. Editorials are written about it.

But it’s worth remembering that intra-communal incivility is nothing new. The battle lines have simply changed (and, by and large, become less bloody).

Eighty-five years ago, JTA published this dispatch on an intra-Jewish linguistically focused fracas in Tel Aviv that resulted in injuries (and not just injured feelings either):

Hebraist Zealots Attack Yiddishists in Tel Aviv; Several Injured

Tel Aviv (Oct. 8) — Several persons were injured and three were arrested in a clash between Hebraist zealots and Yiddishists in Tel Aviv last Friday evening.

The clash occurred at the celebration arranged by the local Poale Zion club, commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the Czernowitz conference where Yiddish was proclaimed as “a national language” of the Jewish people. The attack was perpetrated by the “G’dud Magginei Ha’saffah” a youth organization “for the protection of the Hebrew language.” Mr. Wescher, Poale Zion leader and member of the Tel Aviv Municipal Council, was among those injured.

The incident called forth wide excitement among Jewish workers in Tel Aviv. The municipality has addressed a letter of regret to Mr. Wescher. The Brith Trumpeldor, youth organization, published in the press a denial of the rumor that it participated in the attack.

Daniel Treiman is a contributing writer to JTA.