ENG 330 -“Awake My People & For Whom Do I Toil”

“Awake My People” (1866)

This poem was written in Hebrew.

1. How did Hebrew poet Judah Leib Gordon respond to the reforms of the 1860s in Tsarist Russia?

In his poem “Awake My People,” Judah Leib Gordon compels the Jewish community to leave its old language and traditions behind to conform to the Tzarist Russia of the time.

2. How does he portray his fellow Russian Jews in this poem? In this poem his fellow Jews are portrayed as old fashion, closed minded, and behind of their times.

3. What does he mean by becoming “enlightened”? In this case, it means to ditch all their traditions and to assimilate to the main Russian culture.

4. What problems, tensions, or contradictions do you find in his program for enlightenment?

Well, as any newcomer will find in their own experience the pressure to conform is great and in many ways unavoidable. Usually by the second generation people have assimilated into the new country. What Gordon is asking is for a community to abandon all they know true, their identity, their traditions and what constitutes their culture, if that’s not a problem, I don’t know what is.
“For Whom Do I Toil?” (1871)

This poem was written in Hebrew.

5. How has Gordon’s perspective changed here?

Judah Leib Gordon in this poem conveys  sorrow  and grief for what seems to have been lost. The language and traditions of the Jewish people in his community.


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