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by Dvora Zylberman
I HAVE ALWAYS wondered what qualifies someone to write an article on a given topic. I had always assumed that one needed to be an expert in a given field to give an interesting and insightful angle on a given issue. It is fair to assume that an expert qualified to write an article has taken their time to research and prepare an informative and accurate response. Then I read Ralph Seliger’s article “The Bund is Gone, but its Anti-Zionist Critique Remains,” and it became clear I was mistaken. Apparently, attending a short course makes you qualified to critique a mass movement and culture.
Since Seliger clearly didn’t have time to commit to research when writing his piece, allow me to assist.
The Bund did not, in fact, dissolve into the Communist Party under Lenin’s rule. There was great concern and controversy at this time, as many Bundistn could not reconcile the communist ideals with the Bundist ideology of doikayt (“here-ness”) and cultural expression. The Bund split at this time, which led to the formation of the Combund (the Communist Bund party). Despite the eventual disintegration of the Combund , the Jewish Labour Bund continued actively in many parts of Eastern Europe and in the United States.
The Bund was not “destroyed by the Nazis”. Yes, many Jews, including Bundistn, were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. However, by this time, the Bund also had committees across the globe in the United States, Australia, Israel, and England. It is impossible to argue that the Bund was destroyed, as the Bund still exists as an active organisation and community in Melbourne, Australia, today. Last year, we celebrated 120 years since the founding of our organisation.
No one was “vindicated” by the events of the Holocaust. To argue this is offensive to both Bundistn and Zionists. The Holocaust does not give any political view bragging rights in the argument for tackling antisemitism. Yes, many Jews found safety in Palestine. They also found safety in the United States, in Australia, in England, in South Africa, etc. These Jewish immigrants also recommitted themselves to doikayt by building strong Jewish communities in their new homes. It is important to note that the majority of the Jews across the world today continue to commit to the Bundist ideal of doikayt, whether they are aware of it or not, by choosing to build up and be a part of the Jewish community where they live.
THE BUND HAS NOT failed in all of its objectives. As a living, breathing organisation, we continue to work towards these values every day. We continue to run a vibrant and strong youth group, SKIF, where our SKIFistn learn about how they can contribute to a better and more just world. We attend rallies to fight for the rights of marginalised members of society. We run a Yiddish choir and help run a Yiddish intensive weekend. We are active during our elections, working to address the needs of our community through discussions with politicians. SKIF co-runs the In One Voice Festival with the Kadimah Jewish cultural centre. This is a festival celebrating the diverse and wonderful Jewish community in Melbourne, which attracted over 8,000 attendees last year -- a testament to doikayt in and of itself.
As a proponent of khavershaft, the Bundist ideal of equality and brother/sisterhood, I believe that every person has a right to share their opinions with their fellow Jews. Mr. Seliger has a right to ask, share, and comment on Jewish life and our community. It is the responsibility of any person engaging in these discussions to also listen. Furthermore, it is their responsibility to research and become informed.
For those of you interested in becoming informed about the Jewish Labour Bund and SKIF, I encourage you to read Jack Jacob’s works. I also encourage you to become informed about modern Bundist life, and you can do so by following the Melbourne Bund at www.bundist.org.
Instead of sowing discord and inaccurate rhetoric to downplay the role of Jewish institutions, let’s focus on the Bundist ideals of frayhayt, glaykhayt, and gerekhtikayt (freedom, equality, and justice). Only then can we truly be doing the Jewish people justice.
Dvora Zylberman is the Secretary of the Jewish Labour Bund Inc., Melbourne, Australia.