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October 26: While Messiah Tarried

October 26, 2014
9780814750513An historian of the Holocaust and of the Jewish Left, Nora Levin died at 73 on this date in 1989. Her books were The Holocaust: The Destruction of European Jewry, 1933-1945 (1968); While Messiah Tarried: Jewish Socialist Movements, 1871-1917 (1977); and The Jews in the Soviet Union since 1917: Paradox of Survival (two volumes, 1989). Levin taught at Gratz College in Philadelphia for nearly twenty years and was the founder of its Holocaust Oral History Archives, an early repository for nearly 1,000 interviews with survivors, rescuers, liberators, and witnesses. “She especially focused on activists with a core Jewish identity,” writes Clare Kinberg at the Jewish Women’s Archive: “Jewish partisans in Hitler’s Europe; the Jewish labor movement in America; the socialist Jewish Labor Bund in Russia and Poland; socialist Zionists; and refuseniks and other Jews who struggled to maintain Jewish identity and meaning in the Soviet Union.” In her introduction to While Messiah Tarried, Levin expressed the hope that “young Jews groping for ways to reconcile their own social radicalism with Jewishness... will be heartened in their quest by the knowledge that there have been several generations of other young Jews who have made a similar struggle.” Amen. “[T]he strongest impression she gave was a tremendous sense of concern and interest for every person with whom she came in contact. Kindness, thoughtfulness, unpretentiousness, and gentleness were her most obvious qualities in addition to a brilliant mind.” —Paul Mojzes